Red Army Poles join the Warsaw Uprising


14 September 1944: Red Army Poles join the Warsaw Uprising

We knew for certain that there had been some Germans in a house on a slight rise about 400 metres away, perhaps closer. It was a difficult rifle shot but easily within range of their Maxim. I pointed the house out to him. He crouched behind the gun and started to fire long and, in that confined space, enormously noisy bursts. Whatever his other merits as a machine-gunner, conserving ammunition was not one of them.

Armia Krajowa soldiers fighting during the Warsaw Uprising. One man is armed with Błyskawica machine pistol.
Armia Krajowa soldiers fighting during the Warsaw Uprising. One man is armed with Błyskawica machine pistol.

The battle inside Warsaw continued. Everyone remaining in the city was at the mercy of German bombs and artillery. Gradually they were wearing down the resistance of the Polish Home Army, whose pockets of resistance were shrinking. Broadcasting on the independent Polish Radio Blyskawica was escaped PoW, RAF Flight Lieutenant John Ward:

On every conceivable little piece of open ground are graves of civilians and soldiers. Worst of all, however, is the smell of rotting bodies which pervades the whole centre of the city. Thousands of people are buried under ruins; it is at the moment impossible to evacuate them and give them a normal burial.

Soldiers fighting to defend their battered barricades are an awful sight. Mostly they are dirty, hungry and ragged. There are very few who have not received some sort of wound. And on and on, through a city of ruins, suffering and dead. The morale of the soldiers is also going down in most cases.

A limited amount of supplies had been parachuted in by the RAF, flying from Italy, and finally Stalin had begun to offer some direct assistance. Small crop duster planes were being used to drop packages of arms and food to the besieged Home Army. Then on the 14th September 300 men from the Soviet Army’s 1st Polish Army Corp crossed the Vistula and joined the fight. These were men from General Zygmunt Berling’s forces, originally from the Polish Army of 1939, who had decided to join the communists rather than continue the fight with British. Andrew Borowiec watched them establish themselves in the ruined building that was his outpost:

Meanwhile, one of our ofiicers led a heavy-machine-gun crew to a first-floor firing point. They took up position behind a sandbagged window that I was manning with some of the squad. Their weapon was the Red Army’s famous belt-fed Maxim mounted on a small pair of wheels.

Eager to avenge the casualties they had incurred, and to show What they could do, they immediately placed a handy table against the window sill and set the Maxim up on it. One of their number went outside and returned with some house bricks that he placed behind the wheels, to stop the gun sliding about.

A soldier who looked to be no more than a year or so older than myself asked me to indicate the enemy’s position. At this stage, this wasn’t all that easy to identify. The tank we could hear being revved up sounded close by, but we had no idea exactly where it was.

We knew for certain that there had been some Germans in a house on a slight rise about 400 metres away, perhaps closer. It was a difficult rifle shot but easily within range of their Maxim. I pointed the house out to him. He crouched behind the gun and started to fire long and, in that confined space, enormously noisy bursts. Whatever his other merits as a machine-gunner, conserving ammunition was not one of them.

But it seemed to have the desired effect. Frantic figures were seen fleeing the vicinity, and we assumed that others were no longer so mobile. The gunner grinned at his handiwork and fired at the runners. Our sandbags began to take some incoming fire.

The gunner gave whatever was out there another long burst. I noticed he had these frothy red bubbles on his lips. For a moment I wondered what he was eating. Then he collapsed on to his back and was dragged away. Either a sniper had worked out which window he was in, or it was just a lucky shot.

I noticed nobody was in a hurry to take over his weapon. His friends were tearing his clothes off and trying to apply a field dressing of some kind, though I doubt there was much point. In the end, they carried him as gently as they could down the stairs to the cellar.

When they had gone we saw an army paybook of some kind and a letter in an envelope. Both were splattered with blood. They must have fallen out of his pockets when his comrades were trying to get at the wound. The paybook showed he was seventeen, born in 1927.

The letter was written in the Cyrillic alphabet used by the east- ern Polish minorities living among the Ukrainians, who had long known fluctuating fortunes and shifting frontiers.

See Warsaw Boy

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