Categories
WW2 Polish PUS

“Tiger” of Barska Street

Polish Underground State (1944)
Tank – 1 Captured

Tanks during Warsaw Uprising

After the invasions of September 1939, Poland was occupied and split between Germany and the Soviet Union. However, the occupation did not stop the Polish people from continuing to resist. Soon after the occupation, the Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) was established, an underground resistance group.

Their most notable action would be during the Warsaw Uprising, which started on August 1st 1944 at 5 PM. The organizers of the Uprising hoped that the Soviets, who were near Warsaw, would help them, but the Red Army stopped just 10 km from the city. The first days of the Uprising went well for the Home Army, thanks, in part, to the capture of German vehicles, including two Panthers and a Jagdpanzer 38(t).

The Uprising tragically ended on October 2nd, 1944, leaving tens of thousands of civilians and thousands of troops on both sides dead. The city was razed to the ground by the Germans as a way to punish the Poles who had rebelled against them. The city would be rebuilt after the War by a new pro-Soviet Communist government.

Map of the Warsaw Uprising, with areas taken by the Insurgents and the directions of the German counterattacks. Names of districts are also visible. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Uprising)

In contrast to the insurgents, the occupying German soldiers were well equipped. German tanks, although not designed for urban combat, were powerful and terrifying weapons that were able not only to crush the insurgent’s barricades but also weaken morale by their mere presence on the battlefield. The anti-tank weapons available to the insurgents were scarce, although they did use grenades and Molotov cocktails in their attempt to destroy the enemy’s tanks.

For the Polish forces of the Uprising, the most treasured vehicles were full-armored troop carriers, such as the famous “Kubuś” armored car or captured German Sd.Kfz.251 half-tracks. One of these captured half-tracks, later known as “Szary Wilk” (eng. Gray Wolf) was additionally armored. At this time, even the German Army had no heavy vehicle specialized for urban warfare, as even the Sturmtiger, two of which were used against the Insurgents, was only in its troop trials phase as a vehicle.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger, built in August 1942, is one of the most famous tanks in the world. Its powerful 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 cannon and strong armor had allowed Tiger to dominate the battlefield and overwhelm Allied tanks until late in the war. The participation of Tigers in the Warsaw Uprising is disputed.

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger in all its glory. (Source: https://blog.tiger-tank.com/headline-news/two-widths-track/)

Some Polish sources mention that the Germans used about 5 to 11 Tiger I’s, but other sources deny the use of Tiger I’s in the Warsaw Uprising altogether. It seems that the Tiger I would have been of little use in the built-up areas, as these slow and massive juggernauts were designed mainly for longer-range engagements. What is more, Tiger I losses during the Uprising are also disputed, with some sources mentioning a few destroyed tanks, while other sources claim that no Tiger I was destroyed and some were merely damaged and fixed soon after.

This confusing set of Polish sources is contradicted by the diaries of Tiger units, none of them were involved in the fight against the Insurgents. Heavy Panzer Battalions in Eastern front (509th, 507th, 505th, 501st, 502nd) were fighting in different locations during the Uprising, so it is almost assured that the only Tigers that participated in the Warsaw Uprising were two Sturmtigers.

Some Polish sources even mention that one Tiger I was captured although it does not claim it saw combat. This particular version of the story of this captured “Tiger” tank is peculiar and contradictory, which raises questions about whether the insurgents really captured such a heavy tank or they mistook another vehicle for a Tiger.

The Insurgent Tiger of Ochota District

The capture

On August 4th (3 days after the Uprising began), a German convoy composed of two tanks and a few armored cars and half-tracks was moving eastwards from the area of Narutowicz Square toward Okęcie. Insurgents attacked the convoy and succeeded in isolating the two tanks from the rest of the vehicles in the convoy. These tanks turned onto Barska Street and then onto Kaliska Street. The insurgents were already waiting for them equipped with Panzerfausts that had been seized a few days earlier during an engagement with the Germans in the school near Radomska Street. One of the ambushers, Sergeant Jan Ostrowski “Osa” (“eng. Wasp”), was hiding behind the fence of 9 Kaliska Street and attacked the first tank with his Panzerfaust.

North part of the Ochota District: Grójecka, Barska & Kaliska Street are visible, as well as Narutowicz Square. It should be remembered that Warsaw in 1944 looked very different from the Warsaw of today. (Original source: https://www.wykop.pl/link/2504885/przepiekna-autentyczna-mapa-warszawy-z-lat-1914-1918/)

The rocket missed its target and instead struck a telephone pole, or, according to other sources, a street lamp which fell on the advancing tank. The crew of the German tank panicked and attempted to evacuate to the second tank, but only one man of the crew would manage this, with the others being killed by the insurgents’ fire. The second tank retreated to Narutowicz Square, allegedly being damaged. This is the vehicle identified in the story as a Tiger and it is this abandoned vehicle that was seized by the Insurgents.

Examination of the new weapon

In the captured tank, the insurgents found a few thousand rounds of 7.92 mm ammo, three machine pistols, 25 grenades, and a number of shells claimed to be of 8.8 cm caliber. As the tank itself was a rare and valuable prize, the insurgents planned to use it against the Germans. Lieutenant Jerzy Kołodziejski “Nieczuja” started the ‘Tiger’ and drove it into the safe area of Barska Street. The insurgents also chose the crew for the captured tank – the only known one is senior ogniomistrz (firemaster) Stefan Czapiński/Czapliński “Bór” (“Thicket”), who took up the position of gunner.

The insurgents, excited by their capture of an intact tank, planned to use it to break out from Ochota to the Śródmieście district, where other units were fighting. They also planned to use it to recapture the Warsaw University of Technology which had been captured by the Germans. However, their plans were shattered by the tomfoolery of one young man.

A powerful tank vs. one overly enthusiastic boy

Unfortunately, during dinner time, a young guard (who apparently was not even a fighting insurgent, just a Polish scout) climbed into the tank and started it in an attempt to drive the vehicle. According to other sources, one young insurgent was playing with the tank’s cannon, accidentally firing it, as a result destroying several captured cars. During this short ride, the unlucky ‘driver’ damaged the tank’s controls, which disabled the whole vehicle.

As a result, the tank was abandoned after dismounting all the machine guns and ammunition (propellant from the cannon’s shells was still useful for grenades). The alleged ‘Tiger’ was eventually blown up by the Germans on August 9th. To do this, the Germans used a self-propelled Sd.Kfz.302 (or 303) Goliath remote-control mine, but the Insurgents managed to cut the control cable of the first Goliath. The second Goliath fulfilled the task and blew the tank up – as well as a big part of a nearby home.

Sd.Kfz.303 “Goliath” in the Warsaw Uprising Museum – two battalions of these machines were used against Warsaw Insurgents with destructive effects. (Source: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliath_(mina))

The doubts: was it a Tiger?

Even without the contradictions mentioned above, some details make the whole story about the Pz.Kpfw. VI Tiger captured by Warsaw Insurgents doubtful:

Sources generally deny a Tiger’s usefulness in urban counter-insurgency operations. Also, no Heavy Tank Battalions were engaged in the Warsaw region.

Barska Street was very narrow and it would be dangerous and difficult for such a heavy tank to drive through. One of the most questionable points of the story is that the collision with a wooden telephone pole made a skilled German tank crew to abandon their tank and run through enemy fire.

The Panzer VI Tiger was a very advanced and complex tank, with a crew of 5 men. The story states that one young untrained insurgent managed to not only start the engine, but also drive the tank and even fire the heavy 88 mm cannon. This is probably too much of a stretch to believe.

Some insurgents mention that this tank was indeed a Panzer V Panther but these look nothing like the much more ‘square’ Tiger. Panthers were, however, used by the Germans against the Warsaw Insurgents. Also, the insurgents captured and used two of these tanks in another part of Warsaw, so the capture of a third one is plausible.

Conclusion

The story of the captured and, unfortunately for the insurgents, unused tank is presented in a lot of sources, but the exact type of tank is questionable at best. Warsaw Insurgents – as many WWII soldiers on the Eastern and Western European fronts – used ‘Tiger’ many different types of German tanks. Due to its powerful armor and armament (but also thanks to the Nazi propaganda), the Panzer VI Tiger was very famous in its time – as it is famous today.

Panzer IV in additional Schürzen armor – The squared-off appearance of this tank is similar enough to the Panzer VI Tiger to be easily confused by the untrained eye. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_IV)

It is possible therefore that this captured tank was not a famous ‘Tiger’, but something more commonly encountered, such as a Panzerkampfwagen IV or a Panther. On the day of the mentioned tank capture, a convoy of such tanks was traveling through the Ochota District and fought against the Insurgents. Also, the additional ‘Schürzen’ armor made the Panzer IV look similar to the Tiger to the untrained eye, increasing its apparent size. The Warsaw Insurgents may just have mistaken the famous tank with an upgraded Panzerkampfwagen IV. With no photographs to support the ‘Tiger’ claim and with no records of any Tiger-equipped units in the vicinity it is highly unlikely that the tank captured on Barska Street was a Tiger. The capture of a tank is not disputed but what tank it was may never be known.

A German Tiger Tank used on the Eastern Front in 1944, similar to the one claimed to have been captured by the Polish insurgents. However, no Tiger units were in Warsaw at the time of the Uprising.
A Panzer IV Ausf.H fitted with Schürzen armor used in Poland in 1944. These could be mistaken for a Tiger tank.

Sources

http://odkrywca.pl/pokaz_watek.php?id=66576
http://www.sppw1944.org/index.html?http://www.sppw1944.org/powstanie/czolgi.html
http://www.historycy.org/index.php?showtopic=15499
https://www.dws.org.pl/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=7373
https://www.1944.pl/artykul/goliath-w-muzeum.,3612.html
Wozy Bojowe Świata magazine, nr. 2/2018, Numer Specjalny: Broń pancerna w Powstaniu Warszawskim
“Czołgi Wojska Polskiego 1939-1945 vol.II” by Janusz Ledwoch (Wydawnictwo Militaria, Warsaw, 2017)
Standard Catalogue of German Military Vehicles, by David Doyle, copyright for the Polish edition, 2012, Vesper, Poznań

Categories
WW2 Polish PUS

Pudel & Felek – Polish Panthers in the Warsaw Uprising

Polish Underground State (1944)
Medium Tank – 2 Captured

After the September Campaign in 1939, Poland was occupied and split between Germany and the Soviet Union. However, the occupation didn’t stop the Polish people from continuing the struggle. Soon after the occupation, the Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) was established, an underground resistance group.
Their biggest employment would be the Warsaw Uprising which started on August 1st, 1944 at 5 PM. The organizers of the Uprising hoped that the Soviets, who were near Warsaw, would help them, but the Red Army stopped just 10 km from the city. The first days of the Uprising went pretty well for the Home Army, especially when they captured two tanks of the German enemy.
The Uprising tragically ended on October 2nd, 1944 with over a hundred thousand dead civilians and thousands of troops on both sides. The city was razed by the Germans to the ground to punish the Poles who rebelled against the occupier. The city would be rebuilt after the War by a new pro-Soviet Communist Government.

Capture

The Ausf. G was the most produced model of the famous Panzer V Panther. It is estimated that around 2,961 tanks of this type were built. Some of these were used by the 27th Panzer Regiment of the 19th Panzer-Division. The unit was moved to Warsaw from the Western Front and resupplied with the brand new Panther Ausf.G tanks’s. In the morning of August 2nd, three Panther Ausf.G tanks’s were moving without infantry support through the following streets; Górczewska, Młynarska, Smętna, Powązkowska, and the Okopowa street, where the group of three tanks got ambushed by the Polish rebels. One of the Panthers was burned out by Molotov cocktails thrown by the Resistance. However, the crew escaped in time and moved to another Panther. They turned to the Mirecki street where the tank was first attacked with hand grenades, then with a No. 82 grenade commonly known as the ‘Gammon bomb’. There is also a second version of the story. According to it, the tank wasn’t hit by a ‘Gammon’ but by a PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank). Either way, the tank’s turret was damaged, making the tank swerve violently off the street and crashing into a wooden house which was nearby. Then, finally, the tank and its crew were captured. The captured Germans agreed to train the Poles in using the tank in exchange for their lives. The third tank that was left at Okopowa was also damaged by hand grenades and immobilized. Its crew escaped and left it in almost perfect condition.

The crew taking the first Panther in Okopowa Street on August 4th, 1944. Source: Valka.cz

Under the Polish Flag

Since the two tanks were in almost perfect working order, the rebels decided to fix the mechanical issues and use them in urban combat although this was not done until the next day, August 3rd. At the same time, two crews were formed, with 6 members in each. The Independent Armored Platoon of the Zośka Battalion (Polish: Samodzielny Pluton Pancerny Batalionu Zośka) was thus formed under the command of Wacław Micuta. The crews had 6 members instead of regular 5 because the tank commanders also had other command duties at the same time. So, the commanders wanted to have the tanks fully operational even when they were tied down with other tasks.

Wacław Micuta (pseudonym: Wacek) on a captured Panther, somewhere near the Okopowa Street. Source: Wikimedia Commons
When the repair work started, a captured German put to work repairing the tanks discovered that one of the tank’s fuel pump had been damaged. The crew could not deal with the problem until Jan Lumieński showed up. He was a skilled mechanic who had worked in a German tank plant before. He made the captured Panther work by fixing the air filter and tweaking the ignition. The captured Panther was used either in the evening hours of August 3rd or in the early hours of August 4th. This Polish Panther moved to a nearby street to test its gun by destroying a German machine-gun nest which was located on the tower of the St. Augustine Church. The target was knocked out with two shots.
In the meantime, the second Panther was still stuck in the wooden house and the Polish fighters were trying to free it. They first tried to tow it out using the first Panther, but this attempt, unfortunately, failed because the tracks were sliding on the ground. In the end, Polish soldiers had to disassemble the house manually to get the tank unstuck.

The second Panther had a big Polish flag painted on the left and right of the turret. ‘WP’ was painted in large letters on the rear of the turret. This was the abbreviation for Wojsko Polskie (the Polish Army). This was done to avoid friendly because the Germans also used the Panthers Ausf.G tank’s during the Warsaw Uprising. Source: odkrywca.pl
When the tank was finally freed, an inspection was made and it was discovered that, like the first tank, it had only minor damage and it was decided to put it in combat as well. However, it had a destroyed rear turret plate and this needed fixing. It was repaired at some point during the following days. These tanks also received nicknames; the first Panther was nicknamed ‘Pudel’ in honor of an officer, Tadeusz Tyczyński, who had died in combat. However, the crew gave it the unofficial nickname ‘Magda’. The other one was nicknamed ‘Felek’, however, it is also referred to in modern bibliography as ‘WP’ (the abbreviation for the Polish Army; Wojsko Polskie).



‘Pudel’/’Magda’ and soldiers of the Independent Armored Platoon of the Zośka Battalion near the Okopowa Street. From left to right: Zdzisław Moszczeński “Ryk”, unknown, Jan Lumieński, Lumeński”, Mieczysław Kijewski “Jordan”, Jan Myszkowski Bagiński “Bajan” and Jan Zenka “Walek”. SOURCE

‘Felek’ in the process of renovation. The key figure of this project was Jan Lumieński (in the middle, he is also incorrectly called Jan Łuniewski) who had worked with German tanks before. SOURCE
Pudel saw action for the second time during the liberation of the St. Sophia Hospital, the attack on the Gęsiówka concentration camp and the raid on the Police Academy. The tank especially proved its effectiveness in the liberation of the camp, where only one soldier died. However, the two other actions were much more bloody because of a terrible coordination mistake. Felek was ordered to support the attack on the Police Academy which was heavily fortified. However, the captured Panther did not receive permission to open fire before the entire attack was underway. Because of this mistake, many Polish soldiers were killed by machine-gun fire even before the Panther arrived and turned the tide. In the end, the operation was successful, although it was a Pyrrhic victory because of critical casualties.

‘Pudel’ in action. The tannery of Pfeiffer is visible in the background. SOURCE
The two Panthers went into action once again on August 8th, 1944 to support the troops fighting the Germans in Karolkowa Street. When ‘Magda’ arrived from Mirecki Street to Karolkowa, it was hit by three 75 mm tank shells. It is unknown what hit the Panther, either a Jagdpanzer 38(t) or a Panzer IV Ausf.H. The tank suffered minor damage and some of the crew were wounded. The vehicle was repaired on August 9th and, on the next day, it knocked out a German Sd.Kfz. 263 8-Rad. In the afternoon, ‘Pudel’ knocked out another machine-gun nest in the St. Charles Borromeo Church.

Fate

In the meantime, the situation in the Old Town was critical for the Home Army. Moreover, ‘Felek’ had a problem with a battery and it was decided to destroy the tank. Felek’s ammunition got transferred to the ‘Pudel‘. On August 11th, ‘Pudel’ engaged its last fight covering the Polish counterattack, however, it was damaged and abandoned by the crew. The crew decided to burn it out to avoid the German re-capture of the tank.

Panther specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.87/8.66 x3.27 x2.99 m (22.54/28.41 x10.73 x9.81 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 44.8 tons max. (98,767 lbs)
Armament Main: 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 42 L/70, 82 rounds
Sec: 2x 7.9 mm (0.31 in) MG 34, 5100 rounds
Armor Sloped, from 15 to 120 mm (0.59-4.72 in)
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, loader, radioman/machine gunner)
Propulsion V12 Maybach HL230 P2 gasoline, 690 hp (515 kW)
Transmission ZF AK 7-200 7-forward/1-reverse gearbox
Suspensions Double torsion bars and interleaved wheels
Speed (late model) 48 km/h (29 mph)
Operational range 250 km (160 mi)
Vehicles Acquired 2
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Resources & Links

J.Ledwoch – PzKpfw V Sd Kfz 171 “Panther” Czesć I
Krzysztof Mucha – “Militaria XX wieku”, nr 2 – 4
www.info-pc.home.pl
forum.valka.cz



Pudel: The tank was covered with various insignias representing the Polish nation such as the red-white-red rectangle and the lily of the Scouts. The German Balkenkreuz was painted over with a white circle.


‘Felek’: This tank had two large Polish flags painted on the left side of the turret to avoid friendly fire. Unlike the Pudel, the Balkenkreuz was not painted over.

These illustrations were produced by Andrei ‘Octo10’ Kirushkin, funded by our Patron Golum by our Patreon campaign.

Categories
WW2 Polish PUS

Jagdpanzer 38(t) 'Chwat'

Polish Underground State (1944)
Tank Destroyer – 1 Captured

After the September Campaign of 1939, Poland was occupied and split between Germany and the Soviet Union. However, the occupation did not stop the Polish people from continuing to resist. Soon after the occupation, the Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) was established, an underground resistance group.
Their most notable action would be during the Warsaw Uprising, which started on August 1st 1944 at 5 PM. The organizers of the Uprising hoped that the Soviets, who were near Warsaw, would help them, but the Red Army stopped just 10 km from the city. The first days of the Uprising went well for the Home Army, thanks, in part, to the capture of German vehicles, including two Panthers and a Jagdpanzer 38(t).
The Uprising tragically ended on October 2nd, 1944, leaving tens of thousands of civilians and thousands of troops on both sides dead. The city was razed to the ground by the Germans as a way to punish the Poles who rebelled against them. The city would be rebuilt after the War by a new pro-Soviet Communist government.

Polish rebels, fascinated by their bounty took many photos, and took every chance to scramble over the vehicle. Photo. Photo: SOURCE

Capture

In the morning hours of August 2nd, between 6 AM and 7 AM, two Jagdpanzers 38(t)s of the 2nd Company of the Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 743 were moving through the New World and Świętokrzyska streets to Napoleon Square without any infantry support. Their task was to support the German troops fighting against the Polish Home Army for the Post Office in Napoleon Square.

Map showing the German attack. Photo: SOURCE
One of the vehicles turned to Moniuszko Street, while the other one went to Hospital Street where it was attacked by Polish fighters using Molotov cocktails and hand grenades which they were throwing from a nearby apartment house. The vehicle was mostly burned out and disabled. Three out of its four crewmembers died as a result. The other Jagdpanzer 38(t), returned to the Square by turning to Jasna and Sienkiewicz streets. The vehicle escaped through Warecka Street towards New World Street.

Polish rebels work on the vehicle in preperation for action. The name ‘Chwat’ can be seen on the upper glacis. There were plans for this to be changed to either ‘Szare Szeregi’ or ‘Kiliński’in refernece to the units captured the Jagdpanzer. This never happened, however. Photo: SOURCE


Illustration of the ‘Chwat’ (meaning ‘Daredevil’) by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Under the Polish Flag

After the capture of the Post Office by Polish Home Army fighters in the late afternoon hours, the ‘Kiliński’ Battalion was ordered to erect barricades in every street in the northeast area of central Warsaw. This was done to prevent further German armored attacks. During the night the vehicle was positioned into the barricade which splitting Napoleon square and Hospital street. The barricade itself was located between Sienkiewicz and Boduen streets.

The captured Jagdpanzer was first used as part of a road block on Hospital Street. Photo: SOURCE
Three days later, the tank destroyer was towed out of a barricade with a captured truck. When the ‘Chwats’ (Daredevils), a unit of soldiers from the Division of the Propaganda Department of the Bureau of Information and Propaganda, towed out the vehicle, it was discovered that the captured Jagdpanzer 38(t) was damaged. Although the captured vehicle was critically damaged, the Polish rebels decided to at least try and repair it with parts from a nearby abandoned German car plant because they lacked any military vehicles of their own.

Polish personel tow away the ‘Chwat’ with a truck. Photo: SOURCE
After a few days, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) was back in running conditions. The mechanics nicknamed it ‘Chwat’ (Daredevil) and it was ready to take part in the urban combat on August 14th which required the removal of the barricades which was decided against by the commanding Colonel of the Polish for fear of a German counter-attack.
The ‘Chwat’ was instead put in reserve should the Germans achieve a breakthrough.

Fate

On September 4th, 1944, the Post Office was heavily bombed by the Germans which resulted in the destruction of nearby buildings which covered the ‘Chwat’ in rubble No attempt was made to retrieve the ‘Chwat’. It was only in 1946 that the ‘Chwat’ was uncovered and subsequently moved to the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw.
However, the vehicle was only exhibited for a short time. In 1950, during the Stalinist era, the Main Political Directorate of the Polish Army ordered to scrap the captured vehicle even though it was the only known Jagdpanzer 38(t) in Poland at the time. Today, only one roadwheel survives.

The only remaining part of the Chwat is one of its road-wheels. The wheel can be seen in the Polish Army Museum in the Czerniaków Fort, Warsaw. Photo: SOURCE

Jagdpanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions (L W H) 4.83m (without gun) x 2.59m x 1.87 m (15’10” x 8’6″ x 6’1″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 15.75 metric tonnes (34,722 lbs)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) PaK 39 L/48, 41 rounds
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34, 1,200 rounds
Armor 8 to 60 mm (0.3 – 2.36 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Praga 6-cyl gas. 160 [email protected],800 rpm (118 kW), 10 hp/t
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Suspension Leaf springs
Range 177 km (110 mi), 320 l
Total production 2,827

Links & Resources

www.info-pc.home.pl
www.muzeumwp.pl