Operation Battle of Wytyczno

The 'Battle of Wytyczno' was fought between small Soviet and Polish forces near the village of Wytyczno in the Włodawa area of eastern Poland as the Soviets invaded and overran eastern Poland (1 October 1939).

After the 'Battle of Szack' on 28 September, General brygady Wilhelm Orlik-Rueckemann, the commander of the Polish Border Defence Corps, decided to move his forces to the west across the Bug river and continue the fight there. After a short rest, on 30 September the Poles crossed the river. Although largely successful up to this time in fighting the invading Soviet forces, the Polish group was had been reduced to merely 3,000 men and was lacking heavy equipment and ammunition. In addition, most of the soldiers of the Border Defence Corps had been forced to move across large parts of Poland, the average unit travelling almost 310 miles (500 km) in two weeks.

Shortly after 01.00 on 1 October, after crossing the road linking Włodawa and Trawniki the Polish force was attacked by a tank unit of Polkovnik Vasili P. Sokolov’s Soviet 45th Division. The Polish Bofors 37-mm anti-tank guns opened fire at close range and the Soviet unit withdrew after losing four T-26 light tanks. Soon after daybreak the Soviets returned to the fray, this time with the majority of the 45th Division’s strength. Expecting the Polish force to be completely routed and composed entirely of officers, the Soviets launched a frontal assault on the village of Wytyczno. However, the Polish force, in horse-drawn wagons, crossed the road into the forest behind the village and located its artillery posts there, and this made it possible for the defending Poles to hold their positions.

The struggle for the village continued, with each side suffering comparatively heavy losses. At 09.00 the Polish 75-mm (2.95-in) artillery had no more than 60 rounds left and the howitzers had no more than 10 per piece. To lessen the Soviet pressure on the centre of the Polish units, Orlik-Rückemann ordered the Polesie Battalion to attack the Soviet left flank, but the Polish soldiers were too exhausted to start the assault and most of them simply declined to follow the order. The commander of the Sarny Regiment, Pułkownik Nikodem Sulik, reported that the Polish defences were becoming weaker with every hour and that in all probability the battle would end by dawn with a complete Polish defeat. At 22.30 an officers' council was held and it was decided that the only option for the Poles to survive was to withdraw, divide into smaller detachments and try to break through to the units of the Operational Group 'Polesie' fighting nearby. by 12.00 the Polish units had withdrawn into the forests, from where most of them joined the other Polish units, while Orlik-Rückemann made is way to the UK through Lithuania and Sweden.