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Lt. John Ward, British ex-POW, a member of the Polish Home Army between 1941-1945. Ward's coded radio messages were dispatched from Warsaw to London between Aug 7-Sept 29, 1944.
August 1944, September 1944
At 5 p.m. yesterday German tanks of 'Tiger' type came through streets of Warsaw with women captured in houses specially for purpose tied on to prevent action from Polish troops. One tank was destroyed by means of petrol bottles owing to lack of anti-tank guns. Warsaw has excellent chances and the greatest part of the City is in Polish hands. Please send us weapons and ammunition as soon as possible.
Biuletyn Informacyjny published in Warsaw on August 9th states that Moscow claims in a broadcast at 15 hours on August 8th that only Polish Communists – Army 'Ludowa'– are fighting in Warsaw. This is not true, there are no troops of A.L. engaged in any action in Warsaw. The only troops engaged are the Home Army. There is no sign, of any Russian troops in the vicinity of Warsaw. The nearest are suspected to be at least 12 miles or so from the city.
Despite all efforts of AK the Germans are continuing their ruthless terror methods. In many cases they have burnt whole streets of houses and have shot all the men belonging to them and turned the women and children out into the street, where battles are taking place, to find their way to safety. In Krolewska Street many private houses have been bombed out. One house was hit by four separate bombs. In one house where lived old, retired professors of Polish universities, the SS troops forced an entrance and killed many of them. Some succeeded in escaping through the cellars to the other houses. The morale of AK and the civil population is of the highest standard. The watch-word: death to the Germans.
The German tank forces during last night made determined efforts to relieve some of their strong-points in the city. This is no light task, however; on the corner of every street are built huge barricades mostly constructed of concrete pavement slabs torn up from the streets especially for this purpose. In most cases the attempts failed, so the tanks' crews vented their disappointment by setting fire to several houses and shelling others from a distance. In many cases they also set fire to the dead, who litter the streets in many places. They have begun to have a great respect for the Polish barricade, for they know that behind each one wait determined troops of AK with petrol bottles. The same petrol bottles that have caused the destruction of so many of their comrades.
Weapons of special types are badly needed inside the area limited by Jerozolimska Avenue – Emilia Plater – Noakowski – August 6th Street – Mokotowska – Three Crosses Square – Bracka. Anti-tank weapons-grenades, rifles, machine guns, pistols, ammunition. Note: Anti-tank weapons are specially important. At the moment there is no means of engaging tanks at a distance greater than 15 yards.
The German forces have brutally murdered wounded and sick people both men and women who were lying in St. Lazarus Hospital in Wolska Street, Nr. 18, and Karol and Maria Hospital in Przejazd Street, Nr. 5.
In Jerozolimska Avenue when the Germans were bringing supplies by tank to one of their outposts they drove before them 500 women and children to prevent the troops of AK from taking action against them. Many of them were killed and wounded. The same kind of action has been reported from many other parts of the city.
Despite lack of weapons the Polish forces continue to hold the initiative in the battle of Warsaw. In some places they have broken into German strongholds and captured much-needed arms and ammunition. On August the 12th were captured 11,600 rounds rifle ammunition, five machine guns, 8,500 small arm ammunition, 20 pistols, 30 anti-tank mines, three hand machines and motor-cars. The German forces are fighting desperately. In Jerozolimska Avenue when AK set fire to a building which the Germans were holding as a fortress, two German soldiers tried to escape to the Polish lines with a white flag. An SS officer saw them and shot them dead. During the night from 12th/13th AK at 1 o'clock in the morning received some weapons from Allied aircraft.
Fighting for the electric power station began on August 1st at 5.10 p.m. Twenty-three soldiers of the Polish Home Army were stationed in the works before that hour because they were employed there in the normal course of things, expecting the outbreak of the uprising. The Germans had the day before raised the strength of the garrison to 150 militarized police stationed in concrete pillboxes and block houses, also in all the works' buildings. The signal for action was the explosion of a mine under one of the buildings.. After 19 hours of fighting the electric power station was fully in Polish hands on August 2nd at 12 o'clock noon. The Polish losses were 17 killed and 27 wounded. The German losses were 20 killed and 22 wounded with 56 taken as prisoners of war. The detachment which captured the station consisted solely of manual and other workers employed there. In spite of the fact that the buildings of the station are daily bombarded with 75 mm. shells by the Germans the personnel has succeeded in maintaining the supply of current to the civil population without the slightest interruption.
I observed the dropping of supplies by British aircraft last night. The Germans on the outskirts of the city have some light ack-ack and about 15 searchlights. All the ack-ack was considerably higher than the aircraft. It is, in my opinion, much safer to fly as low as possible.
The British aircraft which flew over Warsaw on the night of 13th/14th was enthusiastically greeted by the population, despite the shrapnel that was falling on the streets. They cried: "They are ours; they are British."
The morale of the cut-off population of Warsaw is today 10 per cent. better than it was yesterday. One aircraft dropped a wreath with the inscription: "From the British soldiers to our fighting comrades of the Polish Army."
Fighting continues to be very bitter in Warsaw. The Germans fight for every inch of ground: It is reported that in some places whole districts have been burnt and the inhabitants either shot or taken to Germany. The soldiers of AK continue to repeat: " When we get weapons from England we will pay them back." The Polish population have an unshakeable faith in Great Britain as their liberator.
Snipers on the roofs of houses in Warsaw are still taking a heavy toll of human life. Most of these snipers that have been caught have turned out to be Ukrainian. They are usually armed with hand machine guns with a plentiful supply of ammunition.
The Germans in Warsaw are making a great deal of damage with mine-throwers. They are using half explosive material, half incendiary. Result is the explosive makes huge holes in the wall and the incendiary material sets fire to the houses. Many of the finest buildings in Warsaw have been destroyed in this manner. Casualties among the civil population are heavy.
Practically every house in Warsaw that is not burned out has its allotment of refugees. Many thousands of people have not only lost their homes but also all they possessed. All refugees are received as guests. Often they arrive one day in a house and a few hours later they must look for a new home because that one too is set on fire or bombed out.
In the centre of the city the shortage of weapons and ammunition is desperate. I have been asked by the Polish Chief of Staff to make this communication. I can confirm this from my own observations.
The main situation in Warsaw has not changed. In the centre of the city fighting continues to be very heavy. The enemy continues with the ruthless destruction of the city by air bombardment, with tanks, 75 mm. artillery and with half explosive and half incendiary mines, propelled by mine-throwers. About 40 per cent. of the City Centre is already completely destroyed and another 20 per cent. badly damaged. Reports from the suburbs also tell of the terrific destruction. The Germans are carrying out their attempt to destroy Warsaw. Loss of life among civilian population and the Home Army is very high.
The people of Warsaw call the German mine-throwers "the moving cupboards" on account of the fact that they give out a sound like that of a heavy piece of furniture being moved, followed a few seconds later by a number of terrific explosions. The Prudential building on Napoleon Square, the highest building in Warsaw, was hit three times by mines and once by bombs. It is completely burnt out. The pavements in Warsaw- have been turned into graveyards. In many places one cannot walk on the pavement without treading on fresh graves.
Addressed to ...
Sir, reply to my telegram received.
I was born Birmingham. Maiden name of mother... father's... address...
Sir, I beg for more detailed orders. For three years I have worked in the Polish Home Army. Now, acting on advice of the Polish Staff here, am combining my military duties as acting lieutenant in A. K. with that of War Correspondent. All my telegrams are uncensored.
Thousands of people are each day rendered homeless in Warsaw and hundreds killed. The German forces make no difference between civilians and troops of the Home Army. Ruthless destruction of property goes on unhindered by any scruples. There are thousands of civilian wounded men, women and children suffering from the most horrible burns and in some cases from shrapnel and bullet wounds. Each day the martyrdom of the battle of Warsaw is prolonged the cost mounts higher. But the determination of the population to fight to the last man is only strengthened by this German barbarism.
On practically every open piece of ground in Warsaw wells are being dug. The shortage of water is starting to be serious. If in ten days the city receives no relief then the goodwill will also give out. Rations are already very short. It is no exaggeration to say that the situation in Warsaw is desperate. On the outskirts of the city are huge concentration camps full of women and children living in the open air without food or help of any kind. They are dying of hunger and disease under the most terrible conditions. The Germans show no mercy to these helpless people. They have no men to look after them. The men were shot when the women and children were taken prisoner.
The Germans have, in many areas, gone over from the defensive to the attack. The high school of Snakeskin Street was taken by Germans at 5.00 hours on the 19th August. The attack was carried out by a heavy artillery barrage and supported by tanks. The lack of ammunition and weapons is being heavily felt by the Polish forces. Despite these drawbacks, however, the troops of the Home Army continue to fight with magnificent courage. Other attacks in Sikorski Avenue were firmly held.
The battle for Warsaw is increasing in intensity. Today in Pius Street the Telephone Exchange was taken by storm. The action lasted 26 hours. The day before the Central Telephone Building in Sienna Street was taken. In all, some 200 prisoners have been taken in these two operations. Polish losses were not high. Yesterday the Germans opened fire with a mine-thrower in the area south of Jeroboams Avenue. In two hours they destroyed 22 houses, each house of which contained from 20-60 flats. More information to follow tomorrow.
Article addressed to The Times
Today in Warsaw a battle is going on that I think is very difficult for the British nation to understand. It is a battle that is being carried on as much by the civil population a; by A. K., the troops of the Polish Home Army. It is total warfare. Every street in the city has been a field of battle for the past 24 days. The enemy mine-throwers, artillery and aircraft are taking a heavy toll of human life. The damage to property is incalculable. Normal life in the city is, of course, at a complete standstill. Practically the whole population is engaged in some sort of public duty. Thousands of people have been mobilized to stand by to put out the fires that are raging throughout the city day and night. Thousands more are engaged in keeping the streets that are in the hands of A. K. free from debris. There are, of course, many other duties such as couriers, field telephone workers, and of course Red Cross, which is working excellently under the most difficult conditions.
The actual army, that is to say A. K., is a queer mixture. Fighting in it are young boys of 16 years and old men of 70 years. There are weapons for about one man in a hundred. Weapons are varied; they range from the small automatic pistols 65 caliber to rifles. There are also some few heavy machine guns, but these are only used in emergency, as they use too much ammunition. Very few military formalities are observed. In fact, it is impossible to enforce any large amount of discipline in an army that is two-thirds untrained and has no uniform. There are colonels fighting as simple soldiers under the command of young lieutenants.
Weapons are being constructed. Hand grenades have been made from old gas pipes filled with some explosive mixture. These grenades have to be lit with a simple match before being thrown. Flame throwers that have been hurriedly constructed in small workshops are in use. Perhaps the most ingenious weapon of all was used two days ago. I personally saw ten of them explode. In an old German store 120 80-pound artillery shells were found; at first it seemed they were useless, until a sapper, since killed, put inside two detonators, to each of which was attached a 25 second fuse. When the order for action was given these shells were thrown from a second floor window as near to the German position as possible, and then the company of A. K. fled to such cover as was obtainable, the effect of this ingenious maneuver being considerable. The weapons that have been dropped by the GRAF have been of great value but are in quantity inadequate.
Another problem that is facing the population today is the shortage of food. Warsaw is a city that has been starved by the Germans for nearly five years. The quantity of food in the city at the outbreak of hostilities was small. It is already 24 days since hostilities began and at the moment in Warsaw we see no hope of a speedy end to the present state of affairs.
The population have a second great worry. What form will the Russian occupation take? News comes daily of further leading members of the community being arrested in territories occupied by Soviet troops. Also a large number of officers from A. K. have been put into Soviet concentration camps. It was understood by the Polish people when the uprising started that it was only a question of a few days before the Soviet troops entered the city. The fight against the common enemy that has been waged in Poland during the past five years has been hard and bitter. The population of the Capital was called upon to make one final effort. The call was answered gallantly. Hardships are many, losses very high, but despite all this the determination of the people is firm to hold out and rid their city and country of the enemy.
To Colonel P…
Sir, help is badly needed in the centre of the city of Warsaw. The ammunition for the anti-tank weapons, type "Piat," that were sent has all been used.
Sir, the main things needed are grenades, anti-tank weapons, heavy machine guns, rifles, ammunition of all types. The best area for descent is the area south of Jeroboams Avenue, tending east of No wy Swat, west to Marshmallows and south to Pius Street. This area is free from Germans.
Sir, I received your message of the 19.8.44 on the 20.8.44.
The boy scouts organization in Warsaw is doing work that is beyond all praise. Many young boys have given their lives in service of their country. The boys are keeping up the international tradition of the scouts.
During the past 24 hours there have been no outstanding events in the battle for Warsaw. The fighting was continued as bitterly as ever without any great result. The amount of damage being done by the enemy mine-throwers is colossal. Wildcat, Cruz, Pius, Mokotow, TKOs Streets and Jackdaws Avenue have been very badly damaged during the past 48 hours, casualties are high. In the City Centre large fires continued to burn throughout the night. Food supplies are growing shorter each day, and there is no means of replenishing them. Heavy artillery was heard during the night at a distance of about 12 miles from the city.
The Germans are continuing their campaign of murder in Warsaw. Three days ago two Polish prisoners came with a message from Gestapo headquarters in Such Avenue. The message was that the German troops who were in the post in Pius Street should be allowed to join Gestapo headquarters in Such Avenue. The Germans said that in exchange they would release some Polish prisoners and send some medical supplies. The request was, of course, refused. The two Polish people who brought the message say that the Germans have constructed a crematorium and are shooting and burning about 300 men daily. Up till the time these two people left Gestapo H.Q. 3,000 suits of civil clothing had been received into the German store. That means that 3,000 Polish patriots have already been brutally murdered. It is known that there are another 2,500 prisoners there, and that more are arriving every day. AK is powerless to prevent this brutal wholesale murder. They have not the special types of heavy weapons needed to attack such a heavily fortified stronghold as Such Avenue.
Most urgent. Addressed to Sir Archibald Sinclair, Minister for Air:
Sir, in view of your kind message of the 20.8. and the extraordinary conditions, I take the liberty of addressing this radiogram direct to you.
Sir, the situation here in Warsaw is critical. We have not sufficient weapons and ammunition to carry out any offensive operations, and hardly enough for de fence. In a few days' time we shall not even have enough for de fence. Losses are colossal. There is hardly a house that has not been hit by artillery, mine-throwers or air bombs. The people of the city are beginning to despair. They see no help. The moral effect alone of a few R.A.F.: machines would be terrific. Supplies dropped on the outskirts of the city do not help us. We have no communication lines to the suburbs.
It is the centre of the city that mainly needs help.
Sir, the main things needed are: anti-tank weapons, hand machine-guns, grenades, and ammunition of all kinds in large quantities.
Sir, the anti-tank weapons of the type dropped by the GRAF proved most effective. Now we have not one projectile left. In the city there is no organized enemy air de fence. Suggest that each day is suitable but watch for the weather report.
Sir, it would be of great help if the Okecie aerodrome on the outskirts of the city could be bombed.
Sir, I am your obedient servant.
The Old Town in the city of Warsaw is the scene of a terrific battle. All day long the German aircraft are flying over it at roof-top height and dropping their bombs. Fires are raging day and night without any hope of putting them out. Thousands of people have already been killed and the wounded are mostly dying owing to the lack of water, and the sanitary conditions. Practically every wound turns septic in 24-23 hours. Apart from air bombing there is a continual bombardment going on from mine-throwers.
The situation in the city of Warsaw as a whole after one month of desperate fighting is practically unchanged. Many German strong-points have been taken by storm, but all the main enemy strongholds are still intact. Warsaw is truly a city of ruins and the dead are either buried inside the ruins or alongside them. The losses among the civilian population are very high. Today the German Air Force dropped a leaflet in which they stated that unless the fight were stopped at once, they would burn the whole city. They have been doing that for two weeks, there are now only ruins left to be burnt. Despite all set-backs, the lack of expected help and the heavy losses, the determination of the people to fight to the last man is as firm as ever. 1st September, 1944. In the other parts of the city the Germans are continuing their periodical air artillery and mine-thrower attacks. There are two kinds of mines in use, one is composed of half explosive and half incendiary material, and the other of pure explosive material. The list of casualties mounts daily. It is impossible to calculate yet just how high the losses of human life are. Thousands of people have been taken out from the city by the Germans, thousands more are cut off from any communication with parts of the town occupied by AK, and thousands more are buried under the ruins of houses. In the large concentration camps formed by the Germans on the city outskirts tens of thousands of Polish people are starving to death, the enemy troops supplying them with no food whatever. All Polish military prisoners who fall into German hands are murdered.