Noteć River line

Shortly after the fighting started in Poznań, the Poles liberated Nakto on 1 January – which contained an important railway junction through which the Germans would transport troops and equipment - and won skirmishes at Mrocza, Ślesin and Wysoka. This part of the Northern Front that contained the Noteć River line became an important focus for the Poles as it separated Poland from Western Pomerania and formed a natural barrier against a German counterattack.

Part of the Noteć river route (marked in blue).

Assault on Szubin

On the 2 January, German forces secured Szubin with a small force – the 3rd Grenzschutz Battalion, commanded by a Second Lieutenant Drost, supported by a light field artillery platoon and an ad hoc unit of mixed local Germans and settlers, thrown together to help with the defence. In total there were about 380 men armed with 2 heavy machine guns, 2 light machine guns and a couple of artillery pieces.

German and Polish forces clashed elsewhere in the area at Żnin, and the general upheaval in this vital area, motivated the Polish Central Command to authorise the seizure of Szubin and the removal or destruction of the unwelcome German presence. Second Lieutenant Kazimierz Grudzielski oversaw Polish Forces in the Northern Front area and allocated four insurgent units to complete the mission:

  • Września (commanded by Władysław Wiewiórowski),
  • Kcynia, (commanded by Jan Sławiński),
  • Gniezno (commanded by Stanisław Szaliński)
  • Żnin (commanded by Marceli Cieślicki)

First Battle of Szubin

Greater Poland Uprising 1918-1919

Plan of attack

The insurgents planned to attack simultaneously from different directions – insurgents from Gniezo and Kcynia would assault German positions from the north and west while the Żnin contingent would approach from the south and the Września group from the east. The attack would commence at 8 in the morning on 8th January 1919.

Weather conditions delayed some of the insurgents and at the scheduled time of attack, only the Kcynia, Gniezo and Żnin contingents were in place, with the Września unit delayed by Black Ice. Therefore, the insurgents were not quite at full strength for the assault – numbering about 500 men. Despite missing the unit from Września who were to attack from the east, the decision to attack was given.

Szubin in the 1920's


However, matters went awry for the Poles as they quickly came under accurate fire from the well-placed German defenders. The Kcynia unit advancing along Nakielska Street suffered heavy casualties from a fierce German counterattack and was pushed back. This had the knock-on effect of hampering the Poles attacking from the northwest and south, who also found themselves being forced to withdraw. Despite these setbacks, the Września contingent attempted to make inroads from the east but this too met with failure.

The Polish attempts to take Szubin ended in failure. All the attacking groups suffered heavy casualties and they failed to capture the railway station. The insurgents suffered 23 dead, 20 wounded and an additional 92 were taken prisoner. This failure allowed the Germans to occupy Łabiszyn and Żnin and strengthen their hold on the area around Bydgoszcz.

Polish soldiers during the uprising.

Gallery – Jarocin (


While the commitment and gallantry of the insurgents was never in question, they lacked the organisation and coordination to overcome determined, well-trained opposition in prepared positions. The insurgents were careless in their approach, lacked coordination and communication between the separate attacking units was not effective. Blame for this must lay at the feet of the commanding officers.

In contrast, the Germans displayed their superior training and preparation in this battle, the infantry and artillery working in conjunction with each other and directing their fire well. Such was the effectiveness of their defence that not only did they retain control of Szubin, but they were able to increase their influence and control in this region.

Further reading


Marek Rezler,O-LINIE-NOTECI.html


Maps – source materials:

1) Cartography*:

Atlas ziem polskich, tom I, Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie, Zygmunt Światopełk Słupski, Poznań 1911.

Wielkie Księstwo Poznańskie, 1 300 000, pod red. Józefa Górskiego, Poznań 1919.

Posen, 1 : 10 000, Pharus, Berlin 1911.

Plan miasta Poznania, 1 : 15 000, pod kier. Eugeniusza Romera, Lwów 1922.

Mapa Szczegółowa Polski, 1 : 25 000, WIG, Warszawa 1920 – 1929.

Mapa Taktyczna Polski, 1 : 100 000, WIG, Warszawa 1924 – 1939.

Messtischblatt, 1 : 25 000, Königlich Preussische Landesaufnahme, Berlin 1889 – 1919.

2) Bibliography**:

Powstanie Wielkopolskie 1919, Bogusław Polak, Warszawa 2015.

Śladami Powstania Wielkopolskiego, Paweł Anders., Poznań 2008.

Encyklopedia Powstania Wielkopolskiego, pod red. Janusza Karwata i Marka Rezlera, Poznań 2018.

Ziemia gnieźnieńska w Powstaniu Wielkopolskim 1918/1919, Janusz Karwat, Poznań 2018.

Bój o Szubin, Włodzimierz Lewandowski, Aleksander Załęski, Poznań 1937.

Gemeindelexikon fur die Regierungsbezirke Allenstein, Danzig, Marienwerder, Posen, Bromberg und Oppeln, Verlag des Koniglichen Statistischen Landesamts, Berlin 1912.