Orders & Medals Society of America Forums Other Medal Related Topics Identifications Polish military uniform, circa 1932

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    Hi Folks,
    A friend of mine told me about this website and that you folks would be excited about helping with identifying the medals and badges from a photo from 1932-ish of a Polish officer who served in WW1. It’s my great-great-grandfather Michal Miarecki, born in 1855 in Szymbark (Gorlice), Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now southern Poland). I have had several "experts" take a look at the photo, and they have given me their assessments. However, they don’t agree, and so I’m hoping that you folks can clear up the confusion.

    The link to the photo is below. I posted the highest resolution scan that I have of the photo. I can also tell you that, with Photoshop, we were able to tease out that there is a 3 across the rank bars, typically indicating his unit/regiment.


    The most controversy occurs with the badges, both the 3 on the bottom and the 1 on the top. I am trying to identify the top badge above the medals, which has several interpretations. If you Google other Polish high-ranking officials from this war and era, you will find that badge on other uniforms too, but with no explanation.

    This one will be a particularly interesting challenge for you. I look forward to reading what you folks think about all the medals and badges. Thanks for all your help in advance!

    Sandy Miarecki

    jb floyd

    The medals are fairly straightforward:

    Order Virtuti Militari
    Independence Cross
    Order Polonia Restituta
    Cross of Valor, with 3 bars
    Cross of Merit
    Commemorative Medal for the War 1918-1921]
    Medal for the 10th Anniversary of the Restoration of Independence

    The badge above the ribbons is the badge of the Inspector General of the Armed Forces.

    The identification of the regimental badges below the medals will take someone with better eyes than mine. Polish badges fairly intricate designs and many are distinguished by color and small details. Perhaps one of our Polish specialists can decipher those.


    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the speedy reply! The medals have been identified exactly as you described by the other experts as well.

    If others have difficulty seeing the details of the badges, I will certainly post the answers I have received so far so that people can mull over the choices and pick out details that rule out or confirm them.

    Ironically, no archives has any records about the military service of this gentleman. I checked with Warsaw (3 times), Poznan, Moscow, Berlin, Vienna, and even the various Pilsudski organizations around the world. Nothing. You’d think that a Polish Army Major with a Virtuiti Militari would show up SOMEWHERE. So, I keep trying.

    I’m looking forward to others’ determinations of the badges too.

    Thanks again,

    lukasz gaszewski

    Hi Sandy,

    As a Polish resident and as someone interested in the history of Polish awards I will try to lend you a hand. Although military badges are somewhat out of my specialty, the ones worn by your great great grandfather are quite distinctive and I think I am able to identify them all.

    Your great great grandfather is depicted in an army pre-1936 uniform. In the Polish Army at that time the branch of service was denoted by color collar patches, so it is usually hard to identify on bw photos. Still, I believe his is an infantry uniform, so the patches should be dark blue with a yellow edging. Despite the old-fashioned uniform, the photo must have been taken in 1936 or later, as the badge of the Inspector General was instituted on May, 6 1936.

    What regards the medals, Jeff’s identification is excellent. I can only add to what Jeff said that the Virtuti Militari and Polonia Restituta are both the 5th Class, while the Cross of Merit is in silver rather than in gold. At the time when the photo was taken, the gold cross was awarded to generals and colonels only and that rule was strictly obeyed, so it was very unlikely for a major to obtain one in gold.

    The three badges under the medals are as follows:

    1. Decoration for Faithful Service – instituted by Commandant Jozef Pilsudski in 1916 and awarded to soldiers of the 1st Brigade of Polish Legions
    2. Commemorative decoration of the Polish Military Organization ( or ) – a secret Polish military structure, organized in 1914 – the badge was instituted, as far as I know, in 1919. You can find some more information about that organization here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Mil … ganisation
    3. The badge is turned by 45 degrees, which makes it more difficult to recognize. Still, I think the following regimental badges can be taken into account: 1st Infantry Rgt., 5th Inf. Rgt., 6th Inf. Rgt., 41st Inf. Rgt. or 1st Light Artillery Rgt. They all looked almost identical and differed only with numbers and minor details. I think I can see # 1 on it, so it will be either the 1st Inf. Rgt. or 1st Artillery Rgt. As the collar patches of light artillery were dark green with a black edging, they would come out differently on a bw photo. So I would vote for the 1st Infantry Regiment of Jozef Pilsudski’s Legions.

    (I am sorry, at the moment I do not have any photo of the Armed Forces Inspector General commemorative badge)

    From what you are writing, you do not have any record of your great great grandfather’s military service, do you? Do you know at least where he lived or where and when he died? The # "3" on his shoulder boards is another mystery to me. It is possible that Maj. Miarecki was transferred to the 3rd Infantry Regiment, but why then isn’t he wearing its regimental badge? It is surely none of the badges on his uniform. The Major might have not received the badge or, which is more likely, he just chose not to wear it. By regulations that were in force at that time, no soldier was authorized to wear more than three badges on the uniform pocket.

    I absolutely agree that the lack of any information in case of a person who served in the Polish Military Organization, in the Polish Legions and then was a high-ranking officer in the Inspectorate General, and additionally was a recipient of VM, Independence Cross and 4 Crosses of Valor is incredible . If I may suggest something, do contact the Polish Institute in London. If any records have been preserved outside Poland, it is just there that you should look for them. The gentlemen at the Institute are a bit old-fashioned, but if you manage to win their confidence, they will do their best to assist you in your efforts. I will search through my resources too. No success guaranteed, but at least I will try.

    Best regards,
    Lukasz Gaszewski


    Thank you so much for your very detailed response. I apologize for not responding earlier, but I was in Poland and just got back. You have given me much to think about. What I find interesting is that the uniform is pre-1936, but one of the badges (inspector general) is post-1936. The previous assessment was that this photo was taken between 1930-1935. Hmm…

    I have had several different assessments of the lower left badge. If you look closely at the center of the badge, it appears to be a large 3 (larger than the center of the badge, with the bottom of the 3 hanging down into the lower section), which would agree with the 3 on the shoulder rank, indicating that he was in the 3rd infantry regiment at some time. Pilsudski’s 1st Legion had such an interesting history, with the unit refusing to swear allegiance to Germany and thus "disbanding", with the men being arrested, imprisoned, or escaping arrest to serve with another Legion, etc. So, it’s another idea to ponder.

    Your assessment of the dates raises additional doubts about the authenticity of this photo. Something that I have not been able to reconcile is that Michal was an ordinary farmer, not a wealthy man with tons of property, or a nice house, etc. I have seen the house that he was born in, and the house that he later owned and had his family in. They do not tell a story of a man with means, such as a high-ranking military officer should have. I have confirmed with people who knew Michal that it is indeed him in the photo, that they recognize his face as Michal.

    Then there is an additional story, a rumor that was shared with me only hesitantly, that Michal committed suicide in 1944 when he heard that the Russians (or Germans?) were coming to get him. The area was in occupied Poland during this time, and the Russians were killing people in WW2 who fought them during WW1, and of course the Pilsudski’s Legions had fought Russia in border wars after WW1 was over. So, I am stuck wondering which stories are true and which ones are not.

    Michal was born to Jacob and Julianna Miarecki on 28 Aug 1855 in Szymbark (Gorlice), Poland. He married Maria Trybus, and most of his kids went to the US or other countries during the early 1900’s. Michal died 26 Jan 1944 in Szymbark. I have seen his grave in the cemetery, and there are no markings about any military service. I tried to talk to the woman who worked for him (a housekeeper), but she died 1 year ago. I discovered this sad fact on my recent trip, so I was pretty bummed about that.

    A curiosity about his military service is that he would have been 59 years old in 1914 when the war started. This is not the typical age for someone to serve, but maybe he was in the Reserves in some capacity, or training new recruits. Or involved with the Sokol, which was the sports group used to recruit volunteers from Galicia into the Legions. Was this photo commemorating an honorary title?

    Another curiosity is that Gorlice was the site of a MAJOR battle during WW1, one that is in the US Army manuals in fact. So, was Michal involved with this battle in some way, leading to his awards and medals? I have been to the Gorlice museum, twice, and spoken with their researchers, but they have no information at all about this man’s service.

    So, that is what I know and don’t know, and you’re right in that the Warsaw and Poznan archives have no information about this man’s service, NONE at all. I have also contacted the London institute you recommended, and they have nothing, but then again this was before I had all the current information about the uniform and possible regiments. Maybe I should contact them again.

    ANY additional help you can provide is greatly appreciated, along with anyone else who would like to comment on this puzzle. Thank you again for giving me the new information to ponder.

    Take care,

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