Planning a response

By the end of the first day of the Invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939, the Polish border had been breached at several points by the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ and the attacking forces were slowly but steadily eating up Polish territory.

In response, General Roman Abraham, the experienced commander of the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade, ordered a platoon of his military cyclists from Krzywin - commanded by Colonel Zbigniew Baranski - to relocate to Leszno. Abraham was keen to hit back at the invaders.

Early on 2 September, Polish observation planes were able to fly over the German positions near Fraustadt  (present-day Wschowa) inside the German border, while scouts edged around the enemy defences, gathering information. Content that he had acquired sufficient information on the enemy, Abraham ordered a raid to be carried out on Fraustadt.

The 55th Poznan Infantry Regiment – led by Colonel Waclaw Wiecierzynski were given the task, with command of the actual raid itself, delegated to one of his subordinates, a Captain Edmund Lesisz.

General Roman Abraham, Commander Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade.

Colonel Władysław Wiecierzyński, Commander of the Polish Armed Forces.

Captain Edmund Lesisz

Seven Polish officers were to lead 300 men, supported by a number of military vehicles, heavy machine guns and a platoon of artillery, commanded by a Captain Ludwig Snitko. Additionally, a platoon of Uhlans (mounted infantrymen), a squadron of TKS tankettes and a platoon of military cyclists were available for support. These cyclists would also act as couriers during the battle to maintain communication between the various Polish units, presumably due to the Polish lacking sufficient reliable radio communications.

Cycling to war

When it comes to considering the usual weapons of war, cyclists often appear low down the list – if they appear at all. Yet, since the 1920’s, Poland had been implementing these cheap, lightweight modes of transport in a military role.

A communications platoon on bikes at a telephone position during military exercises in Spała, June 1930.

Requiring no fuel and easy to repair and maintain, they were an attractive means of transport for a country with a developed road network – which in many parts of Poland, was indeed the case. Their relative speed of deployment and ability to react in a flexible manner proved very useful.

The raid

At 4pm in 2nd September, the Polish units advanced towards the border with Germany, using a range of transport to get there: buses and horse carts being commandeered to help move the troops and artillery. Captain Lesisz ordered Lieutnant Władysław Konwiński to assault a border guard (Grenzschutz) post with the 2nd platoon, as the destruction or capture of this post would leave the road towards Geyersdorf open.

After a short firefight, the Germans retreated – presumably surprised at the appearance of the aggressive Poles - leaving the border post in the hands of 2nd Platoon. The rapid German withdrawal had meant that a large amount of weaponry had been left behind, which the Poles gladly scooped up and sent back to their barracks at Leszno.

Solothurn 20mm cannon mounted in a Polish TKS tankette.

At the same time, the 1st Platoon – led by Lieutenant Stanisław Rybczyński – attacked another border checkpoint and once in position, the Polish artillery was able to start bombarding the German village of Geversdorf and send in TKS tankettes, supported by machine gun fire. This sudden, violent assault sent the German defender into panic and shortly afterwards – accompanied by the understandably distressed villagers – they rapidly abandoned the village to the Poles, who took full possession by 6pm.

Shortly afterwards, the Polish artillery switched their attention to the German town of Fraustadt – which lay 8 kilometres inside German territory - and plastered it with shell fire, killing a number of German soldiers. As this was happening, the 3rd Platoon – led by Lieutenant Stefan Perkiewicz – started to infiltrate the town. However, the town itself was not captured and General Abraham – no doubt conscious of events happening across Poland and the inexorable advance of the German forces – elected to order his forces to withdraw back to Leszno, to ensure it remained sufficiently well defended.

As the Poles withdrew, they passed through the village of Święciechowa, where local ethnic German residents mistook them for German troops and approached them waving Nazi flags. Understandably, this did not go down well with the Polish troops and a brief gun battle broke out which resulted in many of the ethnic Germans being arrested by the Poles.


Although the raid on Fraustadt achieved little from a strategic viewpoint, with the Poles withdrawing soon after reaching the town, it served as a significant morale booster for the Poles as the raid demonstrated that the Wehrmacht were not supermen and could be beaten and forced to retreat in open combat.

The achievement was later commemorated after the war by the construction of a monument the outskirts of Wschowa, along the road to Leszno.

Sadly, for Captain Edmund Lesisz, he would not live to see the monument, as he was captured and later murdered by the Gestapo (German secret police) in Łódź.

Monument to defenders of Poland's sovereignty in Święciechowa.