The German arrival

After the Poles seized Gniezno, the Germans responded by sending a force of 400 soldiers, an artillery battery and 30 machine guns, led by the commanded of the 54th Infantry regiment. On 29 December, the Germans arrived by train in Zdziechowa and started to organise themselves.

Upon hearing news of the arrival of German forces, Zygmunt Kittel, the commanded of the Polish forces at Gniezno, started to gather is forces to repulse any German attack. To buy time in order for help to arrive from Września, he opened negotiations with the Germans. In reality though, the Poles at Gniezno were in an aggressive frame of mind and keen to lock horns with the German forces.

Clash near Zdziechowa, 30-31 December 1918.

Supreme People's Council

On 29/30 December, the Polish reinforcements from Września arrived – two infantry companies and a machine gun unit. An additional 80 men under the command of Captain Władysław Sczaniecki, were also dispatched from Poznań. However, orders also arrived from the Supreme People's Council forbidding any attempt to engage the Germans at Zdziechowa – presumably to avoid any unnecessary losses at this stage, as the Germans had begun to strengthen their positions, the majority of whom were located around the Wendorff estate, a platoon in a school building with supporting artillery located in positions north of Zdziechowa, at Mączniki.

Zygmunt Kittel, commander of the Polish forces at Gniezno.

Lacking the permission to launch an attack, Kittel made another attempt to negotiate with the Germans, who were clear in their demand: return Gniezno to the control of the Germans and all Poles to lay down their arms. The German demands further inflamed the mood of the Poles at Gniezno and pushed them into action.

The Poles Advance

Doctor Wojciech Jedlina-Jacobson and Sergeant Teofil Beojanowski led a force of 300-400 Poles on a march towards the German held Zdziechowa, their numbers swelling as local insurgents joined the ranks. On route, they met the Polish delegation returning from talks with the Germans and a large number of the volunteers – possibly suspecting the strength of the German positions – took the opportunity to accompany them back to Gniezno. This left a smaller yet determined Polish force to approach Zdziechowa.

Doctor Jacobsen took command and established a command post south of Zdziechowa, next to a brickyard. The Poles managed to sneak up to the German held schoolhouse undetected and forced the surprised German occupants – 3 officers and 50 men – to surrender, the explosion of a well-placed grenade helping to persuade them.

Polish insurgents during the uprising.


Meanwhile, the rest of the Poles had surrounded Zdziechowa from the north – occupying Bojanice, Świątniki Wielkie, Modliszewo, Kopydłowo, Świątniki Małe and Modliszewko, with mounted patrols patrolling the area, guarding against any potential German probes. With the positions secured, and the Germans prisoners being escorted back to Gniezno, the Poles opened negotiations with the Germans once again.

As the negotiations were going on, the Poles continued their assaults, capturing German artillery at Mączniki and the railway stations at Łopienno. With the Poles now in control of the railway, the Germans were now unable to withdraw to Bydgoszcz. This time negotiations were more successful, and the Germans agreed to withdraw to back behind the Noteć River line, in return for the release of the prisoners and the return of their captured equipment. With this agreement in place, most of the Polish insurgents returned home.

Map with proposed borders of Poland, 1918.


On the night of 30/31 December, more reinforcements arrived in Gniezno: 12 soldiers with 4 machine guns, commanded by Władysław Wiewiórkowski and Alojzy Nowak. Other troops from Kłecko, Witkowo, Powidz, Trzemeszno also arrived.

On the morning of 31 December, the Poles launched another march towards Zdziechowa, the 1st company moving to the right flank and the 2nd company to the left with machine gun units covering both companies, as they once again moved to encircle the German positions. An additional platoon also took up positions northwest, covering the main German defences at the Wendorff estate.

German withdrawal

Seeing the Polish intentions, the Germans opened fire, killing one of the Poles. Once again though, negotiations took place which resolved the issue. As before, the Germans were allowed to withdraw but at the expense of much of their equipment which was left for the Poles. 500 handguns, 12 heavy machine guns, several light machine guns.

The Germans withdraw to Bydgoszcz, taking with them their reclaimed artillery pieces (which had been left unsupervised by the Poles after their capture at Mączniki) and the Polish negotiators who they had taken hostage. Once safely in Bydgoszcz, the Germans exchanged them for the captured German officers.

German troops during the uprising.


Overall, despite disorganisation, disagreement and a lack of singular objective, the Poles – using makeshift and disparate forces, managed to oust the Germans and force them back with a minimal cost to themselves and additionally gained significant amounts of captured equipment.

Although the Polish insurgents were of uneven quality in terms of training, experience, and organisation, they generally displayed an aggression and a willingness to confront the Germans and take the fight to them if necessary.

Painting commemorating the actions of the Polish insurgents at Zdziechowa.

For their part, although seemingly prepared and sufficiently equipped, the Germans appeared to lack aggression and a lack of initiative, waiting in fixed positions for the Poles to come to them rather than adopt a more assertive policy.

This would prove costly – as seen when over 50 of them were taken prisoner at the schoolhouse – as it helped bolster the Poles confidence and ultimately led to them being forced back, at the expense of large amounts of equipment – and leave the uprising still on track.

Further reading


Zdziechowa: insurgent stop in the center of the village | Gniezno Our City (

Map with proposed borders of Poland, 1918. - Maps on the Web (

Nieznany - Album Pamiątkowy Powstańców Ziem Zachodnich RP, rok 1938 Nr 2, strona 37;


Institute of National Remembrance 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.