This is an extremely famous
battle where the Polish cavalry met the Soviet cavalry in 1920 and won
(in the few previous meetings it had not gone so well for the Polish
cavalry). It is also one of the last times that cavalry fought in such
large numbers on a European battlefield.
and my impressions
We drove out of Zamość on the
main road towards Hrubieszów down the main axis of
Budënny's attack (and retreat). Although his fighting men were
not hindered by the hills on either side, his supply was naturally
constrained to the rail line and main road. I was surprised how flat it
was along the main road, because I had understood that this part of
Poland was hilly.
From there we cut north to Cześniki, crossing a very gentle, but big,
rise to do so.
Cześniki is a fairly standard agricultural village for eastern Poland.
The road itself is narrow, but there were wide grass verges on both
sides. Most property consisted of a dwelling, small if old but bigger
if new, with a few agricultural buildings behind. Virtually every
property was surrounded by a fence. Cześniki did differ from the other
villages in the area in that it wasn't just a thin ribbon along a road,
but actually has a couple of side roads. Komarów was the
other one to have this: these are clearly the main centres of the area,
each having a substantial church.
From Cześniki's southern edge I could see up to the long gentle rise
above the town. "Hill" I suppose you could call it, if you were being
generous. From my reading I had had the impression that the Poles
should have been
able to dominate the village below by gaining that position in the
early afternoon. Now I could see why it hadn't seemed so good to them:
the very gentle nature of the slope meant that it didn't really give a
tremendously good view, nor did it provide any sort of obstacle to any
At this point I blundered. I wanted to take the road that led from
Cześniki past the forest from which the Konnarmiya had charged later in
the day. When I say "road" I mean dirt track, and of course they
weren't signposted. So we ended up taking one parallel to that intended.
And when I say "dirt track" I should add that a section of it was, in
fact, mud. The day itself was fine but it had rained quite heavily the
day before. I could see that the initial section of the track was
perfectly drivable, and in my ignorance I assumed that the high ground
would be drier than the low ground.But it wasn't, and when we hit some
tractor ruts that still had water in them we got stuck. I was initially
a teeny bit worried that I was going to have to go and find some local
to drag me out, which was going to take ages and ruin my day. However,
it was eventually a fairly simple matter of getting out and pushing the
car through the worst bits. Simple, but dirty, of course.
This impressed on me how
difficult the going must have been in 1920, because the battle was
fought in very wet conditions. Both sides found the going very
difficult, and were exhausted by the end of the day, which explains the
Poles inability to follow up the retreating Soviets.
Eventually we made it over the crest and into the village of Wolica
Śniatycka. From there we drove curved round to the east and entered
Komarów town from that side. This took us through the
land marked on the maps as boggy, though I wasn't in any mood to get
out and check it out in person. There were ditches in these
low lying bits, but not many, and mostly not very deep.
Some versions of the battle have a Soviet charge coming unstuck because
they hit a boggy patch just north of Wolica Śniatycka, and I could see
how that could have happened. Given a careful look, the wetter bits
were potentially distinguishable: the grass was vaguely rougher and
they had bits of scrub on them. However, it would be very easy to
blunder into it, if you didn't have time to check it out first.
Komarów is on a genuine hill, the edge of the hilly bits
south. Although not a big place, it had a market place and a few
urban-style buildings packed side-by-side, rather than just being a
collection of farms.
The churchyard had a memorial
to the 1920 battle, and inside a couple of paintings of the
Polish-Soviet war. Perhaps these are new, perhaps they had just spent
time under whitewash, as I can’t see the
Soviets letting them stay up. The one by the entrance appeared to have
damage, which would suggest it was not new. There were also memorial
plaques in the entrance for soldiers (it seemed normal for churches to
have plaques to soldiers or units in the entrance area).
From there we drove north to Brodek to correct my mistake earlier in
the day when I had taken the wrong track and thereby we arrived just
of where the final action of the day took place. To the north-west was
where the Soviet cavalry assembled before charging across at the Poles,
who had been just north of where I stood, with a few others to the
My conclusion is that almost all of the day's actions could be gamed on
a flat tabletop, for all the difference the slopes would have made.
Much more important for accuracy would be to get the boggy areas and
I took loads of photos. I have
had to compress them a lot so as to fit them on the site, but I'm happy
to send the originals if anyone wants.
C02: the view from just north of Cześniki (Miasteczko) with its church.
Note how the area has only the very gentlest of roll.
C03: Cześniki village. Wide verges; lots of trees; lots of agricultural
buildings behind small dwellings..
C04: this is from the western outskirts of Cześniki. Photo
the “hill” above the town.
C05: this is from the southern outskirts of Cześniki, having just
cleared Cześniki-Kol. Photo “a” looks up towards
while “b” looks down at the village (the brick
it is part of the new Kol, not the old village).
C06: further on up the same road, near to the top of the rise, in the
gap between the woods. The “a” photo shows
just how flat
the valley from Zamość to Hrubieszów is. The
photo shows just how
gentle the crest is, and how muddy the road was despite it not having
rained that day.
C07: now over the crest and looking southwards.
C09: inside Wolica Śniatycka. Like Cześniki, this was more a collection
of farms than a tight village.
C10: This picture was taken just as we were leaving Wolica Śniatycka
(hence the sign reads Antionowka), facing SE. The ground there is quite
boggy and the increase in shrubs and isolated trees is a good
indication that the ground is marginal agriculturally, as there were no
shrubs in most of the fields in the area.
C11: these were taken a bit further east of the previous one (after
passing through Śniatycze) and show how the ground in front of
is very flat (indeed boggy as a result) but that Komarów is
of a real hill: the only one we saw that day. The steeple is that of
C12: the view from in front of Komarów church, showing how
actually has a semi-urban core. Note, in picture
can see the rise above Cześniki on
C13: in and around the church. Inside were two paintings of the
fighting (note “c” is stitched from two photos, as
entrance way and I couldn’t get further back).
C14: a stitched together panorama of the scene of the last fighting of
the day. This is taken from the northern end of Brodek
village. The road heads WNW and the forest at its end is where
Budënny’s cavalry made its charge from (as described
by Babel in his Red Cavalry stories). The Polish cavalry met
in the middle of the picture (which is looking north) in front of the
The picture ends facing ENE.
C15: looking east from the middle of Brodek. The clump of trees to the
left of “a” is presumably modern Kol. Wolica, and
“height” 255 is beyond it: as you can see
there’s not much of a height (though it does
slope down from there to the boggy bits further east). The house in
“b” is in Brodek. The fields look pretty muddy.