Przasnysz is a town located in the north/central part of Poland, about 110km north of Warsaw and 115km south of Olsztyn. Designated a town in in 1427, it was an important town during the Middle Ages and was the capital of the Mazovia region.

It was the scene of heavy fighting during the First World War as Russian and German forces clashed in November and December of 1914. The incessant, heavy fighting resulted in the town changing hands several times although by February 1915, it came under the control of Russian Siberian forces for the rest of the war.

When Hitler launched the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, once again, heavy fighting occurred, this time between invading German forces and the Mazowiecka Cavalry Brigade under the command of Colonel Jan Karcz.

Map of Przasnysz from 1819. The location of the church of the Holy Spirit is marked on the map.  Mr. Adam Myśliński

Przasnysz through history.


Ciechanów is a city in north-central Poland, first settled in 1065 and granted the status of town in 1400. Destroyed in 1806 during the Napoleonic wars, it rose from the ashes to become a centre of trade and industry and by the nineteenth century included a brewery, sugar factory and railway connection.

However, once again Ciechanów became a victim of conflict being almost completely destroyed during the First World War. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Ciechanów once again found itself in the firing line as German forces advanced across Poland.

Ciechanów in the 1930's

“Other than exchange of artillery fire, 2 september was uneventful. Twice polish planes flew over the front and were fired upon by our antiaircraft guns. One was brought down at Neidenburg the other turned and flew back behind the hostile lines. During the afternoon we were ordered by the division to break contact with the enemy at dusk. The division was to be shifted to the east, where the adjoining Corps had been able to advance with some degree of success.

The relieved was successfully carried out by parts of the two adjoining divisions and the march was resumed on the Bialuty-Wetzhausen-Neidenburg highway. Moving via Kaltenborn-willemberg, the division reached Rodefeld at midnight (see sketch).

Sketch of the division movements leading up to the battles.

SS Aufklarung Abteilung - Poland 1939 - Axis History Forum

Following instructions issued by the Ia of the division, three patrols were organized at 07:00 AM. Meanwhile the situation at Chorzele had developed as follows: a friendly division, after penetrating strong hostile resistence, was advancing on Grudusk; another division, pushing forward in the area south of Chorzele, was moving toward the southwest; and a cavalry brigade, coming from the northeast had arrived within twelwe miles of Przasnysz. Nothing was known concerning the disposition of the hostile forces. While the author was engaged in carrying out the details involved in reconnoitering the highway, with the view of facilitating the advance of the mechanized division on Przasnysz, the patrols were employed as follows:

  • Patrol Nº 1 to reconnoiter the stretch from Chorzele to Grudusk.
  • Patrol Nº 2 to reconnoiter the road Chorzele-Krzynowloga Mala intersection northwest Mchowo-Borkowo.
  • Patrol Nº 3 Chorzele-Swiniary-Mchowo-Olszewiec.

Germany artillery in action during the invasion.

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Having reached the outskirts south of Chorzele, the reconnaissance detachment commander came upon the corps staff, where the Ia gave him a brief summary of the situation. At 07:30 AM corps had taken up the pursuit along the entire front and expected to occupy Przasnysz shortly. Further reconnaissance revealed that the Poles had blown up the bridge at Krzynowloga Mala, but a detour had been established. On the road to Mchowo we passed the mutilated bodies of 24 polish soldiers and their horses, all that was left of a polish antitank platoon which apparently had touched off some polish mines concealed on the road.

About 10:00 AM German troops passed the point where the road is intersected by the Krzynowloga Mala-Mchowo road; still no report had come in on Mchowo. Patrol nº 3 had experienced considerable difficulty on the sandy road and did not reach Mchowo until some time later. This road was indicated in the polish map as improved.

Meanwhile the division formed three pursuit groups, each group composed of infantry, artillery and tanks. The reconnaissance detachment being attached to the forward group. For the advance on Mchowo and Przasnysz the reconnaissance detachment was reinforced by a platoon each of engineers and infantry heavy weapons. The first mission was to occupy Mchowo and reconnoitre to the south thereof.

Patrol nº 1 reported from Grudusk that it had entered the town and put a polish tank out of action. Immediately taking advantage of the advance of one of our scout car the infantry occupied Grudusk and the patrol was recalled.

The speed and intensity of the German advances during the Invasion of Poland took its toll on their vehicles. Here crew members carry out some well needed maintenance on their Panzer I tanks.

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At 01:45 PM the reconnaissance detachment continued its advance until it reached the outskirts of Przasnysz where it encountered a cavalry patrol moving up from the east. After both sides had gone into position and observed each other for a time, we finally recognized these horsemen as a German patrol from the cavalry brigade. Although our vehicles were of typically German design, the camouflaged helmets worn by our men made identification difficult.

The 1st company of the reconnaissance detachment then proceeded to Przasnysz and reported the town unoccupied by enemy troops. About 04:00 PM the reconnaissance detachment and the cavalry brigade entered the town and found that the greater portion of the civilian population had also fled.

Polish cavalry in 1939. It was the presence of such units which hampered German advances towards Ciechanow.

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The Poles had blown up the bridge on the road to Chorzele but the one on the road to the east was still intact. Traffic, however, was blocked considerably by the cavalry watering their horses in the town an operation which delayed the forward elements of the mechanized division in reached the southern exit. The presence of Polish forces, presumably cavalry, temporarily held up the advance of our patrols on the road to Ciechanow.

Reinforced by heavy infantry weapons a rifle company attacked the wood about a mile southwest of Przasnysz; finally a battery of artillery arrived and opened fire forcing the enemy to retire. Polish cavalry retreating in the area south of Przasnysz was also brought under artillery fire.

From the division we learned of their intention to march on Ciechanow. The cavalry brigade had orders to continue advancing westward.

About 06:00 PM the detachment sent out a patrol, followed by the 1st Company, reinforced by an anti-tank platoon in the direction of Ciechanow; although, repeatedly fired upon from the northwest, the company continued to drive ahead and by dusk it had reached Ciechanow. Polish troops filled the streets and the enemy occupied the barracks at the edge of the town. Despite this the company dispatched several patrols into the town, where they created a panic with hand grenades and sub machine guns. When the barracks were subjected to the fire of antitank guns and light mortars, the Poles cleared out promptly. By that time it was dark and so the company took up a defensive position at the northeastern exit of Ciechanow.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E1 Stab II.ZG1 Otto Hintze WNr 2668 Przasnysz Poland, 1st Sep 1939.

Meanwhile the main body of the pursuit group had halted at Wola Wierbowska on account of darkness. Nobody knew how far the 1st Company had been able to advance. While local security was being established at Wola Wierbowska Polish artillery opened fire from the northwest. The road became blocked when a direct hit struck an ammunition truck, setting it afire. During a fight with Polish stragglers concealed in a houses on both sides of the street a number of houses went up in flames. At this moment the 1st company radioed that it had reached Ciechanow. But due to the conditions of traffic in the rear and the rifle companies still being engaged at Wola Wierbowska we were unable to send reinforcements forward.

At 11:00 PM the reconnaissance detachment recived orders to proceed to Ciechanow with everthing available. Driving without lights we reached the northeastern limits of the town at midnight. A part of the 2nd Company secured the road to Grudusk; the remainder took up a position in depth along the route of advance.

During the night the Poles attacked from Ciechanow and were repulsed by the 1st Company. About 04:00 AM a Polish column moving from Grudusk was engaged by the security detachment from the 2nd Company and an antitank gun and annihilated. Several machine guns, two heavy infantry mortars, two antitank guns and a large number of horse-drawn vehicles were captured, and fifty prisoners were taken. There was no records of our own casualties.

Przasnysz synagogue ablaze.

During the morning, 3 september, the reconnaissance detachment completed the occupation of Ciechanow without encountering further resistence. Several patrols were sent out to the northwest, west and south, later they brought a number of Polish prisoners and a scout car and reported that large Polish forces were withdrawing to the west. Suddenly a hostile armoured train approached Ciechanow from the south a captured a German sentry. When it was fired on by an anti-tank gun it withdrew. To prevent further surprises of that nature, the reconnaissance detachment from then on blew up every strecht of railroad track.

Shortly afternoon the pursuit group received orders to proceed eastward via Prasznysz. Mean while the Poles had vacated Mlawa and retired toward southwest. The German East Prussian Army was regrouped for an attack against the Narew. Having recalled all patrols by radio and loaded all booty of value, the reconnaissance detachment departed at 06:00 PM for Przasnysz, where it spent the night.”

Further reading


SS Aufklarung Abteilung - Poland 1939 - Axis History Forum

Mr. Adam Myśliński

Przasnysz - formerly and today

Marek Gadomski


Missionaries and Barbarians. Stories about the everyday life of the Przasnysz generalist in the years 1923–2005

At the post. State Police in the Przasnysz District 1919–1939, edited by H. Dęby, B. Drejerski

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