Polish Armed Forces

Strength, organization, equipment and deployment of the army divisions, tank inventory, Air Force and Navy of Poland in September 1939.

Polish soldiers at a pre-war torchlit review.
Polish soldiers at a prewar torch lit review.

Polish Armed Forces

The Polish Forces came into existence after World War One, and, like all the armies of the newly independent states which emerged at this time, it was equipped from the dumps of the vanquished.

Not until 1937 was a program of modernization undertaken, and when war came two years later, the Polish Army was still basically obsolete; but although lacking in modern equipment and under poor strategic direction, the Polish Army fought bravely.

In 1939, as Europe moved towards war, the Polish government ordered partial mobilization in March and August and then, on 30 August 1939, general mobilization was declared. Along her western frontiers Poland deployed seven armies and a tactical group which accounted for over half her infantry divisions and nearly three-quarter of her cavalry brigades. The remainder of the Army was in the process of formation and was to be used as reinforcements and operational reserves.

Location of Polish and German Armies on September 1, 1939
Location of Polish and German Armies on September 1, 1939

Polish Army units:

Infantry DivisionCavalry BrigadeMotorized Brigade
Total units39112
Infantry regiments 3 with 1,900 officers and men each1 battalion with 600 men?
Cavalry regiments-3 or 4?
NCOs and Privates?6,911?
Total men16,4927,184?
Machine guns378??
Mortars 99 (81 x 50mm, 18 x 81mm) 11 (9 x 50mm, 2 x 81mm)?
Howitzers and Field guns42 (30 x 75mm M1897 + 12 x 100mm Austrian M14 howitzers)16 x 75mm M1897?
Anti-tank guns 37mm2718?
Anti-aircraft guns 40mm?2?
Tanks-13 TK/S Tankettes + Armored Cars?

Total strength of the Polish Army: 1,500,000 soldiers (1,000,000 front line) with 4,500 guns and mortars, 2,000 anti-tank and 3,000 anti-aircraft guns.

Inventory of armored fighting vehicles on September 1, 1939:

Armored fighting vehiclesInventory
7TP (37mm Bofors gun)170
Vickers 6t50
Renault R-3553
Renault FT-1767
TK/TKS tankettes700
Armoured Cars100
TOTAL 1,140
Polish TK tankettes line-up for manoeuvre
Polish TK tankettes line-up for maneuver. This armored combat vehicles had no chance against German tanks.

Polish Air Force

One of the first PLZ P37 bombers
One of the first PLZ P37 bombers, pictured shortly before the German attack with a squadron of P11 fighters. The Los bomber was one of the modernist designs at the outbreak of WW2.
Frontline strength Polish Air Force:
433 aircraft (159 fighters, 154 bombers, 84 observation machines, 36 liaison aircraft)

Polish Navy

Personnel of the Polish submarine Sokol
Personnel of the Polish submarine Sokol parade on their vessel. At the time the picture was taken, the vessel is element of the Royal Navy, but a variety of ranks are shown wearing their Polish uniforms.
Frontline strength Polish Navy:
Four destroyers, five submarines, one minelayer, six minesweepers, two gun-boats.
(On the eve of the German invasion three of the destroyers and the submarines were ordered to sail to England. The destroyers and two submarines reached Leith in Scotland on 1 September 1939. The three remaining submarines were unable to break out of the Baltic Sea, and were interned in Sweden).

Polish Forces total

2,500,000 men (40 divisions), 1,140 armored fighting vehicles, over 1,800 guns
433 planes
4 destroyers, 5 submarines

References and literature

Krieg der Panzer (Piekalkiewicz)
Luftkrieg (Piekalkiewicz)
The Armed Forces of World War II (Andrew Mollo)
World War II – A Statistical Survey (John Ellis)

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5 thoughts on “Polish Armed Forces”

  1. Roman Frackiewicz

    Looking at my dads military history from 1939 he was assigned to Anti-Aircraft cannon 75mm wz 97/35.
    What does the wz 97/25 mean?
    Thanks Roman

    1. These are some Polish number specifications names for weapons systems, e.g. ‘Karabin WZ 91/98/25’ was the service name for captured Russian Mosin-Nagant Models 91 and 98 rifles in Poland. One number is probably the year of introduction, second could be maybe caliber or soemthing else.

  2. Few remarks.
    -several mistakes in “Polish army units”.
    – photo “Polish tankettes” shows TK-1 and TK-2 prototypes, not the really used TK-3 and TKS.
    – Polish Navy – submarines were not ordered to sail to Britain; one (“Orzel”) hovewer escaped from the Estonian city of Tallin and went to Britain.

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