The acquisition and production of arms and explosives by the
Polish Home Army is a fascinating subject but one so far only partially
researched. There are many reasons for this, among others one should
mention: the exceptional secrecy surrounding such production, which was
quite necessary in face of enemy efforts to stop it; the relatively
small number of people actually involved (mainly those with excellent
technical qualifications) and also the scarcity of archive material and
SOURCES OF SUPPLY
Like probably every
underground resistance movement, the Polish Home Army suffered from a
shortage of arms and explosive materials. What it did acquire originated
from a number of sources including: arms caches hidden by the Polish
Army during the 1939 September Campaign; arms captured from the enemy
during ordinary fighting or as a result of special weapons and
ammunition gathering operations; arms purchased from the occupant or
from soldiers of satellite states (Rumania, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia
etc); arms purchased from specialised train thieves; materials stolen
from German factories by Polish workers as well as chemicals bought or
otherwise acquired on the basis of fake purchase orders from pharmacies,
chemists or warehouses.
From 1941 onwards yet another external source of arms and
explosives were Allied airdrops.
However, all these sources of supply were still highly
inadequate and this was the reason why underground production was also
ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE AND TASKS
Covert production of arms and explosives was supervised and
coordinated by: the Home Army HQ (KGAK) Diversions Command Production
Division (Dzial Produkcji Kierownictwa Dywersji Komendy Glownej Armii
Krajowej), the Engineers Department of the 3rd
(Operational) KGAK Division and the Productions Department of the 4th
AK Supply Division.
The KGAK Diversions Production Department (cryptonyms:
‘Teodor’ and ‘Remiza’) started operating in November 1942. The first
commander was Lt. Col. Franciszek Niepokolczycki code names ‘Franek” and
‘Teodor’. In September 1943 the command was taken over by 2nd
Lt. Franciszek Hamanowicz code name ‘Rębisz’. The purpose of this
department, employing 48 people, was to produce arms and explosives for
the existing needs of diversionary fighting units.
The Engineers Department of the 3rd Operations
KGAK Division (cryptonyms: 32, ‘Pas’/Belt and ‘Siekiera’/Axe) was
already set up in 1939. It was commanded at the start and at the end of
the war by Major/Lt Col/Col Franciszek Niepokolczycki (with a break from
the autumn of 1942 to the autumn of 1943 when the department was
commanded by Col Ryszard Zyms). Subordinate units of this department
included the Bureau of Technical Research (which in 1942 was merged with
the KGAK ‘Kedyw’ Diversions Studies Bureau to become Technical Studies
and Research Bureau) as well as explosives workshops.
The Technical Studies and Research Bureau (BBT) was organised
and subsequently commanded for the rest of the occupation by Lt/Capt
Engineer Zbigniew Lewandowski code names ‘Szyna’/Rail and ‘Zbigniew’.
The Bureau comprised sections dealing with: prototypes and models;
munitions studies; sabotage and diversions studies; a transport
subdivision; a publications subdivision; a materials and airdrop
equipment subdivision; an experimental diversionary operations and
testing range patrol as well as an archive and a warehouse. The Bureau’s
tasks included: utilisation of explosive materials left over from the
1939 September Campaign; the selection and testing of equipment to be
used in sabotage and diversionary operations (particularly those
concerning trains); the preparation of instructions and instructors for
sabotage and diversionary operations as well as the testing and
adaptation of airdropped munitions to meet covert combat requirements.
The Bureau, which employed c. 30 people, also had its very
own testing range in a forest near Jozefow outside Warsaw.
The commanders of the
Engineers Department were also in charge of the following Warsaw based
explosives workshops: ‘Farbiarnia’ at 15 Krochmalna Street, ‘Kinga’ at
103 Solec Street, ‘Asfaltowa’ at 15 Asfaltowa Street, ‘Wola’ at 56
Wolska Street as well as ‘Powazki’ at the junction between Okopowa and
The 4th KGAK Division Armaments Service (cryptonym
‘Lesnictwo’/Forestry) was created in May 1940 and its commander
throughout the occupation was Lt Col Jan Szypowski, code name ‘Lesnik’/Forester.
The objectives of this secret service included: creating a plan to meet
the underground movement’s armament requirements; gathering and
analysing information concerning the numbers and types of weapons
secretly held in various parts of the country; collating information
regarding munitions plants commissioned by the occupant for them
eventually to be taken over and operated for the Home Army; gathering
technical data regarding the enemy’s weapons; increasing the Home Army’s
arsenal through purchases from the occupant, own production and airdrops
as well as technical supervision of Home Army arms caches.
The Productions Department of the 4th KGAK
Division (cryptonyms: ‘Drzewo’/Tree, ‘Perkun’, ‘Waga’/Scale and ‘Ciesla’/Carpenter)
was active since April 1942 and its commander throughout the rest of the
war was Lt Engineer Witold Gokieli, code name ‘Ryszard’. The
Department’s tasks included the running and financing of the production
and repair of weapons for the Home Army throughout the country as well
as the purchase or other acquisition of materials and equipment
essential for this purpose. For these reasons the Department cooperated
with the production units of Kedyw, the Engineers Department and the
Armaments Service. It had depot and transport sections as well its own
patrol unit to escort the transports. The Department comprised 177
Clandestine production of weapons and explosive materials was
conducted in all areas of the Secret Polish State but it was most
intensive and effective in the following regions: Warsaw, Kielce and
Radom, Krakow, Lublin, Wilno and Lwow. The resistance movement’s arms
production peaked during the Warsaw Uprising.
WEAPONS PRODUCED BY THE HOME ARMY
The manufacture of
firearms was concentrated in a few hundred workshops producing a
homemade version of the English 9 mm Sten submachine gun, which had a
very simple and reliable design. In all the Home Army produced
approximately 1,000 Stens.
Home Army members (Eng.
Wacław Zawrotny pseudonym ‘Błyskawica’/Lightning, Eng. Seweryn
Wielanier pseudonym ‘Prawa Ręka’/Right Hand and Eng. Kazimierz
Czerniewski pseudonym ‘Korebko’) also designed a Polish version of the 9
mm submachine gun called ‘Blyskawica’/Lightning. In all approximately
700 Blyskawica submachine guns were produced.
Hand grenades and Molotov Cocktails:
Many types of grenade were produced. However, the most important types
were the secretly designed offensive grenades, the ET-40 ‘Filipinka’
impact grenade (designed by Edward Tymoszak in 1940) and delayed action
‘Sidolówka’ (the P-42 friction detonator being designed by Wladyslaw
Pankowski in 1942). In total the Home Army produced some 400,000
grenades of all types.
Moreover, the Home Army
produced exceptionally effective Molotov Cocktails (especially during
the Warsaw Uprising). Some of these were technologically quite advanced,
the flammable substance being petrol with added concentrated sulphuric
acid and a fuse comprising potassium chlorate and ground sugar.
Flamethrowers and catapults for Molotov Cocktails and hand
The flamethrower was not only a formidable weapon but also one that was
fairly simply and safe to produce in clandestine conditions. Thus even a
special ‘underground’ K-type flamethrower was designed. Approximately
900 such flamethrowers were produced.
During the Warsaw
Uprising one of the means of making up for the shortage of anti-tank
weapons was the production of catapults for Molotov Cocktails and hand
grenades (as designed by Henryk Knabe code name ‘Glowacki’), crossbow
type Molotov Cocktail launchers (Jan Bobrowski and Marian Chmielewski),
rubber band type Molotov Cocktail launchers (Engineer Szczepan Kiełb) as
well as pipe Molotov Cocktail launchers (Sergeant Bogumil Jaszkowski
code name ‘Jarek’).
Grenade launchers and mortars:
During the Warsaw
Uprising the very serious shortage of weapons to support the Home Army
infantry led to the construction of a number of grenade launchers and
mortars including: a 75 mm grenade launcher firing anti-tank missiles
(constructed by Engineer Zbigniew Paczkowski and Engineer Ludomir Heger),
an 80 mm grenade launcher firing incendiary anti-tank missiles, a 80 mm
mortar (Engineer Mieczyslaw Lopuski and Engineer Eugeniusz Zochowski), a
120 mm mortar. etc.
The Home Army developed
the manufacturing of specialist materials to be used in diversionary
actions against German industrial plants as well as road and rail
transport. Among other items produced there were: tyre puncturing spikes
(so-called ‘żabki’/frogs), special tool kits for unbolting rail girders,
igniting charges, termite bombs, clock bombs, smoke and signalling
torches as well as chemical substances used to ‘gas’ cinema theatres.
During the Warsaw
Uprising Engineer Walerian Bielecki pseudonym ‘Jan’ and Jozef Fernik
pseudonym ‘Globus’ converted a Chevrolet truck to construct an armoured
vehicle called ‘Kubus’.
Explosive materials and ammunition:
The Home Army
identified, analysed and produced the following explosives: initiators
such as mercury fulminate, lead azide, tetryl and lead
trinitroresorcinate as well as brisant chemicals such as cheddite,
ammonite and trinitrotoluene.
Approximately 300 kg
were produced of the essential primer tetryl.
Cheddite, acquired from
potassium chlorate, was the easiest and therefore most popular explosive
to be produced by the underground movement: c. 65,000 kg. Moreover,
approximately 4,000 kg of ammonite were produced.
acquired from Polish Army supplies left over after the 1939 September
Campaign and from Allied airdrops. It was also exclusively from the
latter source that another excellent brisant material reached the Home
Army: plastic explosive
One should also mention
the considerable amounts of explosive materials that were acquired
during the Warsaw Uprising from unexploded enemy bombs and artillery
Among those who made outstanding contributions to the
production of explosives were: Engineer Boleslaw Andrzej Honowski – code
name ‘Antoni’, Capt. Tadeusz Smisniewicz – code name ‘Hrabia/Count’,
Engineer Janina Szabatowska – code name ‘Janka’, Engineer Ludomir Heger
– code name ‘Andrzej’ and Engineer Franciszek Przezdziecki – code name
The Home Army did not produce its own ammunition but it did
have a network of workshops sorting pistol and rifle bullets stolen by
Polish workers from factories in Skarżysko-Kamienna a Czestochowa. Thus
over 1.5 million rounds were collected.
One should also remember about three workshops that were
specially set up during the Warsaw Uprising to repair damaged ammunition
from badly prepared Soviet airdrops. There were two in the Srodmiescie
district (commanded by Lt Mieczyslaw Przepiorkiewicz – code name ‘Lt
Marek’, and Capt Engineer Franciszek J. Pogonowski – pseudonym Capt ‘Marek’)
and one in the Zoliborz district.
To complete this overview of the Home Army’s extensive and
unique clandestine effort to produce weapons and explosives one should
mention the numerous workshops of locksmiths and blacksmiths or even
improvised gunsmith workshops which repaired partisan weapons and even
produced simple diversionary devices.