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[Sticky] Potted History - 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division

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3rd Carpathian Rifle Division, and the Polish 2nd Corps

The story of the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division begins, as with all the Free Polish Force, with the fall of Poland in 1939. the nucleus of the division was built upon the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade, which was formed from soldiers who escaped escaped to the French Levant in 1940. Upon the fall of France the brigade was transferred to British service and trained and equipped along British lines. The Brigade saw action in the Western Desert, most notably at the siege of Tobruk, and was to become the foundation of the 1st Carpathian Rifle Brigade, in the Carpathian Rifle Division. The creation of the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division saw the many Polish soldiers serving throughout North Africa combined into the single unit in 1943, and joined to the newly formed Polish 2nd Corps.

The majority of the Polish 2nd Corps was to be formed form Soviet prisoners of war from the 1939 campaign. When the German forces launched operation Barbarossa the Poles and Soviets found themselves on the same side. Under pressure from the Polish Government in Exile General Wladyslaw Anders, a prisoner in Lubyanka, was allowed to raise a Polish army by the Soviets. Soon, however, it became apparent that the Soviets had neither the means nor the desire to properly equip and supply this Polish army and, after diplomatic pressure from the British Government, 'Anders' Army' was allowed to march to Palestine to join the British 8th Army.

Though formed in 1943 it took until 1944 for the Corps to be fully trained, not to mentioned properly fed and brought up to health after their stay with the Soviets, and committed to the Italian theatre. During it's time training the corps adopted a bear cub, known as Woytek. When the corps left for Italy they were unable to transport their mascot, and so Woytek was enlisted as a serving member of 22nd Transport Company and served in the Battle of Monte Cassino carrying artillery shells. Comprising the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division, the 5th Kresowa Infantry Division and the 2nd Armoured Brigade, the Corps was tasked with encircling the bastion of Monte Cassino during Operation Diadem – the fourth Battle of Monte Cassino.

Engaging the Elite 1st Fallschirmjäger Division and 5th Gebirgsjäger Division the corps was, despite initial advances, bloodily repulsed in the first days with heavy losses to both sides. General Anders requested that, rather than being rotated out of the line, his Corps was allowed to make the second attack. On May 17th they renewed the assault. The second attack was better planned, by both the corps and the army, and rather than attacking the full front of German positions the Polish units concentrated their forces on slowly seizing, and holding, key points and on occupying the defender so as to aid the Push up the Liri valley, by British XIII Corps and the French Expeditionary Corps. In the early hours of the 18th Polish units behind Monte Cassino linked up with the British 78th Division. However, upon sending a patrol to recon the, suspiciously quiet, Abbey it was found that the remainder of the Fallschirmjägers had withdrawn in the night and escaped the encirclement. Non the less the Gustav line was broken, and the 'Road to Rome' open. Next waited the, hastily renamed, Hitler Line. And for the Poles the town of Piedemonte...

Posted : 27/08/2009 2:32 pm