1939-era Polish cavalry

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Peter
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Peter » Tue Oct 22, 2019 6:58 am

16-17 men (most platoons don't count the runners) including a senior leader and four junior leaders? I'm not sure how well the CoC model would cope with that. It's certainly a higher level of leadership than any other platoon organisation in CoC. Remember most two-team sections would have a junior NCO in charge of one team, but they don't get 'Junior Leader' status. I'd be more inclined to organise it at a two-section platoon , each with two teams. Or even a large, multi-team section. Especially if men have to be told off as horseholders. v The Larger divisional organisation with 5 tiny sections I'm even less sure about.

Peter

gebhk
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by gebhk » Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:55 am

Line Squadron [Szwadron liniowy] (aprox. 120 men, 4 x LMG, 3 x anti-tank rifle)
112 men (4 officers, 108 NCOs and men)
Mea culpa - I missed out the additional BAR in the squadron HQ (dismounted - NCO + 2 men)
Especially if men have to be told off as horseholders
The figures I have given exclude the horse holders and other personnel who would not be dismounting to fight

Studying the subject of Polish cavalry organisation is a minefield because
(a) For a number of reasons, the organisation given in official regulations is different to that in the official TOE's and both differ from what was usual real practice.
(b) For various reasons none of these can be taken a face value without understanding the underlying assumptions.
(c) Our knowledge of the subject is currently in a state of flux. It was virtually totally ignored in Poland during the communist period, while abroad, particularly in the UK, work was done in the late 60s-early 70s but for obvious reasons based mainly on veterans' notes and recollections and therefore based on real practice rather than official documents. If you look at the 'Struktury WP' website, for example, you will find that the divisional cavalry reconstruction is based on newest research incorporating the 1937 basic organisation and the 1939 corrections and other explanatory documents. The independent cavalry pages, however, are based on the 60s/70s research.

So......

Platoon HQ
Until April 1939 the PHQ consisted of:
CO - (a lieutenant or 2nd lieutenant) armed with his personal pistol; during combat his horse was held by a member of the 2nd line section.
Second in command (plutonowy) armed with a carbine who did not dismount for combat - he was in charge of the horse holders. In practice, in the independent cavalry this was apparently usually a wachmistrz (cavalry sergeant) armed with a pistol.
Runner (plutonowy) armed with a carbine. The unexpectedly higher rank of this chap was probably because while dismounted, he acted as platoon 2nd in command; who held his horse in combat is a mystery.
COs batman. Ulan armed with a carbine. Did not have a horse! Since I doubt he was expected to run after the platoon, he was most likely supposed to ride on the squadron baggage train. In reality, it would appear that usually a non-regulation horse was acquired for him and he became the COs and foot 'messenger's' horse-holder on top of his other duties.

On 1st April 1939, another messenger was added to the PHQ - a lance-corporal who remained mounted and acted as the go-between, between the dismounted fighting part of the platoon and the horse-holders group.

Ist line section:
Straightforward rifle section with a Section Leader (corporal); a lance corporal and 4 ulani all armed with carbines. 2 of the ulani were horse holders.

2nd line section:
Corporal section leader armed with a carbine;
Corporal rifleman and part-time medic armed with a carbine. He would fight until needed to tend to the wounded;
Ulan, marksman armed with a carbine. In reality the AT rifle gunner, whose true role was not explicit in the TOEs to maintain secrecy. He was armed additionally with a pistol
Ulan armed with carbine, platoon CO's horse holder. Did not dismount for combat.
2 Ulani horse holders

This was clearly a bit of a dog's dinner with, potentially, just the corporal left to fight on his own in a gunfight! To alleviate the problem an unofficial horse for the CO's batman relieved one rifleman of his horse-holding duties while the part-time medic was usually transposed to the 3rd line section. This left the 2nd section with 3 riflemen and an A/T rifleman for combat.

3rd line section
Officially, as for the 1st line section. However, as noted above, in practice the medic was usually moved to the third line section, thus leaving the section with 4 riflemen until someone was wounded and thereafter 3.

BAR section
Until end of March 1939:
Corporal with carbine, section leader
Lance corporal with BAR and (in some regiments) with pistol
2 ulani ammunition carriers
Ulan horse holder armed with carbine with pack horse
2 Ulani, armed with carbines, horse holders

The April 1939 correction removed one ammunition carrier and one horse holder from the BAR section. One of these was promoted to lance-corporal and joined the PHQ as a messenger, as described above.

In summary therefore a likely platoon formation for combat in 1939 would have been:
(A) Fighting group
PHQ = CO, messenger (acting as 2nd in command of dismounted fighting group)
S1 - NCO + 3 riflemen
S2 - NCO + 2 riflemen + A/T gunner
S3 - NCO + 2 riflemen + medic
BARS - NCO + BAR gunner + ammunition carrier

(B) Horse group
Platoon 2nd in command mounted
Mounted messenger
Horse holder with BAR pack horse (which also carried aerial recognition panels) + ammo carrier's horse
Batman/horse holder with CO's and foot messenger's horses
7 horse holders holding 2 horses each

I don't think 'brittle' is an adjective that readily springs to mind when contemplating the wartime record of the Polish cavalry. Most commentators consider the high resilience of the formation to be in high measure due to the heavy saturation with officers and NCOs. And generally one would consider greater numbers of officers and NCOs beneficial. If that is not the case, then with all respect, I would delicately suggest there may be a problem with the rules.

In any event, the main point is that the dismounted platoon should be considered, tactically, as the equivalent of an infantry squad and handled similarly. If you find the high numbers of leaders troublesome, you can always make the squadron CO the senior leader, the platoon COs the junior leaders and leave it at that. You can join sections into combat squads for the purposes of a given mission (or not), in any permutations as you see fit - that was what would have been done in reality.
Last edited by gebhk on Tue Oct 22, 2019 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Tomm
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Tomm » Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:06 pm

Call them sections but make them teams and link together? 1 section with 3 teams?

Peter
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Peter » Tue Oct 22, 2019 3:15 pm

"There may be a problem with the rules". To be fair, the rules start from the assumption of two teams to a section, three sections to a platoon, and the command and control works really well on that basis - and is very straightforward. Big variations from that - three team sections, twenty man sections, very large numbers of teams - can be accommodated, but do stretch the model.
Sometimes it takes a bit of a sideways look at the problem (if problem it be). I could imagine a rule that might accommodate the high number of NCOs by having fewer JLs than actual NCOs, but reducing their chance of being hit - because either another NCO would immediately replace the casualty, or it was actually one of the supernumerary NCOs that got hit. For a large number of teams in a squad, there are also superior JLs, though I can't recall the details. And as you say, treating a small platoon as in effect a large section is another way of handling it.

Peter

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Truscott Trotter
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Truscott Trotter » Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:53 pm

I spent 4 hours researching yesterday to find a 50/50 split on the OOB
A lot of my old Polish sites are gone :o :(

I would KISS and effective under the rules.
Multiple small teams with lots of NCO's is a recipe for disaster for the Polish player.
Rich has ignored NCO's before its about function not stripes on the arm.
(Horse holders and runners are usually ignored in CoC)

My take is
Pl. HQ = CO (SL), 2nd in command (Sl) 3 extra riflemen (5)
A/T rifle can be manned by 2 men taken from any sections (then forms independent AT team like all others in CoC)
S1 - NCO (JL) + 5 riflemen (6)
S2 - NCO (JL)+ 5 riflemen (6)
S3 - NCO(JL) + 5 riflemen (6)
S3 - NCO(JL) + 2 riflemen, 1 BAR gunner + ammunition carrier (5)
totl men = 28 (1 Officer + 27 men) like http://wp39.struktury.net/pulk-kawaleri ... -1939.html

So 4 smallish sections but usable

Peter
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Peter » Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:50 am

Are those teams, TT, or single-team sections (for the purposes of activation)?

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Truscott Trotter
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by Truscott Trotter » Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:55 am

Well on the diagrams I posted a link to earlier they look like single team sections and there are 4.

So you could artificially group them to 2 sections of 2 teams each but as I said earlier I would want some evidence of how they were trained to operate in combat before making that change.

gebhk
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Re: 1939-era Polish cavalry

Post by gebhk » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:04 am

I spent 4 hours researching yesterday to find a 50/50 split on the ODB
As I said, our knowledge and understanding of the subject is in a period of flux. :shock: While the gross outline is not changing greatly, much received wisdom in the detail needs to be reviewed in the light of contemporaneous documentation which only in recent years has come into the public domain. The Struktury website is probably the most reliable source of information in an easy access format and I would stick to that. However you need to bear in mind that even on this site, not everything has been updated and, alas, the pages on the independent cavalry are among those.

The problem with
Pl. HQ = CO (SL), 2nd in command (Sl) 3 extra riflemen (5)
A/T rifle can be manned by 2 men taken from any sections (then forms independent AT team like all others in CoC)
S1 - NCO (JL) + 5 riflemen (6)
S2 - NCO (JL)+ 5 riflemen (6)
S3 - NCO(JL) + 5 riflemen (6)
S3 - NCO(JL) + 2 riflemen, 1 BAR gunner + ammunition carrier (5)
Is that if
Horse holders and runners are usually ignored in CoC
You end up with:
Pl. HQ = CO (SL), 2nd in command (Sl) (2)
A/T rifle can be manned by 2 men taken from any sections (then forms independent AT team like all others in CoC)(2)
S1 - NCO (JL) + 3 riflemen (4)
S2 - NCO (JL)+ 2 riflemen (3)
S3 - NCO(JL) + 2 riflemen (3)
S4 - NCO(JL) + 1 BAR gunner + ammunition carrier (3)
(Although there is a historical anomaly here in that the AT rifle was a single-operator weapon and in no way operated in a 2-man team)
For a total of 17 (if you like special rules, the rifleman/medic should be removed from the line when the first casualty occurs)

Organisationally, there is an almost exact parallel with the infantry squad, albeit all the leader ranks have gone up by one, two or more, to whit respectively (infantry : cavalry):
Plutonowy (squad leader) : Lieutenant/2nd Lieutenant (platoon leader)
Corporal (squad 2 i/c) : Plutonowy (platoon 2 i/c)
3 Lance corporals (potential team leaders) : 4 Corporals (section leaders)
Rifleman BAR gunner : Lance corporal BAR gunner
13 EM riflemen : 1 Corporal (also medic), 3 lance corporals, 7 EM riflemen (for a total of 11 riflemen incl A/T rifle gunner)

The only significant difference in organisational doctrine is that in the cavalry platoon, the division into sections was fixed (as a function of its mode of transport) while the infantry squad was a single unit, which was divvied up as necessary for each task. However, from the point of view of gaming, both the cavalry platoon and infantry squad can divide quite naturally into two groups commanded by CO and his 2 i/c. I'm afraid I've never clapped eyes on the 1938 version, however the 1931 cavalry regulations state that the CO should either dispose of all the sections himself or divide the platoon into two groups; with the CO commanding the group with the BAR section while the senior NCO commanded the remainder. Not found anything to suggest this had changed by 1939.

The cavalry platoon had some bits of kit that the infantry squad did not, to reflect its more independent role. These included a means of ammo transport (pack horse), AA accessories for the BAR, anti-tank rifle, aerial recognition panels and a few others, which in the infantry would be held at platoon level. However, aside from the A/T rifle, these would have little or no impact on gaming.

In short, I would suggest there is reasonable historical justification to treat the cavalry platoon as a squad of 2 teams in a game. It is a simplification but not an unreasonable one, in my opinion.

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