Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich

The Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade was made of thousands of Poles who'd slipped out of Nazi/Soviet occupied Poland to continue the fight.  Organized by the Polish Government-In-Exile first under French control for the defense of France, and then under British control for the rest of the war, these men without a country were determined to fight their way back in. 

I bet the last place on Earth any of these guys thought they'd ever be fighting was the God forsaken Libyan desert.  But that's exactly where they found themselves in August 1941.  There they'd earn the title "Tobruk Rats" by keeping the Italians and Rommel at bay until the Operation Crusader breakout in November. They'd keep fighting in the desert until March 1942, when they were pulled out to reorganize as a core division of the Polish II Corps.

Some excellent resources on the SBSK's contribution to the Tobruk Siege are:
A fantastic dedicated SBSK page. (Most pages have an English link up top.)
A Youtube slideshow. (Terrible music)
Nice pictures towards the bottom of this page.
Interviews with Veterans. (Polish documentary)

Of all the flavors of Polish WW2 forces, I thought I'd be modelling the Tobruk Rats last because I didn't really know anything about the North African theater.  But that was before I discovered Gordon at Adler Hobby, who made the decision for me by holding two desert-themed Flames of War leagues in a row spanning the summer, fall, and winter of 2011-2012.

My philosophy for building armies is to find out what the Poles had historically, or what was around them while they were there, and only use that.  Their service in Tobruk was just at the place Flames of war breaks up Early War (EW) and Mid War (MW) so things get interesting.  For instance, the 6pdr gun didn't make it into the desert before the SBSK was already gone.  So these guys are stuck with 2pdrs in MW potentially going against Tiger tanks.  Even when I paint up some Crusader tanks, they'll be using the bad guns.

There is no official SBSK army list so I use Fearless Trained (FT) Indian infantry lists in MW, or FT Australian lists in EW.  If I use the infantry in support of the tanks instead of the other way around, the only option is to take them as Confident Veterans.  Using MW lists, this army spent the summer pasting anything that came its way using nearly obsolete (but cheap and plentiful) weaponry, but using EW lists has been much harder.  All of the support is dramatically more expensive, and I've had to attack fortified companies numerous times.  No whining here though, I'll get it figured out.

Here you can see the HQ teams for an infantry or tank company.  Someday I'll do an article on General Władysław Anders' autobiography Army in Exile, but one sentiment that stuck out was how strange he thought it was to see a British officer in shorts.  

The dashing mustachioed hero on the left is the Company Commander and the man to the right with the paperwork looking kind of annoyed is the 2nd in Command.  To his right is a jeep they can use to furiously ride into the gaping maw of death.  

The SBSK didn't have its own tanks, but the Matilda II's of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment were known to be in the area acting as bullet magnets.  The commanders are up front, with the Company commander being the only one foolish enough to stick his head out of their ridiculous armor.  Of note, behind the two lead tanks are two Close Support (CS) tanks.  These have main guns that can fire at infantry and bunkers.  All of the other 2pdr armed vehicles don't have High Explosive ammo because it never made it to the desert.  I hope somebody got fired for that.

Subsequent articles will feature closeups and commentary of the rest of the army.

1 comment:

  1. "All of the other 2pdr armed vehicles don't have High Explosive ammo because it never made it to the desert. I hope somebody got fired for that." Me too! Why anyone thought this was a good Idea is beyond me!