1809 - 1939:
12th Lancers Regiment of Grand Duchy of Warsaw:
In 1807, Emperor Napoleon the First of France created an autonomous Grand Duchy of Warsaw to govern Polish territories which were previously under Prussian rule. It had it’s own administration and army, but on foreign and military policy, it was a French ally. In 1809, France declared war against Austria because the Austrians attacked their allied Duchy of Warsaw.
During the fighting in June 1809, the Duchy of Warsaw’s army took possession of eastern Galicia. The Polish troops who invaded, led the local population and other volunteers into the struggle and they started their own branch of the military. One of the organizers was a former Russian Captain of the guard, Gabriel Ryszczewski. He organized the local population into the Podolian Cavalry unit, the 5th Cavalry Regiment of the French-Galician. On July 1st of 1809, Ryszczewski decreed Polish Army authority. He received the rank of Colonel and took command of the unit.
On July 7th of 1809, the 5th French-Galician Cavalry Regiment was renamed to the 12th Lancers Regiment. To commemorate this change of name, the 12th Lancers placed the Red, White, and Blue colors of France on their Regimental Flag as a reminder of their origins.
In the years of 1810-1812, the unit consisted of a headquarters, four squadrons of two companies each, as well as an electoral company, along with 832 Sabors. Before the outbreak of the French-Russian war, the state of the Regiment was enlarged to 983 Sabors.
In 1812, Emperor Napoleon the First decided to start a war with Russia. Much of the Duchy of Warsaw, being composed of the Grand Army of Napoleon has been grouped in the V Corps. under the command of Prince J. Poniatowski. At that time the 12th Regiment constituted the vanguard of V Corps. In the march on Grodno, the brigade fought several successful battles with Donski Cossacks and during the further progress in the depths of Russia, V Corps took part in the capture of Smolensk. During these battles, the 12th Lancers Regiment distinguished itself and its commander Colonel Ryszczewski was awarded the Cavalry cross of the Legion of Honor. During the Battle of Borodino (September 5-7), after several attempts, the Regiment captured six Russian cannons. After the occupation of Moscow, the Regiment, along with V Corps was directed to the south where they fought magnificently in the battles of Czerykow and Tarutin. Colonel Ryszczewski was awarded the Virtuti Militari III class.
At the end of October, the Emperor of France decided to withdraw from Moscow. In the retreat of the Grand Army, (in the section of Smorgon to Vinius) in recognition, one of the squadrons of the Regiment was the personal escort of the Emperor Napoleon and the protector of the wounded Prince J. Poniatowski. In Napoleon’s decree, The Duchy of Warsaw Cavalry was organized in the IV Corps Reserve. As a result of this decree, the 12th and 8th Regiment were combined. Due to this decision, the 12th Lancers Regiment ceased to exist.
12th Lancers Regiment in the war with Russia in 1831:
The November Uprising in 1830, in the Polish Kingdom resulted in the Polish population in Lithuania to take up arms, which at that time was incorporated into Russia. In March and April of 1831, the uprising created many partisans who fought the Russian invaders. In May of 1831, to support the insurgents fighting in Lithuania, Polish troops were sent under the command of General Dezyderego Chlapowskiego. After arriving in Lithuania on May 26th 1831, General Chlapowski created the 12th Lancers Regiment in Chrynsk out of the insurgent Cavalry. Captain Duke Jan Giedroyc was appointed as commander. On July 13th , at the battle of Nowe Miasto Zmudzkie, the Regiment suffered heavy losses and it’s commander was wounded. In view of the situation and hopelessness, on July 15th the regiment crossed the border into East Prussia and laid down its arms.
The Lancers wore scarlet caps of gilt plate, on which read “Pursuit”. Tops and pants were navy blue, the collar, sleeves, boxes and stripes on the trousers were crimson.
The Polish - Bolshevik war of 1920 and the period in between the wars:
In February 1919, the Regiment was reborn for the third time. The Regiment was formed from Poles from different units of the Russian Cavalry. The new unit was based in Warsaw. The ranks of the new unit were strengthened by youth from Warsaw and the surrounding area. On November 1, 1919, the initial name, “Relief Division” was changed to the 12th Podolian Lancers.
A mixture of arms was exchanged for German sabors and Austrian rifles. Towards the end of 1919, German sabors were replaced by Polish ones, known as “Radziwill” offered by Princess Isabella Radziwill. The Lances were German and Austrian. Horse tacks were Austrian at first and later changed to U.S. The horses came from different cavalry regiments of Russia, Austria, and from donations of Podolian landowners. The Regiment first participated in the defense of Lwow, then fought until the end of September, 1919, at various sections of the Ukrainian front.
From the end of October 1919, to mid April 1920, the regiment was composed of 5 cavalry brigades who took part in the filling of the Pomeranian Region. While returning to Kiev, the Regiment was transferred to the Ukrainian front. The Regiment participated in about 70 battles; One of which was the biggest horse battle of the twentieth century, (called, the battle of Komarow).
Losses: 18 officers, 150 NCOs and other ranks.
Wounded: 21 officers, about 300 non-commissioned officers and privates.
Spoils of war: 3 cannons, 30 ckm, two armored trains, two armored cars, over 3,000 prisoners of war, large quantities of ammunition, horses and rolling stock.
Awards: 39 Crosses Virtuti Millitari and 265 Crosses of Valor.
Commanders: Capt.. Wlodzimierz Kownacki (1918), col. Kuncman Henry (1918 - killed), Capt.. Hamilcar Szeliski (1918 - killed), Lt. Tokarzewski Joseph (1919-1920 - wounded), Major. Zygmunt Rudnicki (1920), Lt.-Col. Stanislas Szantyr (1920), Capt. Shushkevich Anthony (1920), Major. Zbigniew Brochwicz-Lewinski (1920 - wounded), Capt.. Tadeusz Komorowski (1920-hurt), Capt. Tadeusz Dziewicki (1920), Colonel. Koiszewski Nicholas (1921-1924), Colonel. Sigmund Rudnicki (1924-1929), Lt.-Col. Rudolf Rupp (1929-1931), Lt.-Col. Dipl. Bronislaw Rakowski (1931-1936), Lt.-Col. Andrew Kuczek (1936-1939) murdered in Kharkov (known as Katyn massacre)
Regiment Holiday: May 7, the anniversary of receivng Regimental banner (in Wilanow) in 1919.
Regimental colors and badge:
Badge of the 12th Regiment was established by the Regimental staff meeting in 1921. It is the Maltese cross, measuring 39 x 39 mm, covered by black enamel, which is a sign of mourning for the fallen officers and regiment soldiers. The cross was uperimposed on the golden sun, referring to the Podolian emblem. On top, between the arms of the cross; the Regimental flag was placed (magenta and blue with white strips). The tabs at the bottom are magenta and navy blue. Worn in the years of, 1917 though 1919 in the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the Polish III corps. In Russia, in these ranks, were the officers which formed the 12thRegiment. There was no difference between soldiers and officers badges. The right to wear the Regimental badge was given to those officers and soldiers who spent three months on, or one year behind the front lines. In peacetime, the officers were given a badge after two years of service, enlisted soldiers after one year of service. The commander of the Regiment issued the Regimental Badge during regimental holidays and on the transfer to the reserves. The manufacturer of the badge was Vincent Wabi – Wabinski from Warsaw and the medals factory of Adam Nagalski, also from Warsaw. The badge was approved by the Polish Ministry of the Army on February 28, 1922. "Badge of Honorary Women," established in 1928.
Jubilee Rings: Established in 1937. Given to soldiers with twenty continuous years of service in the colors of the Regiment.
The club of former Podolian Lancers was founded in Warsaw in 1938.
Garrison: Bialokrynica at Krzemieniec was established in June of 1921.
In the defense of Poland, the Regiment fought on the first day of the war, as a part of the Wolyn Cavalry Brigade, (under the command of Army “Lodz”). On September 12th , the Regiment transferred to the cavalry group commanded by General W. Anders. Particular emphasis should be mentioned, regarding the Regiments excellence in the tactical fighting at Mokra, Forge, Tuszyn, Wola Cyrusowa, Skiemiewice and Kampinowski Forest. Despite heavy losses, the Regiment did not give up the struggle. To their credit, fighting continued in the regions of Minsk Mazowiecki, Cyganski, Rudki, and Lublin. After being surrounded by Soviet troops, the Regiment was forced to lay down its arms on October 2, 1939. A separate group of the 12th Cavalry Regiment took part in the defense of Warsaw. Another group (marching squadron) had joined the fight on September 10, and its fate was tied in with that of the 10th Mechanized Cavalry Brigade.
Losses: 38 officers, about 400 non-commissioned officers and privates.
Destroyed: approximately 60 tanks and armored cars, shot down a plane and taken into captivity about 150 prisoners.
Awards: 41 Crosses Virtuti Millitari, 9 Crosses of Valor for the first time and 5 for the second time.
Based on: The outline of War History in the Polish regiments in September Campaign -12th Lancers Regiment