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Royal Armouries Museum

The Polish military of the Second Republic

Preparations for war 1918-39
22nd March, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm

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This is an online lecture. Please register your interest to be sent a link for the live presentation.

Join Dr Jacek Czarnecki as he explores how the fledgling Polish state expanded its military capabilities after the First World War, preparing rationally for a seemingly inevitable war with its neighbours despite tremendous economic and political obstacles.

For many years the interwar Polish military was engulfed in myths and half-truths which generally left a negative perception of its progress and preparations for the coming war. Defeated in a little over a month by German Blitzkrieg, stories of Polish cavalry charging tanks seem to encapsulate the military’s underlying backwardness. However a closer look reveals that despite the tremendous economic problems and external pressures such as the Polish-Soviet War, the military was able to advance and adapt at a pace comparable to other major Western armies.

This talk explores Poland’s military preparations for a seemingly inevitable contest with its neighbours. It highlights how these were framed to oppose the Soviet Union rather than Germany, which posed the greater threat for most of the interwar period, and how Germany’s industrial capacity overthrew many of the previous assumptions on which war planning was made. It further highlights how Poland’s allies, Britain and France, were similarly unable either to seriously face increasing German aggression or support Poland militarily or financially on the level the country needed.

This is a free online lecture. Royal Armouries is a charity, please consider making a donation to support our work as guardians of the national collection of arms and armour.

Image: Horse-drawn Browning HMG greeted by civilians after returning from manoeuvres, 1938. National Digital Archive, Poland