Thirty Years War - the Poles




The following are a series of photos of the different types of Polish cavalry from the TYW period.  

The Poles developed their own Cossacks most of whom were in chain-mail hauberks and crudely armed with bows, light curved swords and maces.  Others were better armed - also with lances, pistols etc - they were known as Pancerni and together with the Cossacks were the light horse who formed the bulk of Polish cavalry. 

The Polish hussars were a heavy cavalry and armed with 4-5 metre long lance, palasch (a 1.6 mtr straight sword) and the usual brace of pistols.

The  most spectacular cavalry were the winged hussars who formed the heaviest of the cavalry.  As many were young nobles (the Poles seemed to have quite a few of these!) they were richly equipped and rode some of the finest horseflesh in Europe.  They favoured the charge stirrup to stirrup delivered at full speed first with the lance - which were discarded after initial impact - and then with pistols and  palasch face to face.  

The above and  opposite are figures converted from the discontinued Games Workshop 'Kislev Lancers' - they are metal figures and were based on the historical hussars - so very little conversion work was required.  They are amongst the best the mounted GW figures ever made, keenly sought  by collectors and have great detailing as can be seen in the close-up of the standard bearer.  Not to be forgotten - the Poles were great innovators and they came up with a version of their own dragoons - hussars with muskets (below).  The second and third ranks of their hussars were often musket armed.

For a more detailed description of the organisation and tactics of the redoubtable Polish cavalry of this era - see my Thirty Years War Poles - cavalry tactics page.

The Poles formed one of the dominant military forces in Eastern Europe from the late Renaissance and still had an effect up until the Seven Years War - a period close to two hundred years.  The Poles came up against every type of army - both Eastern and European - during this period and borrowed heavily from both.  The most spectacular and successful of Polish arms developed during this time were the cavalry, in particular the famous Winged Hussars who in 1683 rode with Jan Sobieski to defeat the Turks at the gates of Vienna.   Because of the large variety of exotic types - mounted and foot -  the Polish army during these years is a fascinating and challenging one to build. 

 The army I ended up concentrating on is a Thirty Years War one complete with a number of German units such as pike & shot regiments of infantry and artillery - Polish armies of the period were often composed of a large percentage of mercenaries.   In addition to numerous cavalry the Polish armies of the time included large numbers of peasants, most of whom were crudely armed with weaponry that would not be out of place in any medieval army.  I have deliberately avoided creating any hordes of peasantry, concentrating instead on the different types of cavalry and the more regularized Polish infantry that were developed, which also included the fearsomely armed Haiduks.  

 Encountering numerous horse armies during their incessant wars with the Cossacks in the Ukraine and the Mongols in the Crimea, the Poles developed not only effective cavalry themselves but infantry that were well armed and capable of handling any cavalry on their own.  Known as Haiduks, their armaments included long-handled axes (more pole-arm than conventional axe) as well as muskets and swords.  Apart from mercenaries, the Poles did not use many pike units themselves as defence against cavalry, common with European armies of the time.  

Coming up against so many different types of armies they experimented considerably, often influenced by those most successful against them, developing copious shot armed infantry after their experience against the Swedes in the Great Northern War (1655-1660) for example.                                                            Polish infantry - Haiduk command    

I owe my large wargaming friend George Stosic a debt for allowing me to continually borrow his Ospreys on Polish armies of the period (Polish Armies 1569-1696 (1) & (2), Osprey Men-at-arms series) my main source of information when first building my army.  [As George will tell you -  the first winged hussar types were Serbs, developed fighting Turkish light horse in the Balkans and eventually hiring themselves out to the Poles amongst others - the Poles obviously liked what they saw!]

 I have since discovered a great deal more, most available on the web, particularly as our Polish friends themselves are publishing more and more on their rich and proud military history.  There is the Polish Renaissance Warfare 1450 - 1699 site which offers great detail on the Polish armies of the period and links to useful source material.

Most of the Polish figures in my collection are Foundry, with some Essex and GW included but there are now a number of other manufacturers producing some excellent figures for this period such as The Assault Group - and have a look at their new line of Turks as well.

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