Republic of Poland
Poland has cultivated one of the most varied and fascinating histories of military camouflage in Europe.
During the Second World War, the Polish 1st Independent Airborne Brigade supported the British 1st Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden. Under the command of Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski, the Brigade were outfitted mostly with British issue uniforms and field equipment, including the hand-painted "brushstroke" camouflage pattern Denison paratrooper smocks. Despite heavy losses during this campaign, Polish airborne troos fought valiantly and delayed a significant number of German troops in Holland, thus preventing complete annihilation of the 1st Airborne Division which was unable to secure the Arnhem bridge and ultimately forced to retreat.
Despite a deep connection to their British wartime allies, Poland fell under Soviet influence in 1944 - becoming the People's Republic of Poland (1944-1990) and did not continue to use the "brushstroke" camouflage design. Yet neither were the Polish armed forces particularly influenced by Soviet models. Instead, the majority of designs seem either to have a nominal connection to German WW2 patterns, or to be completely innovative in origin. From the 1950s into the present era, Poland has always supported the use of camouflage for military personnel, not only airborne and special operations troops but for the common infantry soldier as well. They were the first Warsaw Pact nation to utilize "rain" pattern camouflage (a design that would later appear in at least half the nations within this alliance), but were also quite pioneering in their use of distinctive designs such reptile skin and leopard hide patterns. Finally throwing off its Communist shackles in 1989, Poland became a constitutional Republic in 1990 and enjoys full membership in NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations.
World War Two era Camouflage worn by Polish Forces
- Polish forces in exile during the Second World War fielded several units that served in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Of these, the only unit known to have worn camouflage was the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, famously commanded by General Stanislaw Sosabowski. The unit's most famous action was its participation in the (largely unsuccessful) airborne operation "Market Garden," during which members deployed wearing the camouflage Denison smock like their British counterparts.
Polish Camouflage Patterns of the Communist Era (1944-1989)
- The first camouflage design issued to Polish troops dates to the early 1950s and was possibly of Soviet origin. Consisting of finely-detailed leaf shapes in foliage green on a yellowish-tan or khaki background, the pattern is often nicknamed Pietruszka or "parsley" camouflage and is most commonly associated with Romania, whom it is believed adopted the pattern after Poland discarded it. The lightweight Soviet-style oversuit and hooded poncho were only provided to special purpose units of the Polish Army, and surviving examples without Romanian markings are very few.
- A solid-white "snow" pattern is known to have been issued to Polish mountain units and military personnel operating in snowy conditions. Consisting of hooded poncho, smock, trousers, and overmittens, the uniforms saw service well into the 1990s. (Photograph not provided)
- In the early 1950s, Poland adopted a camouflage design based on the German Wehrmacht Splittermuster (splinter) design. Although referred to for many years as the wz56 pattern, surviving examples have been documented with dates as early as 1953. Featuring violet-brown & olive green splinter shapes with dark green rain straits on a yellow-tan background, there was some variability between production runs. Comparisons of this pattern with original German examples have revealed that the splinter shapes on the Polish version are reversed, suggesting that original drawings were probably copied during the development stages of this pattern. This design was again fielded as Soviet-style two piece oversuit and only issued to airborne and reconnaissance units into the 1960s.
- Although unquestionably influenced by WW2 German camouflage designs such as Splittermuster (splinter pattern) and Sumpfmuster (marsh pattern), it was Poland that fielded the first design that has come to be known as "rain" pattern. This design series is known officially as the wz58 Deszczyk (raindrop). Distinguished from the WW2 designs by the simplicity of incorporating only densely concentrated lines or "rain straits" over a solid-colored field, the design actually has limited functionality as camouflage and from a distance probably serves no greater purpose than would a solid-colored uniform. Nevertheless, several other countries in the Warsaw Pact developed their own versions of the rain pattern, (most notably East Germany), and a number of insurgent movements are known to have utilized the patterns over the years. The original Polish design is a heavy pattern of dark brown rain straits on a brownish-green or blue-grey background (two variants are documented, often referred to as "brown" and "grey" variations). Although the rain straits are generally thinner than those found in patterns from other Warsaw Pact nations, some versions with thick rain straits have also been documented.
- A slightly different variation of the wz58 Deszczyk (raindrop) can be seen here. The primary difference is in the shape of the rain "straight" itself. Whereas in previous versions the line has tapered to a slight "point" at one end (as though each was painted with a very fine brush and the point shows where the tip of the brush is slowly lifted off the surface), the later version lacks this distinction. Both ends of each rain straight have equal thickness.
- Another short-lived pattern possibly developed in the 1960s is known only as "petals" or "fingers" in English - the official Polish designation being unknown. Likely derived from the Soviet WW2 era MKK pattern, this Polish pattern features dark brown, orange and olive green "petal" shapes on a pale green field. Few original examples seem to have survived, and there is no evidence suggesting it was ever adopted. There is a rumor the pattern was later provided to Libya, but this has not been substantiated by documentation.
- Polish military parachute shrouds for special operations (vice standard airborne operations, which have always been white) have been printed with a unique spot pattern (also nicknamed Żaba or "frog") since the 1960s. This pattern, its design incorporating black and orange spots on a pale green background, became popular with Polish airborne and special operations personnel, who cannibalized the parachutes and had one and two-piece customs uniforms created out of them. Although not officially produced by the government, these privately obtained uniforms remain in use well into the present era.
- Officially the wz68 Moro Ludowe Wojsko Polskie (LWP) pattern, the Polish Army "worm" pattern was introduced in 1968 and saw service well into the 1980s as a general-purpose pattern. Also known as "green Moro," this was an Army pattern consisting of dense dark grey "worm" shapes over a grey-green field. Several styles of uniform were produced, including a winter version and a special purpose uniform for airborne and reconnaissance personnel. The pattern was later revived (circa late 1980s) and worn by elements of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych or MSW) such as the Border Guards (Wojska Ochrony Pogranicza) and the Motorized Riot Police (Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej).
- Differing from the green or Army version is the "black Moro" pattern, originally issued as the wz68 Moro Wojsk Lotniczych i Marynarki Wojennej, (Polish Air Force & Marines Moro pattern). This variant uses the same screens as the Army version but incorporates black "worm" shapes on a grey-green field. The black Moro pattern was originally introduced in the early 1970s, but saw service well into the 1990s by the Komenda Główna Policji (Chief Police Command).
- Yet another variation of the Moro pattern was issued to the Polish Police (Milicja Obywatelska) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych or MSW). Officially the wz68 Moro MO (Milicja Obywatelska) this is often called "blue Moro" by collectors as it has dark blue "worm" shapes instead of grey or black. As with the Air Force and Marine version, the Police Moro was introduced in the 1970s and saw service into the 1990s.
- The Polish Prison Service was also issued their own version of the Moro pattern, the wz68 Moro SW (Sluzba Wiezienna). This variant features dark black "worm" shapes on a purple-blue field and is considerably more distinctive due to the background color. Also introduced in the 1970s, this pattern continues in service today.
- The last of the officially-issued Moro variants saw service with the Straż Pożarna or Polish Fire Service. Officially the Moro SP (Straz Pożarna) this design featured larger-sized black "worms" on a grey-green background. This version of Moro was also introduced in the 1970s and continues in service today.
- An interesting camouflage design emerged in the 1970s for test by Polish special purpose troops. Known as the Gepard (leopard) design, this pattern incorporated black & reddish brown leopard spots on a field grey background. It is believed only the special purpose uniform was produced in this pattern, and probably only for testing as the uniform does not appear to have been adopted. A similar design, however, emerged in use with special units of the Zaire Armed Forces in the late 1970s, with a variant also appearing in Chad.
- An unique hybrid pattern was considered in the 1970s, using the standard Army Moro pattern with a vertical tiger stripe overprint in black. The pattern was never officially adopted.
- The pattern seen below appears to have been an experimental one from the 1980s. Very little is known about it.
- The last of the Polish camouflage designs to appear during the Communist era was the wz89 Żaba or "frog" pattern. The pattern is also known as Puma in Polish, and has been nicknamed "reptile" pattern in English by many collectors. Featuring a dark green reptile skin design on a light green field, it would appear like the wz68 that this design has limited practicality as a camouflage pattern. It was adopted into service for the Polish Army, Marines and Air Force in 1989 and saw service until 1993. As with the Army Moro pattern, several styles of uniform were produced including a winter version and a special purpose uniform for airborne and reconnaissance personnel.
Camouflage Patterns of the Third Polish Republic (1990-present)
- The first camouflage design to emerge from the new Polish Republic was the wz93 Pantera, sometimes called "presidential woodland." Incorporating similar shapes to the experimental "petals" design of the 1970s, the wz93 has black, reddish-brown and olive green amoebic shapes on a khaki background and circa 1993 became the standard issue camouflage pattern for all branches of the Polish Armed Forces (Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej), as well as the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Straż Graniczna (Border Guards). In addition to a standardized combat uniform, various hats, vests, tropical clothing and field equipment were produced in the pattern; the design has been produced in both heavy cotton and ripstop fabrics. It remains in general service but may be replaced by a pixelated pattern at some point in the future.
- A variation of this pattern is printed on a unique item issued to Polish special operations troops, this being an inflatable one-man watercraft. The item is designed to be carried in the field gear and inflated as needed for special missions. The camouflage design is similar to the wz93 but the shapes are in fact closer to the 1970s era "petals" design and the overall scale has been increased at least 200%.
- An urban patterns based on the German flecktarn design was adopted by a special unit of the Polish Police in the mid-1990s. Called Metro colloquially and offically wz AT 1 PLAMIAK, the pattern features black, dark grey, mid-grey and light grey spots on a pale grey field. This camouflage pattern has been issued exclusively to the National Police Samodzielny Pododdzial Antyterrorystyczny Policji (SPAP), and anti-terrorist unit with functions similar to the German GSG-9 and the CRW of the British SAS.
- Two additional flecktarn-based designs were adopted around the same period by the Agencja Bezpieczenstwa Wewnetrznego (ABW) - the Polish Internal Security Agency. The first of these, a woodland type design referred to in some references as Gepard, has black, brown, dark green & light green spots on a pale green background. A desert version features dark green, dark brown, khaki & tan spots on a sandy background.
- An "urban" camouflage design, loosely based on US m81 woodland camouflage drawings, emerged in the late 1990s and has been in service with several Polish government agencies, including the Oddział Wart Cywilnych (Department of Civil Guards) and the Straż Ochrony Kolei (Railway Guards).
- Circa 2003 the Polish Armed Forces introduced a desert version of the standard wz93 Pantera pattern, called wz2000, and sometimes referred to as Snajper (sniper). The design consists of beige, tan and olive green amoebic shapes on a sandy background, and has seen service with Polish military personnel serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The desert pattern has also been worn by Polish Police serving abroad with the United Nations.
- Polish Army Special Forces began using a Multicam-derivative design called Suez in 2008. This mottled camouflage pattern incorporates dark brown, olive green, light olive, beige & pinkish-tan shapes on a sandy background, but it is not a direct copy of the Crye Multicam design. It has seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some uniforms are labeled Biuro Ochrony Rządu (Bureau of Government Protection).
- Circa 2007-2008, Poland began testing two new pixelated camouflage patterns as possible replacements for the wz93 and wz00. These appear to be digitized versions of both patterns, and thus far have remained in the trial stage. It is unknown whether they will be adopted.
- The Wydział Realizacyjny, Komenda Stołeczna Policji (WR KSP) or Implementation Department, Metropolitan Police Command of the Warsaw Police issue a flecktarn camouflage variation produced by Kama. This has been in distribution since at least 2012. The pattern may also be in use with other special law enforcement units.
- The Straż Graniczna (Border Guards) adopted a new camouflage pattern in 2015, based on the Multicam design, but incorporating a color palette found on the wz93 Pantera design. It is presumed this will replace the latter pattern entirely.