Maintaining the link

With the outbreak of hostilities with the German invasion of Poland, the Polish Łódź army was tasked with securing and maintaining the link between the Kraków Army operating in Silesia and Lesser Poland area and the Poznań Army which was defending Greater Poland.

Additionally, it was to assist with the mobilisation of the Prusy Army which would take place behind the Polish front line. For this latter task, the Łódź army would essentially be conducting a large-scale delaying tactic, designed to buy time for the other Polish formations to organise. 

Part of this delaying operation would take place in the forested region near the village of Mokra, where the Wołyńska Cavalry Brigade found itself located, north of the town of Klobuck and straddling the railway to Katowice.

The units here included the 19th Volhynian Uhlan Regiment, the 21st Vistula Uhlan Regiment and the 4th battalion of the 84th Infantry Regiment.

Additionally, Colonel Julian Flilpowicz, the commander of the Polish forces, kept a substantial reserve held back, in the shape of the 12th Podolian Uhlan Regiment, the 2nd Mounted Rifles Regiment and the 21st Armoured Battalion.

Colonel Julian Filipowicz


The Poles were placed in a good defensive position: the terrain was well-suited for defence, with a railway earthwork and forest offering cover as well as hills, ditches and streams providing a hist of obstacles for any attackers.

The main task of Flilpowicz ‘s forces was to maintain the connection between the Polish 7th Infantry Division and the 30th Infantry Division to the north when the inevitable German onslaught occurred.

German advances

On the first day of the war, the German Tenth Army – part of Army Group South – crossed the Polish border. The German 31st Infantry Division, 1st Panzer Division and 4th Panzer Division all approached the Polish sector covered by the Polish Volhynian cavalry brigade.

After smashing through light Polish defences manned by Border Guard and National Defence detachments, they seized the Polish towns of Krzepice and Starokrzepice, which faced the main Polish defence line, destroying both settlements and expelling the inhabitants, who escaped to the Polish positions.

General Friedrich Kirchner, Commander of 1st Panzer DIvision.

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1997-018-33

The German forces had been split into three separate assault groups:

  • The 1st Panzer Division were to target the town of Kłobuck which was defended by the Polish 7th Infantry Division.
  • The 4th Panzer Division was to attack Mokra itself in two separate columns, planning to outflank the Polish defenders from the north and south.

The Luftwaffe started bombarding the Polish positions throughout the day, launching 15 attacks, using a minimum of 9 and sometimes as many as 26 bombers each time– usually Junkers JU87 Stuka dive bombers. This was a considerable investment of resources, demonstrating how series the German intentions were.

Polish map of the Battle of Mokra; In blue - position of the units of Volhynian Cavalry Brigade on 1 September 1939. Red - the German attack.

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German probes

At 6:30 that morning, Germans started probing Polish positions using units from the 4th Panzer Division motorcycle reconnaissance units. They soon came up against the 12th company of the Polish 84 Infantry Regiment – commanded by Stanisław Radajewicz – and fighting broke out. The Germans, supported by infantry and various armoured vehicles attempted to break through, callously using some captured Polish civilians as human shields. However, Polish anti-tank weapons laid down heavy fire, hitting and disorientating the German vehicles and allowing most of the unfortunate Polish civilians to slip away to safety. 

The Germans soon made a second attempt to dislodge the Polish defenders, but accurate and heavy machine gun fire repelled the Germans, causing disarray and forcing two armoured vehicles to retreat and resulting in the capture of most of the German motorcyclists.

A German Sd.Kfz. 265 Panzerbefehlswagen (Command vehicle) in Poland during the invasion.

Attack on the 21st Uhlans

Having failed in their initial attempts, the German shifted their focus, and the 4th Panzer Division assaulted the positions defended by the 21st Uhlan Regiment, further to the north. With the help of an artillery bombardment and Luftwaffe bombing raids, the Germans managed to capture the village of Wilkowieck and then quickly headed on towards Mokra, looking to capture it before the Poles could react.

The Luftwaffe then attempted to soften up the Polish defences at Mokra, but despite knocking out five ammunition cars and killing some horses, their bombs missed any vital targets and the Polish defences largely remained intact.  Thus, when the Germans approached the Polish positions, their lead tanks were welcomed by accurate anti-tank fire from 37mm Bofors guns from 150 metres away. Two panzers were destroyed, and the rest of the German armour quickly withdrew to 400 metres way and started to shell the Polish positions with artillery instead. The Poles continued to put up a robust resistance though and after the Germans lost another couple of armoured cars to Polish fire (one destroyed, one immobilised) they withdrew completely.

This left the German infantry without armoured support and exposed on open ground. Predictably, the Poles seized the opportunity and launched their own infantry attack which resulted in heavy casualties on the German side and a number of prisoners being taken.  So far, the Germans were getting the worst of it.

The Polish artillery at the Battle of Mokra proved to be particularly effective.

New German assaults

Meanwhile, the Polish 19th Uhlan Regiment – commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jozef Zygmunt Petkowski - also found themselves the focus of attention for the Germans, with the latter attacking their positions with a mixed assault group of tanks, armoured vehicles, motorcyclists, and infantry, divided into three separate columns.

The Germans had originally been targeting the village of Rębielice Szlacheckie in order to outflank the 21st Regiment further north, but unaware of the 19th Regiments location, had blundered into their positions.


Lieutenant Colonel Jozef Zygmunt Petkowski, commander of the 19th Uhlan Regiment.

The western column of Germans managed to capture the village, but the other two columns ran into serious trouble. The middle group were ambushed close to the forest and routed and the third fared even less well, advancing into the proximity of the Polish defences unaware they were there. The sudden hail of Polish gunfire which announced their presence virtually annihilated the German column.

Despite these setbacks, the Germans still threatened the Polish northern flank. To counter this Col. Filipowicz sent the 12th Uhlans Regiment – commanded by Andrzej Kuczek - to reinforce the 19th Regiment already holding this position. The Germans attacked here at 10am but were quickly repelled after a bloody skirmish which resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.

Fifteen minutes later, the Germans tried again, throwing in the 4th panzer division with air and artillery support and attacking in three directions:

  • One group to assault north to try and outflank the Poles
  • The main attack towards Mokra itself, using 100 tanks and armoured vehicles
  • The third group to attack the weakened 4th Battalion of the 84th Infantry Regiment

The northern attack was led by German Panzer I’s and Panzer II’s advancing under covering artillery fire. Although lacking heavy weaponry, these Panzers were still a formidable prospect for the Polish troops facing them, particularly as they were immune to rifle and machine gun fire.

The tanks managed to force their way into the forest and captured a road, crossing a railway line, which lead into the village of Izbiska Duże, which sat just north of the Polish headquarters.

Commander of the 12th Uhlan Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Andrzej Kuczek

At 10:30am, the Polish 4th Squadron of the 19th Cavalry Regiment were forced out of the forest after being attacked from the rear, as the Germans started to slowly make gains. This withdrawal threatened to drive a wedge between the Polish 19th and 21st Regiments. In response, Colonel Filipowicz tried to pull the 19th Regiment further back but found the area already occupied by Germans.

German Panzer I tanks in the Mokra area, 2 September 1939.

The arrival of Śmiały

Now facing the capture or annihilation of the 19th Regiment, it took the timely arrival of Śmiały  ("Bold"), - Polish armoured train no. 53 – just as the German tanks were manoeuvring across the railway line. The startled Germans suddenly fund themselves being plastered with accurate, close-range fire from the trains twin 75mm guns and quickly withdrew after sustaining heavy casualties, including a number of Panzer I and II tanks. The now battered 19th Regiment took the opportunity to pull back and regroup.

Śmiały ("Bold"), - Polish armoured train no. 53

Attack on Mokra

At the same time, the German attack on Mokra itself had begun, as they assaulted the positions defended by the Polish 21st Regiment. German panzers managed to outflank the Polish defences whilst the frontal attack was going on which resulted in the Poles pulling back from their positions on the outskirts of the village and being forced to defend in the village itself.

The Germans lost four tanks from accurate artillery fire from the Polish 2nd Artillery Battalion which was situated the other side of the railway line, but the Polish 4th squadron was forced into a desperate, fighting retreat, pulling back building by building, holding off the Germans as long as they could. Losses were heavy and it looked like the Poles were about to be wiped out but, once again, the Śmiały intervened, firing from over 2km away (and outside the range of German guns) it managed to destroy several Panzer I and Panzer II’s, seriously hampering the German assault.

Then in the nick of time, reinforcements arrived from the Polish 12th Uhlans who quickly dismounted from their horses and joined in the fray.

Polish Cavalry in 1939 (Picture during training exercise).

Polish counterattack

Keen to hit back at the Germans, the Polish 21st Armoured Battalion, commanded by Stanisław Gliński, was ordered to launch a counterattack in the village, using its TKS tankettes. These small Polish armoured vehicles were mainly used in the reconnaissance role as they were too lightly armed to take on enemy tanks (although it could probably hold its own against the machine gun equipped Panzer I’s). They were to be assisted by a cavalry squadron led by Captain Jerzy Hollak.

Captain Jerzy Hollak.

Upon entering the now ablaze Mokra, the Polish tankettes accidentally blundered into a German column of Panzer II’s. A wild melee quickly ensued and although the TKS tankettes could not match the Panzer II’s in terms of firepower or protection and the cavalry – unsurprisingly – were not well equipped to deal with tanks, the Poles struck lucky. The Germans were surprised by the sudden appearance of the Poles and in the general confusion, the German commander was slow to respond to the Polish assault. As a result, the Polish units managed to cut through the German column with only a few losses and managed to secure positions in the forest northwest of the village.

A column of Polish TKS tankettes in September 1939.

The myth of the charge

Erroneously, this has sometimes been described as a Polish Cavalry charge – and (similar to the Charge at Krojanty) has added to the myth of Polish Cavalry bravely charging German tanks during the Polish invasion. In reality though, it was not planned or executed as a ‘charge’, and instead more of an example of the Polish units reacting to and improvising when suddenly confronted by German tanks, along with the confused enemy response leading to the Germans withdrawing their tanks from the village (and back to their starting positions at Wilkowiecko). This retreat left the German infantry unsupported and exposed and resulted in significant casualties and a large number of German soldiers being taken prisoner.

Painting of the Battle of Mokra depicting the 'charge'.

Further clashes

Simultaneously, the Polish 4th Battalion of the 84th Infantry Regiment found themselves under attack by units of German mechanized infantry, which forced the Polish 11th and 12th Companies to withdraw into the forest.  In response, Colonel Filipowicz ordered a counterattack by the 2nd Mounted Rifles, with orders for them to then reinforce the positions between the 21st and 84th regiments. The 10th Company also pushed back and forced the Germans to relinquish positions they had only just captured. By midday, the fighting had started to die down in centre and south of the Polish positions, followed by the northern flank then quietening down after the 19th Regiment managed to successfully extract themselves.

German tank destroyed during the Battle of Mokra

Final struggles

At 12:15, the Germans once again tried to take control of Mokra, sending in 100 tanks to settle the matter. The armoured attack managed to smash through the defensive lines of the 4th Squadron of the 21st Regiment, destroying two Polish anti-tank guns and seizing the centre of the village. With many buildings now ablaze, the Poles took advantage of the cover provided by the smoke to withdraw the 21st Regiment to positions at the railway line. Additional confusion was caused by isolated pockets of Polish resistance which remained in the village, hampering German efforts.

With the 21st Regiment now withdrawn, the Germans were able to push on and attack the 12th Regiment and 2nd Artillery Battalion, incurring significant losses on the latter due to its artillery pieces not being designed to operate in the anti-tank role. Five guns were lost in total, all three from the 2nd battery and two from the 5th, along with the commanding officer, Lieutenant Kamil Paurbaix, and the reconnaissance officer Lieutenant Vladimir Romanov. However, once again, the smoke from the burning buildings aided the poles, helping to conceal the rest of the artillery pieces from the Germans.

Polish map detailing the battle.

1st Battery ambush

The Germans failing to locate these guns proved to be a costly mistake, with the still intact 1st Battery ambushing a group of German tanks which had unknowingly wandered into their vicinity, destroying thirteen of them in a matter of minutes and allowing the Poles to retain control of their positions. Colonel Kuczek then led the 12th Regiment in attacking the German forces from the rear forcing the Germans to withdraw. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and the battered Polish 2nd Artillery Battalion was withdrawn from the battle due the losses it had taken and its ammunition stocks running low.

At 15:00, the Germans tried again, via a straightforward frontal assault aimed at the Polish 2nd Squadron of the 12th Regiment, counting on assistance from the artillery and Luftwaffe, and the presence of 180 tanks, to help them smash through the Polish defence. At the same time, the Germans also tried to attack the Poles from the flanks. Despite heavy losses inflicted by Polish artillery, the Germans once again, made it to the centre of the village.

Damaged Panzer II in Mokra, September 1939

Attempted counterattack

The Poles tried to counterattack with the 4th Squadron led by Feliks Pruszyński, but such was the strength of the German forces, that the Poles found themselves being gradually edged back towards the railway line. With constant German pressure, increasing casualties and no reserves left to throw into the battle and on a single artillery battery from the 2nd Battalion still functioning, the Poles were starting to lose cohesion and the regiments losing contact with one another. The smoke simply added to the chaos, with the entire battle now disintegrating into separate skirmishes in the village, by the railway line or amongst the trees in the forest.

The Polish 12th Regiment were now in desperate trouble, so the only Polish Unit which was still intact - the 2nd Mounted Rifle Regiment – was ordered to reinforce them and plug the gap between the cavalry and the 84 Regiment to the south.  It provided only a temporary reprieve, so Colonel Filipowicz then sent his tankettes barrelling into the German tanks in the burning village, and despite their lack of anti-tank ammunition and being out-gunned by the German tanks, they managed to add to the chaos and delay the German assault further, losing only one tankette in the process before withdrawing.

German motorcyclist is given a drink by civilians, Poland 1939. German motorcycle units were used in an offensive role during the Battle of Mokra.



These Polish delaying tactics had brought time for two Polish Armoured trains to arrive and join the battle, and they quickly made an impact, shattering an attempted German breakthrough to the north of the 19th Regiment positions. Attacking the Germans from behind, the trains knocked out several tanks and panicked the Germans into abandoning several others, when their crews realised, they couldn’t safely traverse the railway line (Which was elevated 2 metres off the ground) and the railways crossing itself was blocked by a destroyed and burning German armoured vehicle.

The trains took some damage themselves and were forced to withdraw, but the panic continued to spread amongst the Germans, aided by the poor visibility caused by the smoke. Disorientated German tank crews found themselves firing at German positions or driving straight through them as they tried to escape.

Elsewhere, the Poles manage to hang on – battered, pushed out of position but still fighting and by 17:00 the battle was essentially over.

Abandoned artillery piece after the battle.


The German 4th Panzer division was forced to withdraw back to where it started - Opatów and Wilkowiecko, with only the 12th Schützen Regiment being the only unit being able to reach Izbiska. The German 1st Panzer Division had secured Klobuck which caused the Poles to withdraw south-west via the village of Łobodno to a second line of defence, set 13 kilometres to the east.


Both sides suffered significant casualties. The Germans suffered 800 killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. Their armoured units also took a battering with between 100-150 tanks and armoured vehicles being destroyed.

The Poles lost 200 killed, 300 wounded along with 300 horses and several artillery pieces. Some units lost between 25% - 30% of their total strength in the battle. The 12th Uhlans Regiment itself lost 5 officers and 216 men killed or wounded.

Monument commemorating the battle.