42 Pulk Piechoty
31 Aug 1939 - 13 Sep 1939
In the local garrison at Bialystok, since 1922, were the "42 Pulk Piechoty" or 42nd Infantry Regiment. This unit was well regarded locally and had proven themselves in 1920 by fighting the Bolsheviks and protecting the area `i lived in, the Kresy region.
Locals would often refer to them as the "Children of Bialystok" due to their young ages. I wanted to be part of this, to be one of the "Children Of Bialystok" too. Many of them, about 12,000 if I remember correctly, were conscripts.
It was in April 1930, at the age of 22 years old, that I was sworn in to 42 Pulk Piechoty in Bialystok. I was so proud that day, being part of a well known and well loved local infantry regiment, my mum and my dad were so proud of me, I felt 6 foot tall!
Rising Through The Ranks
Whilst with 42 Pulk Piechoty I did a 6 month course between 1930-1931 for non-commissioned officer's. At the end of it I passed my NCO and was given the title of Kapral (Or Corporal in English).
Mum & Dad were so proud of me, I had really stuck in and worked hard and finally I had something to show for it. I wasn't just "little Wladylsaw" anymore, I was becoming a man, a real man and one who would be proud to defend Poland just like my ancestors did.
The day I received my title the whole family came along to the barracks in Bialystok. There was a formal ceremony where each of us was announced and the certificates we had achieved.
Dad was really proud, he clapped and whistled when it was my turn and in my heart it felt really warm and re-assuring to know I was doing something he was proud of.
At the end of August 1939, however, the Children of Bialystok regiment left the barracks and in September fought heavy fights with the Germans near Ostrołęka, Myszyniec, Nowogród. And in the autumn the Soviets came and the Red Army was stationed in the barracks.
Our regiment, 42 p.p. fought with the Germans under Nowogrod and Myszyńc as part of the Independent Operations Group "Narew". Unfortunately, most of the soldiers were captured in the vicinity of Andrzejów and Łętownicy.
This alliance with the Germans was to prove to be a false alliance because not 3 years later we would be freed from exile by General Anders and asked to assist Russia (Our enemy) in fighting against the Germans , such is the fickleness of war.
I was captured but managed to run away from the prison camp to freedom.
Things definitely ramped up in the middle of 1939. From 27 August 1939 to 18 September 1939 I was on the front line at Lomza fighting the Russians. I tried hard not to think about my wife, my children Zdzislaw (4 years old) and Lucyna (2 years old or my siblings and parents.
When you are fighting in the battlefield you cannot think about these things, you have to put them aside in order to attain focus.
I started to question whether this was a good thing, me out fighting, playing real toy soldiers whilst my dear family was at home. I rationalised that I had to do this in order to protect my family.
Our unit was led by Lt. Franciszek Zaręb who enlisted 1st MG Company, 1st Battalion and 42nd Infantry Regiment to run the machine gun bunkers, meantime the trenches around them were manned by two rifle companies of the 33rd regiment.
Late on Sept 10 our unit withdrew. (Editors Note: As the Polish forces withdrew late in the day on Sep 10 so we don't know what happened in that 3 day period to the 13th as regards Wladyslaws movements).
On Sept 15 1939 the Germans attacked Bialystok and so the reserves of 42 Pulk Piechoty along with other units from the Bialystok Garrison defended our beloved city.
- Many of the regiment's soldiers belonging to the Independent Operations Group "Polesie" took part in the last battle of the Polish defense war that took place at Kock. (Note: As above on 15/09/39 42 p.p were defending Bialystok. However 42 p.p were also at Zambrow where we believed grandad was. Maybe he was defending Bialystok instead??).
- Since he was later arrested in December by the NKVD, it does seem that he made his way home therefore not captured by the Germans - like many ... both made their way home after being defeated in battle.
- There was not only military training but also education to help the soldiers during occupation.
What Became of 42 Pulk Piechoty?
You will recall that on the 2nd March 1942 my unit, 42 Pulk Piechoty (42nd Infantry Regiment) merged into 28 Pulk Piechoty (28th Infantry Regiment) when General Anders army was being assembled at Lugavoya in Kazakhstan.
At that point we became known as "The Polish Army In The USSR" or the "Polish Army In Exile".
Later, in 1944 the 42nd Infantry Regiment was reborn but by then I was in the United Kingdom and essentially no longer in the military.