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Polish Uhlans 1807–1815, painting by January Suchodolski

As a lancers , even lancers , Polish Ulani is called a with lances armed genus of cavalry .

Word meaning

The word Uhlans is derived from the Turkish word oğlan , "young man". Another theory regards Alanen as the root. In Poland , the Turkish oğlan is derived from the Mongolian language, here for example with the meaning "brave warrior ".

Characteristic uniform parts

Originally the uniform was based heavily on the Polish national dress. Typical was a square headgear, the Tschapka (from Polish czapka , "cap"), later also Rogatywka , such as "corner cap", or Konfederatka , " federal cap" . It comes from the headgear in the folk costume (Krakowiak) of the Krakow area and is still today, in various modernized forms, the cap of the Polish land forces . In military use, the Tschapka leaned against the shako and pickled bonnet in accordance with the prevailing fashion , but always retained its square lid. However, unlike these, horsehair or feather bushes were not placed in the middle, but on the side and the Tschapka was placed so diagonally that the bush was then straight in the middle.

Around 1800, the kurtka with a badge-colored plastron came into use as a characteristic type of uniform skirt and was later replaced by a corresponding variant of the tunic ( ulanka ).


Uhlans: Today's Polish Uhlan formation in parade uniform

The lancers wore sabers next to the lance . In addition, their officers in particular also wielded pistols . As a rule, officers and trumpeters did not carry lances. Carabiners were later added in many countries . The lance flag was mostly two-colored. In addition to the color of the badges, the color combination was used to distinguish the regiments .

Uhlans of individual states

(Deviating from the alphabet, Poland is mentioned here first because of its importance for the emergence of the military genre.)

Monument in honor of the 15th regiment in Poznan


The origin of the Uhlans as a cavalry type is traced back to the traditions of the Mongols and Lipka Tatars , who settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania , i.e. in the later east of the Polish aristocratic republic , from the 14th century. Lancers ( Hussaria ) formed the backbone of the Polish troops in the early modern period and were instrumental in the relief of Vienna in 1683 . The first Uhlan regiments, also named in this way, were to be found in Poland in the early 18th century. The last Polish King Stanislaus II August Poniatowski even set up a Uhlan regiment as the royal guard . Under Napoléon , four Uhlan regiments, recruited from Polish volunteers, served in the French army with great success, making the lancers popular again across Europe. In the armed forces of the Duchy of Warsaw , the Uhlans made up most of the cavalry.

At the beginning of Russian foreign rule, Congress Poland was still partially self-employed, including a small army under Russian command, whose cavalry consisted almost entirely of Uhlans. After the uprising of 1830 , this remnant of Polish sovereignty was also revoked by the tsar.

The later Marshal Piłsudski formed a Polish brigade in the Austro-Hungarian service , whose Uhlan regiment entered the former congress Poland in 1914 as the first unit of the Austro-Hungarian army .

When the army of the Second Polish Republic was established, the memory of the excellent role played by the Polish Uhlans under Napoleon was still so vivid that the army became heavily “Uhlan-heavy”. Their armament soon consisted of machine guns in addition to the classic Uhlan armament. In the Polish-Soviet War 1919–1921, Polish Uhlans defeated the advancing Soviet cavalry army from Budjonny .

By 1939 a total of 40 cavalry regiments had been set up, including 27 Uhlan regiments. The main differences, however, were the different uniforms and traditions. At that time the horses were mainly used as a means of transport. During the war against Germany in 1939 there were allegedly cavalry attacks on German tanks. The Wehrmacht wrote in September 1939 that there had been an “almost grotesque attack by a Polish Uhlan regiment against some of our tanks”. Even Joachim Fest took this view in his biography of Hitler, when he wrote about the "deadly Donquichotterie a Polish cavalry charge against German armored units." According to Janusz Piekałkiewicz in War of Tanks , there is no known case of a deliberately ridden attack by the Polish cavalry against tanks. Occasional mounted attacks on German infantry occurred only by chance and were then usually carried out successfully. The Polish director Andrzej Wajda , himself the son of an Uhlan officer, portrayed the fight and fall of the Polish Uhlans twenty years later in his film Lotna .

The Polish Home Army started a guerrilla war against the Wehrmacht and the SS under German occupation . In their ranks there were only a few small Uhlan units that could move easily in the woods. In the Polish army in exile under British command (" Anders Army ") there was a Carpathian Uhlan Regiment ( Pułk Ułanów Karpackich ), which served as a tank reconnaissance unit first in the Africa campaign and then with the 2nd Polish Corps in Italy. In 1943, three Uhlan regiments were set up by the Polish army in exile in Soviet service .

In 1949 the Uhlans were finally abolished as combat troops in Poland. In 2000, however, a small Uhlan unit was again set up for representation purposes in order to maintain the tradition of this branch of arms, which was so formative for Polish military history.



From 1813 to 1822 there was a Uhlan regiment in the Bavarian Army , which was armed and uniformed according to the Austrian model. In 1863 three new regiments were set up, one of which was dissolved in 1867. The 1st regiment "Kaiser Wilhelm II., King of Prussia" was initially stationed in Dillingen and Augsburg , later in Bamberg , the 2nd regiment "König" in Ansbach .


In the Napoleonic Grand Duchy of Berg there were two regiments of Chevaulegers -Lanciers. After the fall of the Grand Duchy, the remains of these were taken over into the Prussian army as Hussar Regiment No. 11 .


Prussian Uhlan from the 15th Uhlan Regiment around 1900

In 1741 Frederick the Great took over Lancers in his cavalry in response to the successes of Hungarian Pandours and Polish riders in the Saxon service, whose efficiency he had to feel in the War of the Austrian Succession . With opposing deserters (including Bosnians and Cossacks ) and members of the lower Polish nobility, squadrons of light cavalry were formed, which were armed with long lances and deployed as scout and raid troops against the enemy. In keeping with the fashion of the time, the newcomers were dressed in exotic costumes with turbans, caftans and wide Turkish trousers. This Bosniak corps , which had been regrouped several times, was renamed the Towarzysz Regiment in 1800 . After the catastrophe of 1806/07 ( Fourth Coalition War ), the first two regiments of Uhlans were formed from its remains, but they were counted as heavy cavalry and their number was 16 lines (e.g. No. 9 ) and three guards until 1914 . Regiments grew. In 1884 the lances were supplemented with carbines as the new main armament. The lance itself remained in use and was even assigned to all German cavalry regiments around 1890.


Due to the long personal union with Poland, Polish Uhlans served early on with the army of the Saxon electors, but always remained formally in the service of Poland. The Chevaulegers regiment " Prince Clemens " of the Saxon army carried lances from 1811 to 1820. In 1867 two regiments of lancers were established, which after the establishment of the empire in 1871 were numbered 17 (Garrison Oschatz ) and 18 (Garrison Geithain , Leipzig from 1897 ). In 1905 a third was added with number 21 ( Zeithain garrison , from October 1905 Chemnitz ).


In the Napoleonic Kingdom of Westphalia there were two line regiments and one guard regiment Chevaulegers-Lanciers. After the fall of the kingdom, their remains were taken over by the Prussian army.


Uhlan regiment King Wilhelm I (2nd Württemberg) No. 20

After the founding of the empire, two of the Württemberg “cavalry regiments” were converted into lancers (nos. 19 and 20 ).

Weimar Republic

The Reichswehr had a standard cavalry with 3.20 m long tubular steel lances , but these were abolished in 1927.


Ancien Régime

During the Ancien Régime only the Volontaires de Saxe were partially equipped as Uhlans.

Napoleonic Wars

Under Napoleon , Uhlan regiments were set up in France, initially as cavalry in the Polish Vistula region in French service. When the emperor moved into Warsaw in 1806 after the liberation of Poland , Polish nobles provided a mounted honor guard whose impeccable demeanor impressed the emperor so much that he ordered the establishment of a Polish Chevaulegers regiment for his imperial guard. It was not until 1809 that the regiment received lances after having spontaneously captured Austrian lances against their previous owners in the battle of Wagram . The name was changed to Chevauleger-lanciers . In 1810 a 2nd Guards Regiment was added, which was formed from the guards hussars of the dissolved Kingdom of Holland . In 1812 a 3rd regiment was formed from Poles and Lithuanians , but in the same year it was completely wiped out in Russia. The regiment Chevau-légers du Grand-duché de Berg was temporarily assigned to the Guard. In 1811 six regiments of dragoons were converted to Chevauleger lanciers of the line cavalry (like the dragoons, they belonged to the medium cavalry), the Vistula Region cavalry became the 7th and 8th line regiments, the 9th was formed from northern German cavalry units. When Napoleon first abdicated, a squadron of Polish guardsmen accompanied the emperor as the only cavalry unit to Elba; the Polish and German regiments were disbanded. In 1815 the squadron from Elba was united with the Dutch regiment and fought at Waterloo.

19th century

Under the 2nd Restoration there was initially only one guard regiment, with the hunters on horseback the fourth squadrons of each of the 24 line regiments were armed with a lance. The designation was now Chasseurs-lanciers or lanciers . With the dissolution of the royal guard as a result of the July Revolution of 1830 , its Uhlan regiment was transferred to the line as Lanciers de Orleans . Five more were added in 1831 and two more in 1836. In 1855 one was set up for the Imperial Guard. After the fall of the Second Empire in the Franco-German War of 1870/1871, this class of cavalry was no longer deployed when the army was rebuilt in France.

Great Britain and Colonies

The 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman

In the British Army , Uhlans were only set up after the Napoleonic Wars and referred to as lancers . They were used in almost every theater of war in the British Empire: the attack by the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman , in which Winston Churchill also took part as a young lieutenant, is considered the last successful cavalry attack of the 19th century.

Several regiments were set up in the Indian colonial army (mainly Bengali units), one in Australia. The last Uhlan regiment in India was disbanded in 1947.

Today there is only the Royal Lancers reconnaissance regiment equipped with light tanks in Great Britain , which was created on May 2, 2015 through the merger of the 9th / 12th Royal Lancers and the Queen's Royal Lancers .

CVR (T) Scorpion of the 9th / 12th Royal Lancers in the Afghan War (2011)


Colonel Maximilian Ritter von Rodakowski and the Uhlan Regiment No. 13 in the battle of Custozza . (Painting by Ludwig Koch , 1908. Oil on canvas, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Vienna)

After the first partition of Poland in 1772 the Poles presented in the Austrian division area by order of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. A Uhlanen-Pulk on ( Pulk is the Polish name also "Regiment"). This consisted of 300 nobles (Polish Szlachta ) ("Towarzysz", in German "Comrade") and 300 subjects ("Pocztowy", so "companion"). When the Turkish War ended on November 1, 1791 , the first Uhlan regiment was established. By the beginning of the 19th century, two more were set up, and further strengthened by the dissolution of some Hussars and Chevaulegers regiments by 1851 . Soldiers from all areas of the dual monarchy could now join these units, but most of them came from Galicia and Croatia - Slavonia . In 1883 the lance typical of Uhlans was abolished, but the designation as Uhlan was retained. In 1918, the military division shared the fate of the monarchy and went down with it. (See also Kuk Ulanen .)


Even Russia presented at Ulanenregimenter of which, however, the end of the 19th century, only two (guard) remained. The common cavalry consisted only of dragoons , and Cossacks were used as light lancers .

United States

The 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, which was set up at the beginning of the US Civil War in strength of twelve companies , was nicknamed Rush's Lancers , as the association under the command of Colonel Richard H. Rush initially had nine feet (2.74 m) long wooden lances with a was armed with an eleven inch (28 cm) long blade, but was replaced by carbine in May 1863. The uniform did not show any elements of the traditional Uhlan uniform, but consisted of the dark blue tunic typical of the Union troops with the yellow weapon color of the cavalry, kepi and dark blue trousers, which were light blue from 1862 onwards. The traditional carrier today is the A Troop of the I / 104th Cavalry Regiment as a formation of the Army National Guard .


  • Emir Bukhari: Napoleon's Dragoons and Lancers. Osprey Publishing, Oxford 1976.
  • Liliane and Fred Funcken : historical uniforms,
    • Volume 2, 18th Century, French, British and Prussian Cavalry and Artillery, Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery of the Remaining European Countries. Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-570-01865-2 ;
    • Volume 3, Napoleonic times, 1st French regiments of the line, British, Prussian and Spanish troops from the time of the First Empire. Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-570-06389-5 ;
    • Volume 4, Napoleonic Era, 2nd French Imperial Guards, the Allied troops, the Swedish, Austrian and Russian armies at the time of the First Empire. Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-570-05449-7 ;
    • Volume 5, 19th Century, 1814–1850: France, Great Britain, Prussia. Infantry, cavalry, technical troops and artillery. Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-570-04961-2 ;
    • Volume 6, 19th century, 1850–1900: France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Russia. Infantry, cavalry, technical troops, artillery. Mosaik-Verlag, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-570-01461-4 .
  • Richard Knötel , Herbert Knötel, Herbert Sieg: Colored Manual of Uniform Studies (2 volumes). Augsburg 1997.
  • Douglas Herbert Hagger, RJ Marrion, DSV Fosten: Lancers and Dragoons: Uniforms of the Imperial German Cavalry, 1900-1914. London 1975.

Web links

Commons : Lancers  - collection of images, videos and audio files