Pioneers in Divisions vs Regiments

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Chronofus
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Pioneers in Divisions vs Regiments

Post by Chronofus » 01 Aug 2022 02:42

Hi, I'm working on some OOBs for wargaming, and I'm a bit confused by the pioneer squadrons/company/battalion (depending on translation) attached to an army, different to the pioneer battalion or company attached to a division, and then the pioneer platoon attached to a regiment.

Can someone give me an indication of what these pioneer company and battalions were like in broad terms?

At regiment level I understand a basic platoon of infantry pioneers was composed of 4 squads of pioneers plus bridging train and digging equipment wagons etc. I assume one squad was nominally attached to each company semi permanently and the rest held in regimental reserve? or were they simply kept as a platoon and parcelled out to companies as required? I also couldn't find any reference to these platoons having attached mine detecting or laying equipment. Should I assume they did have the equipment but it's not listed, or that was left to higher level pioneer formations?

All? divisions had an attached pioneer battalion (i.e. the 6th division had the 6th pioneer battalion.) Were these pioneers separate to the regimental pioneers, or were the regimentals simply split off the divisional formation permanently i.e. in the 6th division case, the 6th pioneer battalion split a company off and attached one each to the 12th, 16th and 20th regiments. (I assume regimental pioneers were an integral part of the regimental formation judging by the way the cavalry formations look, and therefore the divisional battalion is a separate formation.) I've seen reference to a ferry platoon and gas platoon, was this perhaps a divisional reserve attached to a regiment as required?

Was there any difference between a reserve pioneer battalion and a regular battalion and the border corps equivalent?

At army level a number of battalions and companies were attached i.e. for the Lodz army the 131,132,133,134,144,145,146 and Stolpce companies and the Czortkow border guard platoon were attached. Were these any different to companies within the divisional battalion? (3 platoons per company, 4 squads per company, plus wagons etc?)

Were attached cavalry pioneer companies any different to infantry? i.e. in the Podolska cavalry brigade, the attached 6th pioneer company appears to be a standard infantry pioneer company (without horse mounts for all privates)

For a motorised unit, (platoon/company/battalion) were the wagons simply replaced by trucks? Or were the basic pioneer infantry also given trucks per squad? For example, how was the 90th Pioneer battalion motorised?

Sorry it reads all a bit confused, because I am :)

gebhk
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Re: Pioneers in Divisions vs Regiments

Post by gebhk » 17 Aug 2022 12:12

HJi Chronofus

Sorry to have missed your post. I understand your confusion, especially when translational hiccups intervene. I will try to give you the organsational detail and answer aall your question when i get back later today, but here are the basics.

First of all, in Polish terminology, there are (as in all supporting arms/services) two species of soldier and unit. Pioneers were infantrymen, cavalrymen etc trained to carry out minor engineering tasks. They would retain the titles of strzelec, legionista, ulan etc etc and they would form the personnel of regimental or brigade pioneer platoons/companies and squadrons respectively. At most they might have some officers and NCOs who were from the engineering arm of service - confusingly called 'saperzy', frequently, albeit not entirely correctly translated as 'sappers'.

An infantry regiment, most commonly had a pioneer platoon and a gas platoon. The former was made up of 4 pioneer squads and a trains, most of which was dedicated to transporting 60m of infantry footbridge. The gas platoon was made up of 3 squads and a small trains section. Independent rifle battalions had a gas/pioneer platoon (I think, though it may heve been called just a pioneer platoon). The army was in the early stages of reorganising the infantry regiment pioneers into pioneer companies of 2x pioneer, 1x gas, 1x bridging platoons and a flame-thrower squad. These were allocated to one infantry regiment in each of probably 12 divisions.

A cavalry regiment had a pioneer/gas squad while the cavalry brigade had a pioneer squadron.

Each active division had an engineering battalion which was entirely made up of 'saperzy', the soldier being titled 'saper' and belonged to the engineering arm of service (Wojska Saperskie). They were formed of 3 companies and a saper column, the TOE was of three types (old, semi-modernised and fully modernised). There were also 6 army-level saper battalions (of two types) and a bunch of army level specialised units - bridging columns, reserve companies, railway companies etc.

The two motorised battalions were specifically designed for the two motorised cavalry brigades and had their own TOE.

The subunits were not allocated to companies/battalions as such - the units were divided up and allocated to engineering tasks. In effect, a pioneer or saper subunit may be working with a straight line unit but it would be the straight unit that was providing support and protection to allow the pioneer/saper unit do get its work done rather than the pioneer/saper unit supporting the line unit. Indeed, pioneer/sapper units carried a supply of addional basic hand tools so that any available infantry/cavalrymen or even local civilians could be pressed into service digging trenches, felling trees etc under the expert supervision of pioneer or saper personnel, to facilitate more rapid construction of field defences, bridges, roads etc.

I hope that at least clears up some of the confusion! More when I get home tonight.

Best wishes
K

gebhk
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Re: Pioneers in Divisions vs Regiments

Post by gebhk » 17 Aug 2022 18:52

Back to the regimental platoons
As noted earlier, this consisted of HQ, 4 squads of 12 men and trains which included 2 2-horse wagons for tools mand building materials, a 'biedka' (1-horse cart) for explosives and 6 2-horse wagons to carry 60 m of wz 29 infantry footbridge.

The pioneer squads were made up of two sections each, the leader of the first being also the overall squad leader. The squad leader and 2nd section leader carried a leather tool bag over their shoulder and the other members carried one large tool (axe, shovel or pickaxe in a holster over their left shoulder and a smaller item - such as a hatchet, hand saw or staple pouch attached to their belt on the right. In addition at least one other smaller item - such a rolled up felling saw or skeins of rope were attached to the gear where they could be. Otherwise the platoon personnel were equipped in exactly the same way as their fellows in the rifle companies, down to their individual entrenching tools. Given that the basic infantryman was already overloaded, the pioneers nust have made a passable impression of the 7 dwarves on their way to the mine....

The anti-gas platoon was made up of HQ (which included 4 gas scouts) and three squads of 12 men, one of whom was the driver of a 2-horse wagon. Another three 2-horse wagons made up the platoon trains which carried spare equipment and consumables.

To reiterate, these platoons were an organic part of the infantry regiment, supported logistically by the regimental admin company.

The new regimental pioneer companies were to have 2 pioneer platoons as above minus the footbridge, 1 gas platoon as above and the bridging platoon was to have the infantry footbridge equipment, inflatable rubberised canvas boats and a short section of light pontoon bridge. The flame thrower ssquad was to have, if memory serves, 4 weapons.
Last edited by gebhk on 17 Aug 2022 19:23, edited 1 time in total.

gebhk
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Re: Pioneers in Divisions vs Regiments

Post by gebhk » 17 Aug 2022 19:19

The cavalry regiment
The regimental HQ included a pioneer/gas squad of 14 men. There was an NCO squad leader and 6 pioneers. These were, of course, all mouinted and their personal tools were carried by comrade horse, attached to the saddle. In addition there were 3 horse holders for the piopneer's mounts, 2 for two pack horses and a driver each for the anti-gas equipment taczanka with three horses and a 2-horse wagon for piuoneer tools and consumables.

The cavalry brigade
On more shaky ground here. Best as I can make out the p[ioneer squadron consisted of HQ, 3 platoons and trains.
The first (pioneer) platoon had HQ and 6 sections (pretty much every section of Polish cavalry consisted of 6 men - 4 combat troopers and two horse holders). It also had a 3-horse pioneer 'taczanka'.
The 2nd (barrier) platoon also had 4 sections and a 'taczanka'.
Then third (chemical) platoon had 3 mounted ections and a bicycle squad of 2 sections and 2 'taczanki'.
The trains carried the admin squad as well as engineering equipment and consumables on 27 2-horse wagons and a 4-horse field kitchen. .

gebhk
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Re: Pioneers in Divisions vs Regiments

Post by gebhk » 17 Aug 2022 20:00

Mine laying and clearance
No, there were no specialised mine detectors in 1939 in the Polish or any other army because they hadn't yet been invented. Like all other armies, the Polish one relied on the Mk 1 eyeball, the trusty bayonet, nerves of steel and a healthy disregard for health and safety for mine detection and clearance. Ironically, perhaps, the Polish armed forces had access to the relevant technology even then but apparently had not yet thought of its application to mine detection. In fact it was the artillery branch that had commissioned from the AVA Radio Company a detector to identify unexploded duds on artillery ranges! It was only in France in 1939-40 that Polish engineers gave thought to how this technology could be adapted to mine detection but France fell before much progress had been made. So it is only in early 1942 that Lt Jozef Kosacki finished his work, partly based on the previous designs, on what was to become the Mine Detector (Polish) Mk 1. Legend would have it that the stimulus for his work was the desire to find a short-cut through the mine-sown beaches of coastal Scotland btween where he and his mates were stationed and the nearest town. Or, more to the point, the town's female population. Be that as it may, Kosacki gifted the invention to the British Army sans patent and it was mass-produced and first used in the 2nd Battle of El Alamein. The Mk 4c version was, apparently, still being used by the BA until 1995.

The regimental platoons did not have prefabricated mines - I presume this was because even the Wojsko Polskie, not known to be overly sensitive to issues of health and safety, nevertheless considered such contraptions too dangerous and unreliable to be placed in the hands of half-trained squaddies. Of the units so far discussed, the barrier platoons of the cavalry brigades may have had a small number of them, but I am not sure even of that.

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