German Forces Begin Attack on Fortress of Brześć
On 14 September 77 German tanks of the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Panzer Regiment, part of 10th Panzer Division, reached the area of Brześć and tried to capture the fortress on the run.
The probe attack was repelled by Polish infantry and the 113th company of light tanks, consisting of 12 obsolete FT-17 tanks from the World War I. All the Polish tanks were destroyed, but the German forces were forced to retreat towards their initial positions. Polish Armoured train number 53 (PP53), which made a reconnaissance advance to Wysokie Litewskie, was attacked by a scout patrol from the 10th Panzer Division. The crew from the train opened fire with artillery. Several other skirmishes were fought, but were inconclusive in any event.
Later that day the German artillery arrived and started bombardment of both the fortress and the town. Heavy street fighting ensued. At dawn approximately half of the town was in German hands, the other part being defended by Polish infantry. The following day Polish defenders withdrew from the town, but heavy casualties on both sides prevented the German units from continuing the attacks on the fortress. Instead, it was constantly shelled with artillery and bombarded from the air by the Luftwaffe. Polish anti-tank artillery and AA guns were very scarce and did not provide enough support for the fighting infantry, but the German casualties were considerable.
When reports told Polish General Plisowski that scout elements from the 3rd Panzer Division were seen near the railway station at Żabinka, north of Kobryń, he sent PP55 to prevent his forces from being cut off. A platoon of 5 scout tanks left the train near Żabinka and attacked German armoured cars near a bridge on Muchawiec River. After losing three tanks the other two withdrew. A further attack by an assault platoon from the train failed. After a combined attack of the assault platoon and PP55 artillery, the Germans left the area of the Muchawiec bridge. When they returned, PP55 attacked another battle group of the 3rd Panzer Division (consisting of scout elements and the 5th Tank Regiment, supported by the 6th Battery of the 75th light artillery Regiment). After destroying a few armoured cars, the train withdrew towards Brześć and the train station was left in German hands.
A gate to the northern island of the fortress blocked by the FT-17 tanks
The main assault finally started in the early morning of September 16. The defenders had plenty of small arms ammunition and light arms thanks to the munitions depot located in the fortress, but had almost no anti-tank weapons and insufficient artillery cover.
Although the German infantry was repelled and the assault of German tanks was stopped by two old FT-17 tanks sealing the northern gate of the fortress, by nightfall it became apparent that the German pressure made the situation very grave. Despite heavy losses, the German 20th Motorized Division and 10th Armoured Division captured the northern part of the citadel. Meanwhile, the combined 3rd Armoured Division and 2nd Armoured Division comprising the XXIInd Armoured Corps entered the area. The Poles were unable to re-supply and the casualties rose to almost 40%.
At dawn Polish General Plisowski ordered part of his forces to retreat from the easternmost fortifications and regroup to the other side of the river and southwards. The evacuation was completed by early morning, 17 September th when the last unit crossing the bridge blew it up to hinder the Germans. An hour later elements of the German 76th infantry regiment entered the fortress - almost unopposed. The only Polish unit to remain in the fortress was the remnants of 82nd Infantry Regiment under Captain Radziszewski who decided to fight to the end.
In september 1939 when the fascists Germany attacked Poland a part of the Citadel of the Brest Fortress was ruined, the buildings of White Palace and Engineering administration were damaged. With the increased mobility and technical modernisation of military forces the Brest Fortress lost its military defence value. It was used for quartering troops of the Red Army units 22.06.1941 the Garrison of the Fortress was the first to repulse the attack of the fascists.
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