A formidable obstacle

The formidable bastion of Gora Kamienska lay between Krzynowloga-Mala and Grudusk and occupied a strong, strategic position, overlooking the surrounding terrain from an impressive height of 60 metres. This fortification, which lay in a forest to the south of Szumsk, had been designed as a powerful cornerpoint of the Mlawa defensive positions.

Surrounded with trenches, shelters, minefields, advanced pickets and concrete bunkers, its defences were sighted to allow enfilading fire (gunfire directed along the length rather than the breadth of an enemy formation – increases the chances of inflicting casualties on the enemy as if the intended target is missed, there is an increased chance of another one being hit instead.)

These positions were defended by the Polish 79th Infantry Regiment and seven batteries of artillery and were commanded by Colonel Konstanty Zaborowski.

The defences at Gora Kamienska were constructed to make use of enfilade fire.


Modern panoramic view of Gora Kamienska dominating the surrounding landscape, illustrating both its height and strategic value.

Zbigniew Kucybała 

The German attack

The Germans launched a pincer movement (a movement by two separate bodies of troops converging on the enemy), with the German 1st Infantry Regiment assaulting the Polish from the north, covered by artillery fire which was raining down on the Polish defences. The accuracy of the fire was helped by the Germans use of an observation balloon and a sort-lived observation post set up in a nearby church tower - it was quickly spotted by the Poles and destroyed with artillery fire.

A modern photo of the (now repaired) church tower which was briefly used as an observation post by the Germans.


The Germans attacked north along the Krzynowologa-Rzegnowo road but upon reaching the village of Ozumieck, found itself facing increasingly accurate and heavy machine gun fire from both the front and the sides, which brought the German assault to a halt.  

An account of the fighting can be found in the private letters of Hauptmann (Captain) de la Chevallerie, who found himself in command of 1st Battalion, after his commanding officer had been wounded on 2nd September.

Map showing the route taken by German forces along the Krzynowologa-Rzegnowo road.


“At half past three in the morning I was woken by Leutnant Götz, once member of my company, now second adjudant to the CO of I. Batallion.

“Herr Hauptmann, you are ordered back to the regiment to take over command of I. Batallion”.

Even the classic Goethe quote “Tell your captain that for His Imperial Majesty, I have, as always, due respect. But he, tell him that, he can lick me in the arse!” would not help me, so I got up and stumbled up to the regimental command post, joining I. Batallion shortly afterwards. We had been ordered to act as divisional reserve!

I was swearing my head off, but to no avail. Notwithstanding that I also got hit by a fit of diarrhoea. Our Doctor called it a gastric flu, but I call it the worst kind of diarrhoea I have ever experienced! I also had a temperature. I guzzled down a dose of opium, quinine and tanalbin every 15 minutes, but dragged through the whole thing as well as I could. Not that we had much to do. Changing positions into a different wood every 2 or 3 hours, three kilometers away from the frontline. The boring fate of the reserves.

Now and then we hear the sounds of battle and we could observe steep a ridge, on which trenches and bunkers could be seen. The Kamienka ridge, which was defended by the Poles until the boys of II., but mainly III. Batallion cleared them out with handgrenades. My company had been in battle for the first time and put up a good show, losing four dead and five wounded (including 3 NCOs).”

Hauptmann de la Chevallerie

Eventually, the 3 Battallion, 22nd Infantry Regiment managed to break through the Polish lines and push towards Zaboklik, where it was then ordered to change direction and assault Gora Kamienska itself. Led by Major Knobelspieß, the Germans quickly advanced across the road and managed to break into the Polish trenches, clearing then of Polish defenders and capturing two concrete bunkers. The Poles resisted fiercely, with many refusing to surrender, keeping up a constant stream of machine gun fire at the attackers before retreating at the last moment.

A Polish survivor of the battle, Ryszard Juszkiewicz, wrote an  account of the fighting in his book Bitwa pod Mławą (Battle of Mławą).

Map detailing the German advances during the battle.


The fighting was also described in the diary of the commanding officer of the Anti-tank gun company, Polish 79th Infantry Regiment:

General Joachim von Kortzfleisch, Commander of the German 1st Infantry Division.


The commandinig officer of the polish 79th Infantry Regiment, Colonel Konstanty Zaborowski.


German report on the battle

By 6 in the evening, the German 22nd Infantry Regiment had seized Gora Kamienska hill. It’s capture had sealed the fate of the Polish fortress of Mlawa (the scene of its own bitter struggle).

The German 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment had been heavily involved in the fighting and issued a detailed report, evaluating the defences at Gora Kamienska and the actions surrounding the battle.

Front cover of the German report of the battle.


German soldiers taking cover from artillery fire.


“The Gora Kamienska dominates the surrounding terrain. It commands an excellent view of the marching route Krzynowloga-Mala and on the assembly rooms in the forests north-east of it. To bring in heavy weapons an attacker can only use a single road. The slightly rising ground in front of it offers only minimal cover for an attack which is further limited by the flanking bunkers on the northern slope of the Gora Kamienska. With its well placed obstacles, well camouflaged observing posts and trench systems the Gora Kamienska is the massive cornerstone of the Mlawa defensive lines. Its not surprising that Polish officers that were taken prisoner there, reported that these defences were thought to be impregnable. Indeed it can be said that it would never have been taken if it had been defended by German soldiers.

The reinforced III./IR22 began its attack on 0800h having its right flank close to the road Krzynowloga-Mala/Grudusk. When it reached the hamlets about 1000 meters southwest of Krzynowloga-Mala it recieved enemy fire from the area of Hill 195. This hill lies about 2000 meters southwest of Krzynowloga-Mala and was occupied by enemy pickets. The batallion kept on advancing in a fast pace and pushed the enemy out of his defensive positions. The Poles had retreated in a hurry, leaving large quantities of ammunition, clothing and equipment.

It was the first time III. Batallion had been in battle and the first time the new machine guns (MG34) and mortars (Granatwerfer 34) had been used in action. “The men were pleased about their own firepower, which was far superior to that of the enemy, even from an acoustic point of view. Any doubts we had on the MG34 were wiped out. The enemy retreated from the weight of our fire and the pressure of our attack. The will to fight and the effectiveness in combat showed that our hard training before the war had finally paid out”.

The Germans had pushed through the forest and managed to set up defensive positions in the southwest without meeting any resistance. Once in place, they were able to see the retreating Polish soldiers from their positions, heading in the direction of Grudusk. Despite this apparent opportunity to take advantage of the Poles disarray, no order was given to pursue them.

The report continues:

Polish farmers and peasants flee German military during invasion of their country, 1939.

Hugo Jaeger—The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Germans had only just dug in at this point, taking cover from Polish artillery fire, when they received the order to attack Gora Kamiensk. The entire division would be involved with all available German artillery assisting with supporting fire. They targeted the village of Zaboklik and the Rzognowo-Borkowo road. With heavy machine gun platoons and mortar platoons in support, and led by a Hauptmann Todtenhaupt, the 10th and 9th companies would assault the Polish bunker on hill 173 and the village of Rzegnowo. The soldiers were issued with extra ammunition and grenades and discarded all unnecessary equipment.

The report states that:

  “The Gora is now covered in smoke and flame and the air is filled with the roar and thunder of constant artillery fire. The commander has a look at his watch. Five minutes to go, four, three, two, now its only one minute. Then the shout “1oth company attack!

Like one man everyone rises and moves forward into the attack. 10th coy advances in a long skirmish line led by its commander Hauptmann Rogalski, 11th coy is moving forward aswell, followed by the reminder of 12th coy, whose heavy weapon sections had been distributed on the other companies. The assault squad of 9th coy is working its way the bunker on hill 173.”

The enemy artillery fire is ineffective. There are a few losses inflicted by shrapnell, but so far the advance is going well. In the front of the advance, heavy machine gun platoons move forward, ammunition carriers carry boxes full of cartridges, the signal platoon the heavy cable drums. About 500 meters southeast of Kosily the Batallion wades into enemy machine gun fire. Still casualities are light. The thin lines moving from cover to cover, using every furrow.

Our own artillery fire began to grow weaker, with the result that enemy machine gun fire increased considerably. The batallion had to halt, every soldier going down into full cover. Luckily a wire connection to the regimental command post could be established and the artillery could be called in again. It’s only due to the couragous behaviour of Unteroffizier Schicktanz that our communications to the command post were never broken, even on the move”

Using mortar and heavy machine gun fire as cover, the 10th and 11th companies pushed forward towards Kosily village, suffering casualties to Polish anti-tank mines and further killed and injured when having to advance across open ground which left then vulnerable to flanking fire from Polish machine guns which had survived the German artillery barrages. In response, two 37 anti-tank guns of the 14th Company (led by a Oberleutnant Tolsdorff) where wheeled up and started banging away at the Polish defences. The German 12th company (led by Feldwebel Marquardt and Unterfeldwebel Langer) joined the assault and the German attack began to gain ground.

Modern Sat view of the Gora Kamienska Battlefield.


It was not without cost though. Marquadt was injured, a Feldwebel Kanapin and Gefreiter Mornigkeit, and Füsilieres Braun, Kuklen and Oschkenlat were killed. Another 18 were wounded. The Polish defences were exacted a steady toll on the attackers. Meanwhile, the German 43rd Infantry Regiment joined the battle, assaulting Gora Kamienska from the other side. The Germans then managed break through some Polish defenders and capture a Polish anti-tank weapon, using it against its former owners.

The attack continued. The 10th company managed to break into one the trench systems although an assault squad of the 9th company found themselves pinned down.  The commander of the squad, Hauptmann Todtenhaupt, took the initiative and led his men, crawling on hand and knees, through raking enemy fire until they reached the comparative safety of a potato field, about 300 metres from the Polish bunker 4. But by bit, the Germans were gradually making progress.

Polish casualties.


Using mortars and machine guns, they then battered the bunker, hitting it with enough firepower to surpass the defenders and allow the Germans to get close enough to chuck in hand grenades. The Poles however, had slipped away allowing the Germans to take ownership of the bunker.

Lieutenant Neumann led a battlegroup towards the village of Rzegnowo where the Poles had reserves situated. Using these reserves, the Poles counterattacked with troops and light tanks, forcing Neumann’s men back to Zaboklik. Meanwhile, the 10th and 11th companies along with parts of the 9th, also arrived at Zaboklik. Despite the influx of German troops, supplies were low resulting in spare ammunition being scavenged from dead or wounded Germans. Although they lacked any artillery support, the Germans elected to try and hold the village against the advancing Poles, organising themselves into six defensive groups.

German soldiers with captured Polish tankettes during the Invasion of Poland.


The Poles attacked with the 79th Infantry Regiment led by Lieutenant Mieczyslaw Kosiewicz, supported by tankettes and elements of the 3rd Battalion. For the Germans, the situation was critical. Dead and wounded lay everywhere, smoke obscured the battlefield, hampering efforts to evacuate any wounded and allowing the aggressive Poles to close in on the German positions, with the German left flank almost being turned. Fighting lasted all night and it was only the arrival of German reinforcements – the 43rd Infantry Regiment – which turned the tide, forcing the Poles to eventually retreat.

Despite the heavy fighting around Gora Kamienska, much of it against fortified positions, the most heavily involved German unit – the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment had suffered only 12 dead and 20 wounded. Considering they had also faced a determined Polish counterattack; they could consider themselves fortunate to come off so lightly.

German soldier firing the MG34 heavy machine gun.


The report reflected on the performance of the German forces, determining that it provided a ‘baptism of fire’ for the 1st Infantry Division, providing battle experience that would serve them well in future engagements. New tactics and weapons had been trialled – with the newly introduced MG34 machine gun performing well and a new type of ammunition – the SmK(H) 7.92mm tungsten alloy rounds – demonstrating improved armour piercing capability. Although more expensive than standard ammunition (only ten rounds were issued to each infantryman), when used, it had forced Polish tankettes to retreat.  

However, on a less positive note, the MG34 expanded ammunition quicker than previous models, resulting in ammunition shortages during the battle, not helped by excessive bursts of fire being used – some Polish dead were found with six bullet wounds. Shorter bursts were then advised for the future. It was also noted that artillery alone was not sufficient in suppressing enemy bunkers, and it took the additional firepower of anti-tank guns – firing directly at the bunkers – to achieve this.

Gora Kamienska today