Undoubtedly, the period of the 16th-17th century, the "heroic" one, was the time of the greatest Polish victories that amazed the world. The star of Polish hussars, a phenomenon on a global scale, shone the brightest. But both the ancestors and descendants of these great warriors have shown more than once that a more numerous opponent means "furda" “a trifle” to them. Sometimes their deeds could freely stand in line with such exploits as the charges at Chocim or Kutyszcze or persistent defense of Hodow.
The outstanding value of a Polish soldier (warrior / knight) has already been seen in various eras: "He has got 3,000 armoured men[divided into] units, and a hundred of them are equal to deciplex of other [warriors]".
This opinion regarding the warriors of Mieszko the 1st was to be expressed in the tenth century by Ibrahim ibn Jakub, a Jewish merchant from the Caliphate of Cordoba. Eight centuries later, Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor, said:
"Well then, how many Poles stayed with you Prince [Poniatowski]? "- asked the emperor -" About 800 "- was the answer:" 800 Poles, added Napoleon with liveliness and flattering confidence: "So there are at least 8,000 brave!"
It seems that for outsiders, especially those who know the military (like Emperor Napoleon), a Polish warrior was worth ten from other nations, foreign warriors. And it should be remembered that it was a viewpoint on both the ancestors and descendants of the famous hussars who were second to none in the 16-17th centuries.
If it cannnot be done from the front then ...
On September 10th, 1109, so slightly more than a century from the opinion expressed by ibn Jakub, the battle of Nakło took place. With 1.5 thousand of teammen, mounted warriors of Bolesław Krzywousty besieged the city of Nakło, the Pomeranian fortress. The whole action, carried out at an unusual speed (from the place of concentration in Wielkopolska, troops went 60 km a day!) aimed to provoke Pomeranian people to a battle. And so it happened. Aware of the advantages of armored cavalry troops, Pomeranians left the forest behind the besieging Poles' stronghold. They formed a powerful, approximately 5,000 (!) dense infantry line with spearmen from the front and archers in further ranks, arranged in a semicircular position so that the wings were based on the forest. This prevented the winging of Pomeranian forces. In addition, in order to defend against cavalry and support spearmen, a palisade of inclined, sharpened wooden piles was placed in front of the array (English archers used similar obstacles). Unexpectedly, before the battle the Polish army got divided. With very few forces, about 500 hurried warriors went into the woods, unnoticed by the enemy.
Polish cavalry, despite such a disproportion of strength (1: 5) launched a series of attacks that were easily repelled. Anyway, that was Krzywousty's plan. Then, to the unsuspecting Pomeranians, a small, previously separated unit hit the forest from behind, which surrounded the area with a dense forest. The formation of the enemy broke down, what the prince was waiting for; he ordered a general charge of 1,000 warriors. Attacked from both sides, the Pomeranians, despite their more than three times their numerical advantage (as in Kircholm, 1605) began to escape, ruthlessly decimated and some also drowned in the swamps - as Gall Anonim wrote: "more of them drowned than were killed by the sword "In total, the enemy's losses amounted to about 3,000 killed, while Poles lost only a handful of warriors. The Nakło castle surrendered as a result of such a devastating victory. Indeed, a phenomenal victory of Polish warriors worthy of their winged descendants.
Approaching an enemy ten times larger? Attack, onwards!
The proof that " victory does not call for a number, it needs valor" is the battle of Fuengirola, October 14-15, 1810 in Spain, during which the Poles clashed with the combined British-Spanish army. The defense of the Sohail castle in Fuengirola was commanded by captain Franciszek Młokosiewicz commanding 150 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Regiment of Warsaw Duchy and having just 4 cannons. In Mijas town nearby, 60 soldiers of Lieutenant Eustachy Chełmicki were stationed, and 200 infantry soldiers and 40 French dragoons under the command of Major Ignacy Bronisz in Alhaurin. Defeating these modest forces was to be the initial victory of the English, after which they planned to conquer Malaga.
Because the British had very ambitious goals, they assigned large forces for this action, consisting of a total of two English battalions and a "foreign" battalion of 2,573 soldiers with five cannons, four companies from the Spanish infantry regiment Imperial de Toledo with a large number of guerrillas in force about 1000 soldiers. In addition, on the Britons’ side in the fight were taking part ships (!)- three frigates, five gunboats and the British HMS Rodney liner ship with 74 guns (!) on board and a Spanish ship similar to the British liner. All the ships were manned by approximately 1,500 sailors. Major General Andrew Blayney was in charge. With more than 5,000 men under it and naval artillery, the British commander did not have to fear defeat at the hands of 450 scattered Polish soldiers, especially since he had a very low opinion of Poles.
The clash began on October 14 with an attack by Spanish partisans on cattle grazing near the castle, which were Poles’ food supplies. The attackers were quickly dispersed, but due to the appearance of English ships, the Poles did not start the pursuit. After rejecting the surrender proposal, Sohail Castle came under fire from gunboats and frigates. Which seems unbelievable, Polish soldiers using 4 old cannons (Spanish artillery guns escaped earlier) managed to sink one British gunboat (!) which caused the withdrawal of most ships.
After landing, 1,600 Britons and 1,000 Spaniards stormed the castle (2,600 against 150!). Polish fire was so effective that after the death of many soldiers, including the commander of one of the battalions, Major Grant, General Blayney's forces withdrew. In the evening the English commander pulled several cannons from ships and began preparations for a regular siege the next day. Meanwhile, at night, a 60-person Chełmicki’s unit, alerted earlier, slipped between the English guards and joined the castle crew. Also at night, a 650-member Spanish troop sent to block the rest of the Polish forces was defeated in a bayonet fight by 240 Bronisz's soldiers coming to the rescue a few kilometers from Fuengirola.
Heavy artillery shelling continued from the morning of October 15. The 32-pound caronade bullets were particularly devastating. What's more, the British liner and Spanish ship arrived, and began the landing of another 932 soldiers. The critical situation became hopeless.
Captain Młokosiewicz, seeing no chance for a successful defense, seemed to make a crazy decision. Attack! He gathered all capable soldiers, left the castle and charged with 130 soldiers on a British battery protected by over 1000 enemy soldiers. The audacity and violence of the bayonet attack brought an unexpected success. Almost 10 times larger opponent escaped, and the battery went to the hands of Poles. The soldiers turned their cannons and began firing on British positions. Only after some time, the English general reorganized his forces on the beach and hit Młokosiewicz's forces. Having several numbers ahead (Blayney gathered about 400-600 soldiers to counterattack on cannons due to a large dispersion of forces), the Britons recaptured the battery and pushed Polish infantry towards the castle.
Then on the left wing and rear of the English and Spanish troops struck a unit of Major Bronisz, who had just arrived on the battlefield. This gave time to Captain Młokosiewicz to gather strength and strike with all capable of fighting on the right wing of the opponent. And the incredible happened. The British-Spanish forces supported by ships of several thousand could not withstand the attack of just over 300 Polish soldiers and fleed. General Blayney himself was taken prisoner (his saber is still kept in the Princes Czartoryski Museum in Kraków), and the ships, seeing the defeat of land forces, quickly departed. The plan to capture Malaga crashed into several hundred Poles in Fuengirola.
Although the wording on a different battle (Kircholm) was spoken in the 17th century by Jakub Sobieski, father of King Jan III, it also fits the battle of Fuengirola: "The victory will be more a surprise for the next centuries than a matter of belief"
One regiment against four? When the lance is in hand, we do not fear the enemy!
On April 10, 1831, the famous cavalry clash took place near Domanice. The front guard of the Polish army commanded by experienced general Kicki and colonel Mycielski, consisting of one four-squadron 2nd Uhlans Regiment, had 640 cavalrymen and two guns. This unit was to attack a group of Russian cavalry in Domanice, supposedly numbering several hundred cavalry. It was to be a prelude to the beginning of the battle, which went down in history as the Battle of Iganie, one of the greatest Polish victories during the November Uprising (Polish-Russian war 1830-1831).
After scattering a small group of Russians, when the Polish cavalry reached Domanice, they saw the picture of not only several hundred Muscovites, but numerous deployed Moscow squadrons ready to fight and infantry soldiers in the village itself. Unfortunately for Poland, in Domanice there was just three Hussar regiment brigade alongside with the Red Uhlans regiment going to Siedlce, commanded by an experienced general Włodzimierz Sievers. It had over 2,400 cavalry troops and 10 guns, which gave a 1: 4 power ratio against Polish forces.
Despite this sudden change in the situation, the Poles decided to fight.
General Kicki divided his forces in such a way as to maintain the possibility of operating the rearguard as long as possible. Believing in the advantage of the Polish lance and the individual training of the uhlans and the squadrons' discipline, he directed just two squadrons (about 320 people) under the command of Mycielski against a powerful Moscow attack in the center. Enemy great superiority in numbers notwithstanding Polish uhlans, overpowering the opponent with weapons and skills, stopped the opponent and did not let their lines to be broken.
The other Russian forces set off to flank a few Polish cavalry. Then, on the hussars fell carters from two Polish cannons and the impact of the other two squadrons of Major Borowy's lancers. Sievers' left wing could not withstand the impact and was broken. However, the cavalrymen standing in the village could strike at any time, so General Kicki, having no reserve, gathered adjutants, grooms and volunteers, and with this handful and a sabre in his hand, attacked the village. The bold attack was succesful, disorganised and partly dispersed the Muscovites.
Despite the numerical superiority, individual training of Polish lancers was slowly taking over the Moscow hussars in the center. When the other Borowy’s squadrons finally turned back from the chase and hit the wings and rear of the fighting hussars, the Muscovites couldn't resist and rushed to flee. Polish uhlans have won. Moreover, they suffered minimal losses (several injured and killed) while the Russians suffered. Nearly 500 dead, injured and taken prisoners ...
The Bolsheviks are coming. Not a step back!
On December 28, 1919, one of the most unusual and unbelievable battles in our history took place. I am talking about the famous defense of the Nowosiółka farm. In the winter of 1919, Polish forces on the Eastern Front were extremely dispersed. After the victories during the autumn offensive, Polish forces were too few to fill the entire front, living conditions were harsh but the mood in the army was excellent and Polish troops maintained high morale. Poles manned larger towns and transport hubs, maintaining contact with few patrols. The Bolsheviks probed Polish lines, launching attacks on individual points, often with a large numerical advantage.
Before noon on December 28, the outpost of the 7th company of the 4th Regiment of Wielkopolscy Rifles (later 58th Infantry Regiment) of 18 people with a light machine gun and mine thrower under the command of Second Lieutenant Krukowski, manning a prepared for circular defense (trenches and several fortified buildings) farm in Nowosiółki was hit by the Bolsheviks. Under the cover of the forest, an infantry battalion and a cavalry squadron approached secretly Polish positions. The Bolsheviks had between 350 and 600 soldiers (!), which gives an unbelievable power ratio between 1:19 and 1:33 (!). Can you expect victory if you are so outnumbered by the enemy?
Polish soldiers were not surprised, they shelled the Bolsheviks, who withdrew, regrouped, and then began a regular assault. Well entrenched Poles fought off two Bolshevik attacks, despite the fact that the only machine gun broke down due to severe frost. The third Bolshevik attack came 30 steps from Polish positions. The enemy skirmishers were already starting to attack the bayonets. With such an advantage in numbers it was obvious that Polish soldiers would be flooded by the enemy. At this point, however, the Russians were thrown with grenades by Poles. The discovered opponents suffered losses and retreated, disorganised. Over the next six hours, the Bolsheviks launched a series of attacks on Polish positions albeit the outpost, skillfully commanded by lieutenant Krukowski who by his own example encouraged perseverance, fought off all the attacks. Upon hearing of the impending relief and due to heavy losses, the demoralised Bolsheviks withdrew. They left 47 dead on the battlefield, including the battalion commander, squadron commander and company commander. There were probably 2-3 times as many injured, i.e. 100-150 soldiers. Poles, which seems unbelievable, had only a few wounded. The commander of the Lithuanian-Belarussian front himself, General Szeptycki, praised the soldiers for their brave attitude and the defense itself was presented as an example of the victorious fight of a handful of soldiers raised by the spirit of love for their homeland over a numerous enemy. Indeed, 18 soldiers without losing any killed fought off up to 600 enemy soldiers, inflicting on them great losses, reaching up to 200 wounded and killed. Hussars and armored men from Hodów from 1694 would certainly have reason to be proud of such descendants.
A silent victory in a distant country ...
The last battle in this ranking will probably be the biggest victory won by the Polish army in the 21st century. Of course I'm referring to the heroic defense of the City Hall in Karbala, Iraq. The clash took place in 2004, and a film directed by Krzysztof Łukaszewicz was based on these events.
On April 3, 2004, during the Muslim festival of Ashura, great crowds of pilgrims came to Karbala. In the growing chaos, a detachment of Polish soldiers was ordered to man in the town hall which was the seat of the provincial authorities and join Bulgarian soldiers staying there. On April 4 there took place a series of attacks in the city, which deepened the chaos. In connection with the prepared rebel attack, all Iraqi policemen fled from the town hall. Polish and Bulgarian soldiers were cut off. Their forces were few, depending on the data ranging from a dozen to several dozen soldiers with several combat vehicles. Soldiers prepared positions for the fight.
Finally, along with the falling darkness, the Mahdi Army rebels and Al-Qaeda troops attacked. Despite the great numerical superiority (several hundred fighters) and mortar shelling, the opponents were not able to break Polish and Bulgarian defense. Repeated attacks depleted both ammunition and defending soldiers. The food had run out but the fight continued. The skillful defense and excellent training of the soldiers of the Multinational Division Center-South brought results and allowed them to persevere their positions. On April 6, soldiers of the 18th Bielski Assault Battalion arrived to the town hall to their rescue. Bloodied rebels withdrew, leaving over 80 dead and an unspecified number of wounded, while Poles did not suffer any losses (!), while Bulgarians had only one wounded soldier.
This victory was silenced due to political factors, but the truth could not be hidden for long. It’s result is, i.a. the movie "Karbala". And the Poles once again, also in the 21st century, showed that they are worthy of their great, 16-17th century ancestors.
Looking at the abovementioned victories, it is impossible not to notice that whether in the Middle Ages, during partitions, or in the 20 or 21st century, Polish soldiers can achieve great victories, worthy of numerous victories of the Old Polish period. Let us remember that even in today's seemingly spoiled times, a Polish soldier would appear to show fortitude, training and devotion, worthy of the centuries-old tradition of Polish victories.
We must remember that the glory of a Polish soldier is earned not only by Hussars. Although they are the symbol of Polish glory and power, reign on the battlefields of 16 and 17th century Europe, the time of the hussars was not the only period of great battle deeds. Both the ancestors in the Middle Ages and their successors in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries testified with their blood, their devotion and their deeds that Polish courage, skills and the ability to achieve incredible victories still exist.
And they shall continue to exist.