Early November 1943 Captain "Borowy", John and I were to travel together to our new home (code named "Czerwony Gron" base camp) with the "WILK forest partisan unit"
(a Terenowka reserve operations and training unit).
At this time of the year there was already snow on the peaks of the Carpathians.
The "forest" unit was officially known as Oddział Partyzancki "Wilk" (English: Partisan Unit
The unit had officially come into being July 1943.
The "Wilk"camp was located in the Gorce forest range of the Western Beskids (Polish: Beskidy) (called by local highlanders "Zielone Młaki", below the Hali Długiej) near Mt. Turbacz in the Gabrowski glade near the headwaters of the Kamienica Zabrzeska creek.
The "WILK" hideout codename of "Czerwony Gron" or "Czerwonym Gronie" in Polish means "Red Peaks" or "Red Hill" in English and "Groń " is the Goral's name for a hill.
The Gorce region had been an early favorite with the Polish partisans as an excellent location to consolidate the resistance movement. GORCE as a vast wooded area with steep and densely overgrown slopes of mountainous terrain and wild backwoods and numerous deep valleys of mountain streams provided ready shelter for the guerrillas who were very familiar with its topography. The area created the ideal conditions for the creation of operating bases and conducting harassing enemy guerrilla warfare. Later, its remote inaccessible areas made it a good environment for the adoption of the Allied supply air drops.
Prior to arriving at the "Czerwony Gron" camp, we had been met by a partisan soldier in full Polish uniform - who I later found out to be Jozef Sral "Smak" - who was manning a watch post on the edge of the forest and the meadow just above the camp. "Smak" guided us down into the camp.
We were met in the camp by the commanding officer, ppor. Jan Stachura "Adam" -- with whom we'd first met in our journey from Cracow.
As mentioned above, the partisan "Wilk" hideout had been chosen around Czerwony Gron with a rough dugout built into the Kudlon mountain side just below the Gobrowska Polana (meadow) in a dense forested area (providing much needed privacy) by a deep ravine through which a stream (Kamienica Creek) ran. The stream was to provide access to fresh water.
Most of the
40 A.K. fighters were sitting there eating supper when we arrived. Our eyes goggled at the plates set before us. They must have
contained at least two pounds of beef stew. After our steady diet of black bread and meager German rations, it was an incredible feast.
"We can live like this for ever and ever," I exclaimed!
"You'll be tired of meat before long," the partisans replied;
and it was true that we seemed to have meat at every meal, beef and venison and pork.
(Initially each of the men took turns as a cook. The job was to peel potatoes and any available vegetables. This diet was enriched most often by venison from our own hunting or meat obtained illegally, orginally scheduled to be delivered to the Germans. Our meals were prepared in a cooking drum hanging from a rod over a fire.)
As I said the dugout was built into the hillside, so only one wall (the front) had to be set up – using spuce and other tree branches and partial pieces of a disassembled sheppard’s hut – which in turn was covered by thick turf. Wooden walls were erected inside and bunk beds installed. An iron stove, was set on a large stone in one corner of the dugout and behind the stove stood a stone of similar size, which isolated the stove from the wooden wall. Under the roof and door of the hut were small ventilation openings. Because of the construction it was actually quite warm. Because of the natural setting it was not too visible from the outside – so although primitive and cramped at least it was warm and safe allowingthe poorly clothed partisans a secure base to wait for the arrival of spring.
When the Germans eventually raided our camp they stood on the roofs of our dugouts without initially realizing the hideouts and that some partisans were right below their feet. That was how well hidden they were. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
This general area was well suited to the partisan efforts inasmuch it had one of the most poorly developed network of paved roads, with dense forests which merged with the neighboring mountain ranges, had a close proximity to the border, and a real practical advantage of numerous shelters for shepherds existing throughout the various forest clearings – giving excellent shelter for partisans throughout the year.
Since the mountainous terrain did not favour military action, the Wehrmacht was not overly anxious to extend itself into this region. As such the partisans were able over time to become a very active presence in the area and quickly mastered control over the backs of the Gorce and Carpathians and to a certain extent the roads and villages in the valleys.
They were a motley crew we had joined, clad in an odd assortment of clothes and fragments of uniforms. The youngest of the partisans was 17 and the oldest no more than John's age, 38. There were university graduates and farm boys from the valley below, professional soldiers and civilians from the city. And there wore also the Gorals, the hardy, independent mountaineers or highlanders of the Podhale region who crowned their own king and possessed an uncanny knowledge of the countryside.
Most of the partisan soldiers were dressed in civilian clothes,
some soldiers wore some parts of real uniforms;
and a select few such as "Smak" were in possesiion of real Polish military uniforms. For my entire time in Poland I wore civilian clothes. With the advent of winter, it would
quickly become clear that the clothing we had was a far cry from what was needed - and many a day partisans would shiver from the cold in the bitter Polish winter.
The "liberation" of German military uniforms became a priority.
(To improve the troop's uniforms I can remember that we "requisitioned" blankets from one of the tourist lodges in Luban above the town of Kroscienko - managed by Mr. and Mrs. Durkalec, parents of Cdt. "Slawek". The green blankets made a good fabric for military style pants and hats. The pants were similar in style to skiing pants with a permanent crease. )
What may have been lacking in clothes and material shortcomings was more then made up for with high spirits. I was truly impressed. The morale was high from the top of the command to the last soldier. Everyone was eager to pay back the Germans for all of their cruelty and crimes committed on helpless civilians.
They had one thing only in common, these men. Almost every one of them was wanted by the Germans for one reason or another. When that kind of person got into action he knew there was no point ever giving in.
The local population supported the partisan cause and were looking up to the partisans to provide some sort of counterbalance to the Nazis. The locals showed their support by action in form of sharing their meek supplies and by giving us shelter in spite of the horrific penalties awaiting those who were caught.
At the outset, a single ancient machine gun, half a dozen .303s, a pair of double-barrel shotguns and: a handful of unreliable revolvers and grenades were their entire armament. In this situation we were unable to confront the enemy in an open battle. The only chance of success lay in the element of surprise and guerilla warfare tactics.
John and I were the first and only foreigners to join the partisan "Wilk" forest unit.
I was officially to be known as "Jubelt" (Polish for: "Hubert"). However, in no time the English "Hubert" codename stuck for myself (but sometimes a Polish rendition " Hubertowi Brooksowi" came out) as did "John" for John Duncan – as neither of us had relatives within hurting distance of the Germans.
At the start I thought that if I did fall into enemy hands they would simply send me back via Stalag VIII B
to a punishment camp.
Later it became very obvious that capture would bring immediate liquidation.
Very soon a single, crowded dugout was no longer sufficient for the growing company so two additional
dugouts were built. The second dugout was used as additional sleeping quarters for the men and the third dugout was used for storage.
Prior to torching a nearby lodge used by the Germans, the partisans liberated the contents of the lodge such as mattresses, blankets, sheets, kitchenware and the like with the taken materials brought to the "Czerwony Gron" hideout.
Accumulated stocks of salted meat, potatoes, sugar, salt and other foodstuffs were stored in this third dugout. Potatoes were sometimes buried in the ground to prevent them rotting and in winter some meat were hung in the surrounding trees, using the cold as a kind of freezer.
Every so often the partisans "intercepted" cattle being delivered to the Germans. The animals were slaughtered, quartered and the meat stored outside and thanks to subzero temperatures the meat could be preserved to last the entire winter.
The hide was taken to Olszowka for processing. In the fall, several members of the unit were wearing new ski boots made from the processed leather!
Our living conditions were rather tough, close quarters, tight and overcrowded, thus personal hygiene was a challenge to maintain. Frequent visits to partisan family homes and lodges were made with underwear being boiled and then pressed with a hot iron was essential and ultimately much appreciated.
The southern part of Poland was mountainous, forest–clad and sparsely populated – ideal for locating a partisan resistance movement. Some photos above and on the right speak to the spectacular beauty of the region.
The countryside we operated in was very much like the Laurentians back home north of Montreal
where I had often skied before the war.
Coming from the Clydeside, Scotland John had never learned to ski and since all our winter sorties were carried out this way, he had to learn now – at times to the great amusement of the Polish partisans. John's first attempt on skis became the source of many jokes for months to come, after heading quite fast downhill, loosing his balance, and avoiding ending up in a cold stream by colliding with a spuce tree. John took all this ribbing good naturedly in stride.
To ensure the safety of guerrilla encampment a single guard station was positioned at the edge of a nearby glade approximately 1 km from camp, in a place called "Trzy Kopce" (loosely translated as "The Three Mounds"). This location allowed vast views of the surrounding countryside. The guard station was later moved to the top of Kiczory where the visibility was even better. The guards were changed every two hours. A categorical ban on fire was imposed on good weather days, so that the smoke did not betray the guerrilla hideout. In the winter, limited movements around the camp were allowed.
Our work consisted in doing patrols, raiding German food convoys and liquidating Gestapo agents.
John in particular turned out to be a "soldier's soldier", very cool and courageous under fire, very proficient in handling guns and an excellent shot.
Like the Laurentians back home in Quebec, the southern part of Poland was a popular resort area with several large inns, chalets and hunting lodges dotted about it. My years of skiing back home paid off during my time with the partisans, as I cross country skiied in the winter on almost every assignment I was given.
We continued doing this work for a few months, which we later found out was a probationary period.
As I mentioned earlier, there were approximately 40+ members of the "WILK" group during my time with them.
Group 1: Soldiers hailing mostly from the villages of Waksmund, Kowaniec and surrounding hamlets. The group's leader was Cpl. Jozef Kuras "Orzel" and later alias "Ogien". His second in command was Sgt. J Sral "Smak" ( before they joined section "Wilk")
Group 2: Soldiers hailing onties Limanowa, Nowy Targ, other places in Poland and also from Czechoslovakia.
Group 3: Foreigners -- escaped prisoner's of war. Only two; Hubert Brooks and John Duncan.
The 3 men who would command "Wilk" were:
While I was there, "WILK" was commanded for the first few weeks by ppor. Jan Stachura "Adam" and then thereafter by Lieut. Krystyn Więckowski "Zawisza" .
Editor's Note: Some historical notes on POLISH PARTISAN RESISTANCE GROUPS leading up to the formation of “WILK”
In the Gorce region appeared dozens of refugees from the various region of the Highlands. From this melting pot of refugees began to form the first consolidated
resistance movement in the region.
In 1941-45 GORCE and its surroundings were the focus of guerrilla activity of far greater importance than the Tatras.
In mid-November of 1943 the commander of the "Wilk" became Lieutenant Krystian Więckowski "Zawisza" replacing "Adam".
PHOTOS of "Lech" and "WILK" Groups appear below.
This tragic event - the death of the commanding officer d-ca por. Wladysław Szczypki "Lech" - occured before I arrived on the scene.
But I certainly heard about it from the men, and the facts as they were presented to me are as follows:
"Although "Lech" was the Commanding Officer of "WILK", his duties often kept him away from the unit. "Lech" was a well liked, respected and talented leader by his men. Although he was older than most of the partisans that made up the "WILK" unit he always treated his men as colleagues and treated them with respect.
In his absence "Adam" was in charge.
On September 28, 1943 he returned to the camp on Stawianiec with Jan Adamczyk "Gryf" his colleague, a before-the-war cadet.
"Lech" had a small caliber six-shooter on him and since the origin of the revolver was uncertain he decided to try it out.
"Lech" and "Gryf" were standing in front of the commander's tent and were taking turns firing the pistol. After taking several practice shots, "Gryf" took his turn. When he pulled the trigger the gun did not fire.
At that moment he carelessly turned the gun in the direction of "Lech" and that was when the pistol fired. "Lech" grabbed his side and leaned over. He was quickly helped to lie down on a blanket but by the time he was on the ground he was unconscious. He died almost immediately and a mirror put next to his mouth confirmed that he had stopped breathing.
"Adam" immediately sent a messenger to get the camp's doctor. Dr. Tadeusz Ptak "Olszyna" pronounced "Lech" dead as soon as he arrived on the scene."
Brief Comments on "Lech's " Partisan Military Activities Prior to Commanding "WILK"
After Dr. Tadeusz Ptak "Olszyna" pronounced "Lech" dead, "Adam" immediately took over command of "WILK".
His first official function was to dispatch two couriers.
One to a partisan "contact box" in Tymbark, the other to "Lech's" family.
The first one, Wladyslaw Sochacki "Sokol" succeeded.
The other, heading to notify the family of Lech's death, was caught by a German reconnaissance patrol. Worse the German's found the message of "Lech's" death.
Somehow the Germans either knew of the location of the camp or found out about the location shortly after the courier capture.
Taking a couple of days to plan and co-ordinate their operation from their headquarters in Mszana Dolna, they sent two groups of troops out to destroy the camp then on Stawianiec.
The first German group circled from the direction of the mountains - Stare Wierchy and Turbacz; while the second group went through the villages of Mszana Dolna, MszanaGorna and Lubomierz where they took a local forest ranger J. Kral as a guide.
When the two German groups arrived at the Stawianiec camp they found it deserted !
In fact "Adam" had some luck in his first days as a group commander.
Two days after "Lech's" death, a letter addressed to the partisans was found pinned to a tree near the camp's sleeping quarters. A villager was asking to join the section to avoid a prosecution for battering his wife and throwing her in the Dunajec River. There was an immediate investigation of this blatent breach of security but an answer could not be found as to how someone had penetrated into the camp's safety zone.
Drastic measues were ordered by "Adam" - an immediate evacuation of the camp located in the meadow of Staianiec to the fallback location at "Czerwonym Groniem" near the top of Turbacz.
In so doing the partisans slipped through the ranks of Germans setting up to surround the camp.
The Germans did find the grave of "Lech" and exhumed the body. They took the body to Mszana Dolna and spread the rumour that the death was as a result of an internal partisan power struggle. No one was fooled. "Lech" was a well liked and respected leader.
After "Lech" died the morale of the "Wilk" section was at an all time low.
"Gryf" was devestated at what he had done and ready to accept full responsibility for causing the accident. He himself proposed a court martial - which most agreed with.
"Ogien", true to character, suggested an "eye-for-an-eye" solution - an immediate punishment by firing squad.
"Adam" decided to wait for a decision from the regional Inspectorat, and until then "Gryf" was prohibited in taking part in any further operations.
Mid November 1943 Lt. Krystyn Wieckowski, "Zawisza" , a professional officer joined "Wilk".
By order of Regional Commander Mjr. Adam Stabrawa "Borowy", "Zawisza" became "Wilk's" new commanding officer with Lt. Jan Stachura "Adam" his second in command.
"Adam's" duties were now mainly training of cadets for preparation of exams they were to undertake.
In the fall of 1943, "Wilk" operated around Nowy Targ, Limanowa and Nowy Sacz (counties). Some raids took the partisan group as far as Slovakia.
Major 'Wilk" operations between July and end of December 1943 included:
Although I did not participate in the earlier events, as I did not join the group until late October 1943, it is nonetheless interesting to briefly describe
the earlier operations of Oddział Partyzancki "Wilk" not only for the historical record but also to provide an illustrative accounting of the activities of the Polish Undreground in that section of the country.
(Based primarily on the memoirs of Józef Węglarz "Mały" and ppor. Jan Stachura "Adam")
Briefly reviewing each of these in turn.
I was not yet with the "WILK" team, so obviously did not participate in this operation. The details are as related to me by Jozef Weglarz.
The intelligence and planning was done at Regional Command. The plan was for two separate "Wilk" mini-teams along with a "covers" group (whic would secure the teams retreat into the mountains via the road from Nowy Targ, Kroscienko and a bridge on the Dunajec River) to acquire much needed weapons by disarming the Border Guard "Grenzschutz" Post in Harklowa.
The two "Wilk" teams got in place after dark, set up the security team and began with cutting the phone lines to the Border Guard Post.
The first of the two attack groups was led by "Lech" which attacked from the direction of the Dunajec.
The second group, led by "Adam" took a position on the opposite side of the targted post.
As "Lech's" team started their approach to the guard post, heavy machine-gun fire pinned them to the ground.
Since the element of surprise was lost, it was pointless to continue the assault. "Lech" gave the signal to retreat through the secured bridge towards the Turbacz. There were no casualties. The decision to retreat was correct, considering that our small calibre weapons and limited ammunition made it impossible to take on the enemy in an open fight.
In hindsight, the cutting off of the phone lines so early in the mission was a mistake.
It probably alerted the German post command eliminating the element of surprise.
The failure of this first mission was definitely deflating to the "Wilk" section.
"Lech" countered this and somewhat boosting morale by planning further operations.
Around the end of August 1943 a patrol led by "Adam" ambushed a Wehrmacht vehicle coming from the direction of Nowy Targ.
(The written account of this operation was based on a report given by Cpl. Adolf Balon "Rys" and published by Aleksander Marczynski in Historical Studies volume XIX in Krakow in 1976)
According to the above written account a reasonable number of weapons, ammunition, and grenades were captured.
Those partisans taking part in this "Wilk" operation included: pchor. "Lot" Tadeusz Bocoń, pchor."Mały" Józef Węglarz, pchor. "Sławek" Bolesław Durkalec, kpr. "Mira" Jan Rogalski, strz. "Bocian" Michał Kołodriej, strz "Dzieciol" Józef Kolodziejczyk, strz. "Sojka" Józef Flig, strz. "Krasny" Jan Sral and several others.
To a great extent the survival of the partisan camps in the Gorce forests depended on the support of the local villagers for food, occasional board, and also gathering of of information and intelligence and early warnings.
It was the villagers sacrice and selflessnes in the common cause against the Nazi invader that deserves the highest recognition as they often were nameless and their contribution forgotten with the passage of time.
The first example that comes to mind occured September 15/ 16 of 1943, and although not directly related to "Wilk" touched upon some of its members.
Most of "Wilk's" soldiers frequently visited their families to get provisions and a change of clothes.
For this particular story it concerned some partisans who visited with families in Mszana, Lostowka and Olszowka.
Before their return to camp, these partisans were to gather at a rally point in the home of Józef Węglarz "Mały". They decided to depart back to camp around 3AM in the morning.
They planned to take some food with them but could not carry all of the bread that they needed so it was temperarily stored in the Węglarz family grainary. The plan then was to have Józef's brother Janek Węglarz later move the bread from the grainary closer to camp were it could be picked up by someone from camp.
The group left on time at 3AM and commenced the trek back to camp. Some 3 hours later, still on their way back to camp, they heard shots fired down the valley. The group nonetheless continued on to camp.
Some hours later a messenger arrived from Józef's mother Jozefa telling of a raid by 80 policemen (including so called "Navy-blue" Police - local police in service of the Germans) to arrest members of the partisans' families. The police took 11 members of their immediate familes as well as two members of the partisan cell who had been surreptitiously working in the local Co-op store as saleswomen.
Since the police trucks could not drive in the off roads from the houses, the detainees were being walked through some rough terrain.
Jozefa Węglarz fainted before crossing the Mszanka River and was left behind unconscious - a miracle as it saved her from being arrested. When she came to, with the help of a neighbour, she moved all of the bread out of the grainary into a grove, then quickly sent a message to the partisan camp for them to immediately pick up the bread.
Had the Gestapo discovered the bread it would result in the sure death to all the Węglarz family and burning down of the entire houshold as an example for the whole village.
This was but one example to describe the hardships and dangers the families and supporters were facing on a regular basis.
"Ogien" and other soldiers from the village of Waksmund experienced the horror of Nazi repression first hand. Their homes burnt to the ground, their families brutally murdered, including children.
Although the actions cried out for revenge, the partisans always had to be careful that any retaliation would cause a further spiral of repurcussions.
Therefore the actions against the Germans were carefully selected.
(See NEXT web page for example actions taken by the "Wilk" partisans.)
PHOTO: Sheppard Hut in Western Beskids used by Polish Partisans as a Temporary Shelter
The second example involved "Ogien" and occured October of 1943.
Kurzeja, a farmer from Kamienica shepherded his flock on the Gorce Mountains. He was peripherally a member of "Wilk". He informed us about German movements and also supplied us with food - mainly cheese made from sheep milk.
It was "Ogien's" turn to bring the cheese from the farmer, but when he and a colleague arrived at the farm, the daughter Zofia was waiting there instead.
Typically, there was food and drink available and it would be impolite to refuse a Goral highlander's hospitality.
So "Ogien" and colleague decided to stay a little longer at the farm and had a few drinks.
No sooner had they fiinished their drinks when they saw a troop of Germans coming down the mountainside directly towars the Kurzeja hut.
There was no time to run.
"Ogien" propped against the door and his friend climbed a ladder to the top of the hut.
The first two Germans arrived and tried to push their way in.
"Ogien" was very strong but against the exertion of the two German soldiers one of them eventually got his thigh into the door.
"Ogien" shot him in the knee.
When the first attacker fell down and started moaning, "Ogien" let up and the other German soldier barged in on him.
They both droped their guns and started wrestling on the floor.
"Ogien's" comrade jumped down from the ceiling loft knocking the second German off of "Ogien".
However now other Germans were arriving shooting their guns and forcing "Ogien" and his comrade to flee out the back door leaving behind their hostess Zofia Kurzeja.
Thus Zofia was arrested and joined in the concentration camp the families of other partisans -- the same ones who were taken a month earlier in a big manhunt
around Mszana Gorna, Mszana Dolna, Slomka and Glisne.
There were about 20 females alone taken to camps in Plaszow and Szebnia.
This single accidental event caused the arrest of the whole Kurzeja family.
Accidents like this were beyond any anticipated losses by the local underground; yet it was both painful and real in spite of being completely unplanned and unpredictable.
As a side comment: ... "Ogien" was not well known around the region at that time but he resembled "Adam". Later it was determined that "Ogien", the rascal that he was, introduced himself as "Adam" repeatedly. Thereafter, many events were attributed to "Adam" even though "Adam" was never a participant or near to the location where the story took place!
The troop set out on a long trek from our base camp on the south side of Turbacz.
Their first stop was at Luban - a tourist lodge on the mountain. "Slawek's" parents -- Mr. and Mrs. Durkalec were running this establishment and offered them a rest.
Back on the road, by late night they crossed a bridge in Kroscienko. Józef Węglarz volunteered to provide security during the crossing of the bridge.
The group continued via Przyslup and then reached another tourist lodge at Prehyba hosted by Boleslaw Zabecki "Zak" and his sister Aleksandra "Stokrotka".
Meantime the reconnaisance patrol led by "Rys" returned bringing an extra rifle.
When the troop left the lodge, two local resistance fighters guided the troop to its destination.
The team then forded the Poprad River and stopped by an abandoned building where several fighters from Stary Sacz were added to the group to join in the planned operation.
The last leg took the group through the Count Stadnicki forest.
The operation began early morning on October 8, 1943.
The following paragraph contains the verbal account of Cpt. Jan Stachura "Adam" edited by Jakub Sobieski and published as "History of 'Wilk' and 'Mszyca' Home Army Units under the Command of Jan Stachura "Adam", Operating Against Nazi Germany in the Gorce Mountains during 1939-1945". Brussels, Belgium, 1980.
" It was the 8th of October (date corrected) during poor weather.
The unit approached the "Grenzscutz" post aroung 7 AM.
Some 2 kilometers away, Lt. "Andrzej" met with "Adam" to inform him about the current situation: there were about 20 men inside the post, mostly Austrians and only one guard on duty at the entrance.
"Adam" decided that Adamczyk, disguised as a local Police officer in a fake uniform, would be delivering a prisoner (a smuggler) carrying a basket hiding grenades and a pistol. Also, a man dressed as a woman, the wife of the smuggler, was being brought in as well.
Once inside, Adamczyk would disarm the guard and fire a shot to signal the attackers to storm inside through the windows thus taking the sleeping Germans by surprise.
However the Germans must have been up already, since one of them was carrying a bucket to get water from the well.
It was too,late for a retreat.
Adamczyk proceeded to escort the alleged smuggler and his wife to the office. The smuggler then took the gun out of the basket and ordered the German to put up his hands.
Adamczyk fired a shot and action started in three places.
"Adam's" men poured in through the windows, thus surprising the Germans. However a German officer fired a gun through the door wounding the yougest of the partisan attackers.
The Germans surrendered but the one left outside who was carrying the water bucket ran away "chased unsucessfully" by the partisan's bullets.
The consequence of the German's escape was an immediate relocation of "Adam's" unit.
In the meantime "Adam's" groups situation changed due to reduced manpower of their group. Shortly before "Adam's" group commenced their assault, "Adam" and "Ogien" had a brief but significant duscussion. "Ogien" had requested to stay put and that meant with all of his men. "Adam" asked if he was afraid, but "Ogien" did not answer. Instead he proposed to provide security and "Adam" was aware that "Ogien" was more comfortable to participate in less open fights. Fear was not uncommon, and whether it was "Ogien" or his men it was better to have then stay away from the action.
"Adam" did not inform the rest of the soldiers but at that point the result of the operation became doubtful at best.
How did "Adam" then react?
His presence of mind dictated the next step.
He used three strong partisan soldiers; namely Adamczyk, the bandit, and Józef Węglarz"Maly", to break through the window into the German's sleeping quarters.
The assault was a success, but because of the rift in the ranks, the operation needed a quick and decisive closing.
It turned out that the security provided by "Ogien" was not very helpful and "Adam" predicted such possibility positioning the prisoners in the line of fire in the event of a German pursuit.
The most time consuming activity was the disassembling of the captured rifles. They had to be taken apart for they were to be carried by the prisoners and the partisans did not want to take any chance of them being used by the captured Germans.
The partisan caravan planned to take the same route back via the mountains. The Germans were not tied up, but they understood that they had no choice but to carry their load obediently.
After arriving at the tourist lodge at Hala Pisana the group took a short rest.
The "trophies" from the assault were shared with the group from Stary Sacz.
As the partisan caravan was leaving the tourist lodge at Hala Pisana "Adam" let the Germans go."
( ............end of "Adam's" account.................)
Under the cover of night the group crossed the Poprad River and made it to the tourist lodge at Prehyba.
Later they were to learn that they were about one hour ahead of the German pursuit team.
The Germans knew that the partisans were retreating into the Gorce Mountains and the Germans' objective was to cut them off.
The Germans blocked all roads around Luban, but they did not have enough men to fully tighten their grip around the area.
The partisans managed to slip through the blockade with some help from the local underground. They crossed the Dunajec River below Krowcienko in boats and then timed the crossing of the road in between the German patrols.
During the following day, they had to press on to outrun the chase. This turned out to be the most exhausting part of the entire operation, since they carried a significant load yet they had to choose a rugged terrain and keep off any beaten tracks to avoid German traps.
Once in the clear, they took a well deserved rest around Szczawa - some then taking a skinny-dip in the Mogielnica Creek.
Just before leaving they had an unexpected encounter with a local park ranger (Cierniak) who had been a thorn in the eye of the local underground and the rest of the community. He was chased away.
After the major success of the last operation the unit needed a rest and a new location. The unit moved to Turbacz and began preparing for the next operation planned by regional command. Namely, the objective was to take and diarm a lumber mill security post in Rytro.
The unit was underway around the 5th of November 1943.
When passing Luban they stopped again at the Durkalec's tourist lodge.
Instead of using the bridge in Kroscienko, they traversed the Dunajec by boat.
After fording the river, they marched all day and stayed the night on the northern slope of Prehyba. They woke up the next morning famished - not having eaten in 24 hours.
It was a typical autumn morning with a light fogtouched by the first rays of the sun.
Suddenly on the creek side there was the roar of a deer. Perhapa a devine intervention, this was a hunger solving opportunity.
"Rys" took his hunting rifle and killed the deer - a seizable buck. A venison meal and hot broth quickly put the troop in a good mood.
The troop arrived at a point were they met their co-conspirators from Stary Sacz.
Without further delay the combined unit marched to Rytro and stopped at the edge of the forest.
The unit was then divided into two assault groups and a security squad
The first group was led by "Adam" whose mission was to attack the living quarters, the second group was led by "Maly" was given the task of disarming the guards. The security group provided safety coverage from the direction of Stary Sacz and Piwniczna. Both groups attacked simultaneously.
"Mały" and his group ("Bocian", "Dzieciol", and "Sojka") took the guards by surprise and disarmed them without firing a shot.
The unti took the posts arms and ammunition, uniforms, some food and equipment.
However at this time there were several shots and mixed with machine gun fire and a few exploding grenades that were heard.
It was "Adam's" group attacking the barracks and being greeted by the defenders return fire. "Adam" realized the futality of continuing the assault and gave the order to cease fire and retreat. "Adam" sent a runner with an order to "Mały" to stop the attack and to reconnect with the main group.
Without any losses the combined unit moved towards Radziejowa and Prehyba ridge. On their way back they stopped at the tourist lodge but the hosts "Zak" and his sister "Stokrotka" had left the premises after the unit's first operation at Wierchomia.
Nevertheless, the unit had a quick meal, raised the Polish flag and bid adieu to their comrades from Stary Sacz.
Heading out in the direction of Gorce, they realized that they had a German pursuit on their tails. "Adam" made the decision to cross the Dunajec River in boats using the help of the local underground. This was followed by a well-timed, quick crossing of a well patroled highway below Ochotnica Dolna and the unit was immersed in the safety of the forest. They then marched above Ochotnica and stopped on the slope of Gorce. The unit was exhausted mentally and physically after two sleepless days filled with almost non-stop action and tiring march through rough terrain.
"Adam" ordered a two day rest with troop members only doing a rotating watch duty. That night they slept well and long covered by confiscated blankets and tarps. The next morning they woke up covered by a thick blanket of fresh snow -- the first of the year.
The unit then moved to their camp at Turbacz via Przyslop and Kiczora. "Mały" solved a major toothache issue, with a few glasses of moonshine and having his neighbor Maciej Jania pulling the tooth out with a pair of pliers!
It was early November 1943.
The weather worsened day by day and winter was just around the corner.
The "Wilk" unit could not camp outdoors for much longer so a decision was made to change the location of the camp for winter.
At the new camp location, they then literally went underground into dugout shelters providing some degree of protection from the elements. A spot had been chosen around Czerwony Gron, just below the Gobrowska Polana (meadow). There they had access to fresh water from a nearby creek and a thick forest provided much needed privacy. Not to rely on nature alone, they increased their safety by creating a watch post on the edge of the forest and the meadow.
The Czerwony Gron camp was described in some detail at the start of this web page.
Early November 1943, Command ("Borowy") also sent John Duncan and myself to the partisan camp at "Czerwony Gron".
Post war reports from "Wilk" unit members, confirm that John and I assimilated very well into the "Wilk" unit.
Also about this time, Lt. Krystyn Wieckowski, "Zawisza" , a professional officer joined "Wilk". By order of Regional Commander Mjr. Adam Stabrawa "Borowy", "Zawisza" became "Wilk's" new commanding officer with Lt. Jan Stachura "Adam" his second in command.
"Adam's" duties were now mainly training of cadets for preparation of upcoming exams.
Along with "Zawisza", two other soldiers had joined the "Wilk" unit; Zygmunt Mańkowski "Iglica" and Wladyslaw Czyz "Pokutnik".
Perhaps an early warning of the serious split to come was that in one hut was located "Zawisza", the new cadets in training
(Adolf Bałoń "Ryś", Tadeusz Bocoń "Lot", Bolesław Durkalec "Sławek", Tadeusz Kiedroń "Piorun", Józef Węglarz "Mały"),
John Duncan and myself.
Whereas in the other hut was Sgt. Józef Kuraś "Ogień" and his "followers".
Ogień, even at that stage, had a chip on his shoulder resenting that "Zawisza" had assigned him and his men most of the support operations associated with the life of the unit such as guard duty, and the supply of food and fuel.
While Ogień and his men were primarily doing this the other newly recruited platoon members were involved with training.
Although this claim of being lumbered with "support assignments" was mostly true, someone had to take care of the mundane but very important camp matters and since Ogień and his men had some prior "military style training" with the "Konfederacja Tatrzańska" it made sense that his group would assume the support role at this time.
It was clear though that Sgt. "Ogień" harbored some resentment against "Zawisza".
As a result of the new camp location at Czerwony Gron there was a "slight inconvenience" as this location was in proximity of a tourist lodge where German troops frequently stayed. The lodge dominated the surroundings, thus creating a perfect observation point. The Germans always posted guards with binoculars and several times shots were exchanged. The presence of the Germans in the lodge was a nuisance since every time the troop marched in the direction of Rabka or Nowy Targ they had to walk around the lodge through some very rough terrain.
It was not just the hardship of walking extra distance in cold weather through vegetation, but rather the danger of being discovered by leaving tracks in the snow presented the very real threat to their safety. The potential security breach was considered so severe, that a decision was made to torch the place. On the night of November 12, 1943 the "Wilk" unit went to the lodge. After checking that the Germans were not currently present, they told the host to evacuate. Mr. Tarlowski took all of his belongings, including his cow, and left for Kowaniec.
The "Wilk" unit stripped the lodge of mattresses, blankets, sheets, kitchenware and then, using some burning oil, set fire to the lodge. Slowly at first but then progressively, the fire accelerated and soon, even though the night was foggy, the fire was visible from as far away as Mszana Gorna (as Janek Weglarz would later report).
As a result of the destruction of the lodge, a clear passage to Stare Wierchy had been opened up. A lot of the unit had mixed feelings for burning down the lodge -- as this was part of the historical landscape that they had grown up with. They had just lost not only a big part of their childhood memories, but also a part of free Poland.
All the taken materials were utilised in their new "diggs".
The immediate time following the torching of the Turbacz lodge was divided into training, schooling, and stocking the unit's food reserves.
Commanders' Conference in Tymbark Late November 1943
A few days after torching the lodge, "Zawisza" and "Adam" were recalled to a Commanders conference in Tymbark .
"Mały" and three other men also went there to run security.
They stayed in Tymbark's center market square in a lady's apartment, who was sympathetic to the partisans.
It was possible to feel safe because the local "Navy - blue" police chief and almost all of his men were members of the underground!
On their return trip, the men were using any free time to prepare for the upcoming exams. The high school handbook of Military Training was the main reference source.
"Wilk" Military Officer Training Exam at Stare Wierchy in December 1943
Part of WILK's mandate -- and as a Terenowka (military reserve unit) - was to continue the training and education of junior officers at a military college level. This obviously maintained the readiness of the troops and kept the spirits high.
After the Military College course preparation was finished, the cadets took the exams at Stare Wierchy in December of 1943.
Mjr. Adam Stabrawa "Borowy" presided the Examination Committee whose members were Cpt. Julian Zapala "Lampart" and Lt. Jan Lipczewski "Andrzej"
The 5 CADETS (CZLONKOWIE KURSU) partisans that
With final exams taken at Stare Wierchy in December of 1943,
"Wilk" Preparation For An Airdrop near Cvilin Hill between Mszana Gorna and Konina December 18, 1943
Mid December 1943, the camp was visited by the District Commander Maj. Adam Stabrawa "Borowy" accompanied by fr. Jozef Kochan, "Krzysztof'.
On December 18, 1943, Borowy took some men from the camp and met Kpt. Julian Krzywickiego "Filip" at a designated backup drop site between Mszana Gorna and Konina at Cvilin hill
in the mountains of Limanowa Region.
We were waiting for allied aircraft to drop both armaments and supplies.
The partisans were listening to the BBC radio waiting for two songs: "Vajas Condijos" and "Beer Barrel Polka" to be played. This was the signal that the plane for the airdrop was on route. Even though the airplanes flew by, the drop did not take place with the allied aircrew correctly responding to signals from the ground but continued flying on, presumably to the primary drop site.
We waited until the plane flew over on its return trip as to assure that it was properly received at its primary target zone.
Even though we did not receive the armaments drop, it was a very positive experience - a morale builder for us.
(Editor's Note: In 1988 a Toronto-based Polish language newspaper Zwiazkowiec printed in its 100/101 paper dated December 14 an article "Z Oplatkiem do Okupowanego Kraju" (Bringing Christmas to Occupied Homeland). The author, Jerzy Rozwadowski, the pilot of that plane, confirmed the recollections from that flight - a perfect moonlit winter night, with snow-covered mountains and almost day-like visibility. The northbound airplanes flew over Lubomierz and Mszana Gorna.)
"Adam" Resigns His Commision Circa December 20, 1943
Meantine "Adam" resigned his commision roughly one week before Xmas 1943.
After resigning his commision, "Adam" decided to remain in camp a number of days to celebrate Xmas mass with the men before returning to Mszana.
fr. Józef Kochan "Krzysztof" Celebrates Xmas Eve Mass to "Wilk" Unit
During the 1943 Christmas period a chapel altar was built in the center of the camp. Father Józef Kochan, "Krzysztof" journeyed to the camp, heard confessions from the partisans and delivered mass. "Krzysztof", at the time was the priest assigned to "Wilk" and later was a priest of the "Mszyca" Unit, that is 6 company of 2 battalion of #1 PSP AK.
An Incident on the Road to Lipowka December 24, 1943
Page 65 of the 2008 Memoirs of Józef Węglarz has the following paragraphs:
"To supplement my memoirs I asked the Prelate Father Józef Kochan "Krzysztof", the Chaplain of section "Wilk" ( and later"Mszyca") during the war, to recall his most memorable wartime moments.
In a letter from March of 2003 he wrote:
"I was very close to Adam (Jan Stachura) - some joked that I was his Gardian Angel.
It was Christmas Eve 1943 and at 8 PM we had the shepherds mass for the soldiers in the school in Letowe.
After the mass we walked to Lipowka with an invitation to a supper with the Zapala family.
There was four of us; "Adam", Hubert Brooks - a Canadian flyer, John Duncan - a British flyer, and I.
(Editor's Note: John Duncan was a British soldier not a flyer.)
Suddenly on the road from Mszana Dolna to Lubomierz we saw headlights of an incoming car.
We jumped into the ditch (there was no snow) for we knew it was the Germans; the Poles weren't allowed to drive or own cars.
"Adam" said: "Nobody shoots until I take a shot".
Somehow the passing car was lit inside and we saw three German soldiers including an officer.
We could shoot them but with tension we awaited the signal - nothing but silence.
They drove by and we got out of the ditch and continued our march for the next half-hour.
After our hosts greeted us we were preparing for the supper.
The mood was joyful and loose when the Canadian hugged "Adam", kissed him and said "Now I understand why we did not shoot the Germans".
"Adam" replied, "On a day like today I would not shoot even a German or my worst enemy".
"Adam" was my friend. He was religious, he loved his soldiers, and he would never expose them to unnecessary dangers for his own gain or glory. He would never endanger the civilian population to a German retaliation.
For that the locals of Mszana, Rabka, Nowy Targ and surroundings respected and loved him back".
The Festive Xmas Period of 1943 Turns to Disaster for "Wilk"
After the Xmas Mass of fr. Józef Kochan "Krzysztof", the members of the unit "Wilk" were to go on a short leave to spend time, if possible, with their families. The plan was for them all to be back in the camp after the Holidays. .......... Unfortunately, it was not meant to be ..................... as discussed on the NEXT PAGE ........
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The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.