From the Regaining of Independence Until the End of World War II

(1918 – 1945)


The General Staff (formerly The Main Staff) of the Polish Armed Forces, which was responsible for organising the Polish military since the country regained its independence, was established by the “Order of the Regent Council of the Polish Kingdom” on 25 October 1918. General Sir Tadeusz JORDAN ROZWADOWSKI was appointed the first Chief of the General Staff. Initially, the GS was the main body tasked with conducting operational planning and commanding the newly formed armed forces. Since 6 November 1918 the General Staff was divided into branches and its area of responsibility encompassed organisation, mobilisation, intelligence, military geography, training of staffs and troops as well as scientific and legal matters. Since 10 March 1918 the General Staff was incorporated into the structure of the Supreme Command of the Polish Armed Forces and assigned the role of supporting the Supreme Commander in conducting military activities. In practice it meant war planning and materiel supply for the combat units. During the defensive war against the Red Army invasion in 1920, the General Staff focused on identifying the enemy’s intents and participation in conducting military operations, supplying materiel to the frontline units and developing coherent principles of the art of war. The years 1921-1926 marked the prime of the General Staff’s functioning during the inter-war period as a major player in the national security system and the central military institution responsible for command and preparations for wartime contingency. The presidential order (inspired by Marshal Piłsudski) as of 6 August 1926 excluded the GS from the structure of the Ministry of Military Affairs and subordinated it to the Inspector General of the Polish Armed Forces. Thus the GS lost its influence on current military matters and functioned only as a planning body for potential wartime, during which it was to be transformed into the Supreme Staff. On 28 December 1928 the General Staff was renamed the Main Staff. In the 1930s the Main Staff worked on the preparation and implementation of the Polish Armed Forces modernisation and development plan, as its prerogative in the field of organisation and mobilisation was re-established. Its efforts focused on national defence in terms of organisation and mobilisation. In September 1939 the Main Staff was transformed into the Supreme Commander’s Staff. Its area of responsibility was similar to the one from 1919-1921, although its practical activities were heavily limited by the quick pace of war developments. Its functioning ceased with the Polish troops crossing the Romanian border and their internment. Once the Polish Government had been formed in France in October 1939, General Władysław Sikorski established the Supreme Commander’s Staff which continued its operations after the moving of the Government to Great Britain. The National Council Order dated 8 September 1944 established the Main Staff of the Polish Armed Forces Supreme Commander. In the second half of 1945 it was converted into the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces (PAF).


Cold War and Present Activities of the General Staff



Once the war activities had ceased, the General Staff was faced with a new mission. Its basic tasks included: downsizing of the armed forces and their transition to a peacetime military, relocation of troops, organisation of a new command and control system, organisation of military training and supply systems, repair of war ravages, securing national borders and national security. Already in 1948-1949 the General Staff took a dominant position in directing the national defence system. It was assigned the role of the Minister’s of National Defence main command body. Its responsibilities included the conduct of national defence planning, co-ordination of ministries and central institutions concerned with defence issues, control of combat capability and readiness and co-ordination of cooperation with the allied armies. The 1955-1965 Polish Armed Forces Development Plan envisaged the establishment of National Territorial Defence Forces which later on became an important part of the PAF. As a result of Poland’s limited sovereignty and the assigned role of the military to act within the country, the GS could not escape the tragic events of 1956, 1968, 1970 and 1980-1983. In the whole post-war period the General Staff directed the organisational and technical development of the armed forces, placing special emphasis on mobility, armour and wider use of rocket technology. The post-war period brought the wave of Stalinist purges. Out of 19 officers who lost their lives after trials based on false charges and atrocious verdicts in 1955–1960, six served in the General Staff. In 1957–1965 the General Staff gained additional authority in regard to other central institutions of the MoND. This resulted from its exercise of broad functions ranging from setting up of strategic-operational guidelines for national defence to operational planning and international military cooperation. The period of 1966–1980 brought major structural changes. Organisational dispersion was eliminated, which increased operability and effectiveness. Organisation into directorates improved the work of the General Staff and the whole MoND. In the 1970s and 1980s the GS remained the only central body responsible for wartime operational planning and co-ordination of strategic-defence planning of non-military national defence. It was also the principal institution securing cooperation with the Warsaw Pact Armed Forces Staff and commands of the allied armies. Political transformation started in 1989 and the end of the Cold War introduced a major breakthrough in the GS activities. 1990–1993 marked the search of new doctrinal and organisational solutions adjusted to a new global security environment and defence system of a democratic state. The priorities of the GS activities in 1994–1999 included the participation of the PAF in the Partnership for Peace Programme and striving for interoperability and compatibility with NATO. Since 1999 the GS and the MoND have been preoccupied with systematic work on complying with NATO goals and standards as well as continuous and multifaceted transformation of the Polish Armed Forces.