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Col. Józef Piłsudski with his staff in front of the Governor's Palace in Kielce, 1914

Col. Józef Piłsudski and his officers, 1915

Pilsudski in Otwock, 1915

II Brigade of the Polish Legions in Volhynia

Polish Legions (Polish Legiony Polskie) was the name of Polish armed forces created in August 1914 in Galicia. Thanks to the efforts of KSSN and the Polish members of the Austrian parliament, the unit became an independent formation of the Austro-Hungarian Army. They were composed mostly of former members of various scouting organisations, including Drużyny Strzeleckie and Związek Strzelecki, as well as volunteers from all around the empire. Józef Piłsudski in his order of August 22, 1914 declared the formation of the Legions. The Austrian government having jurisdiction over the area officially agreed to the formation August 27.

Initially the Polish Legions were composed of two legions: the Eastern and the Western, both formed August 27. After a Russian victory in the Battle of Galicia the Eastern Polish legion refused to fight on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian side against Russia and was disbanded on September 21. On December 19, the Western legion was transformed into three brigades.

  • I Brigade of the Polish Legions under Józef Piłsudski, formed in mid-December
  • II Brigade of the Polish Legions under Józef Haller de Hallenburg, formed between mid-December and March (sources vary)
  • III Brigade of the Polish Legions under Zygmunt Zieliński and later Bolesław Roja, formed on May 8, 1915
    • Artillery Battalions-served in I, II, and III Brigades
    • Cavalry Regiments-1st served in I Brigade; 2nd served in II Brigade; 3rd served in III Brigade
    • Infantry Regiments-1st, 5th, 7th served in I Brigade; 2nd, 3rd served in II Brigade; 4th served in both II and III Brigades; 5th, 6th served in III Brigade

The commanders of the Legions were:

  1. Gen. Karol Trzaska-Durski (September 1914 – February 1916)
  2. Gen. Stanisław Puchalski (until November 1916)
  3. Col. Stanisław Szeptycki (until April 1917)
  4. Col. Zygmunt Zieliński (until August 1917)

The Legions took part in many battles against the forces of Imperial Russia, both in Galicia and in the Carpathian Mountains. Initially both the number of troops and the composition of units were changing rapidly. This changed after Piłsudski resigned his post in September 1916 and the Polish Legions were renamed to Polish Auxiliary Corps (Polski Korpus Posilkowy). In June 1916 the unit had approximately 25 000 soldiers.

After the Act of November 5 and the creation of puppet Kingdom of Poland, the Polish Legions were transferred under German command. However, most of the members refused to swear allegiance to the emperor and were interned in Beniaminów and Szczypiorno (Oath crisis). Approximately 3 000 of them were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army or the German Polnische Wehrmacht and sent to the Italian Front, while approximately 7 500 stayed in the Austrian Polish Auxiliary Corps. After the war the officers of the Polish Legions became the backbone of the Polish Army.

Photo Gallery of Polish Legion members


Operations of the Polish Legions

Officers who served in the Polish Legions

See also

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