Unknown Wrocław: former Military Engineering Museum

Unlike most of the other museums in Wrocław, it cannot be entered from the street. The former Military Engineering Museum (dawne Muzeum Wojsk Inżynieryjnych) can be visited only during the „Open Barracks Day” upon prior reservation – even with a guide. Entrance is free.

The museum is located in the Engineering and Chemical Defence Troops Training Centre (Centrum Szkolenia Wojsk Inżynieryjnych i Chemicznych) at ul. Obornicka 108; until recently, this building was the seat of the College of Military Engineering Officers (Wyższa Szkoła Oficerska Inżynierii Wojskowej), where sappers were trained. In 2018, the museum will probably become a local division of the Museum of Land Forces (Muzeum Wojsk Lądowych) in Bydgoszcz and will function as an independent institution.

The museum was established in 1975, although it was made available to the public a year later. The three pavilions contain 3 thousand showpieces that illustrate the history and development of military engineering from the oldest times till the present. There is really much to see, because military engineering troops have always dealt with the whole spectrum of military operations.

Bathory – the king of sappers

This place is really worth visiting. For example, you can learn that the first sappers appeared as early as under… King Władysław Jagiełło, when a crossing for troops heading for Grunwald was built on the Vistula in Czerwińsk. “King Stephen Bathory is even called the sapper in the crown, because it was during his reign that the first sapper units were formed. They were responsible for the construction of roads, crossings and fortifications", tells Wojciech Osypiuk, Head of the Centrum Club, who shows visitors around the museum. In the historical pavilion we can see portraits of outstanding military engineers, including General Tadeusz Kościuszko, General Jakub Jasiński or General Ignacy Prądzyński (the designer of the Augustów Canal).

”Sappers are always indispensable during a war. They walk at the front, clear the land of mines and build crossings on rivers as well as roads in swampy grounds so that the remaining troops could pass through them. However, most people associate them mainly with the removal of unexploded bombs“, says Captain Ewa Nowicka-Szuflik, the press officer of the Engineering and Chemical Defence Troops Training Centre.

In the middle of the historical pavilion, there is a monument dedicated to the sappers killed in action – it is a one-to-one replica of the monument "Glory to Sappers" that stands in Warsaw. In the nationwide demining campaign that took place after the war till 1956, sappers dug out 15 million mines and 30 million pieces of ammunition! The fragment of the monument created in the 1970s contains even the hidden symbol of Fighting Poland.

Goliath and other inventions

The pavilions contain a collection of wonders of military engineering from the times of World War II till the 1980s. In glass cases, we can see items such as elements of sapper's equipment: mine detectors, firing mechanisms, fuses and exploders that we know from war films (e.g., the TV series "Four Tank Men and a Dog”). What certainly attracts the visitor's attention, is a collection of various kinds of mines: a glass anti-personnel mine, a cardboard mine with a chemical firing mechanism, a concrete mine produced in Germany or a wooden mine looking like an ordinary box. “They had no metal parts, so they could not be detected by a mine detector”, explains Wojciech Osypiuk.

An impressive showpiece is Goliath – probably a prototype of the German tracked mine that could contain up to 150 kg of explosive substance. This type of vehicle was used by the Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising, when 300 people were killed in an explosion.

Curious items are Israeli anti-personnel mines, which are only slightly bigger than a matchbox, and American guava minecraft, the use of which is prohibited.

Wooden military engineering bridge

In the tradition room, we immediately go under a wooden bridge – it is the only such reconstruction of a bridge built by sappers in Poland. But there are even more surprises here, such as a gas mask for a horse from the interwar period (1918-1939). There is also a collection of protective clothes for soldiers of chemical defence troops, e.g., protective clothing against a flame-thrower from the 1950s, filtering protective clothes with an MP-5 mask, or “Trelleborg” gas-proof protective clothes that has been used until today.

The museum's collection is constantly expanded with new items, such as a large-size cartouche bullet from the 18th century, which has recently been brought by a demining patrol from Wrocław.

The most interesting objects, particularly for enthusiasts of militaria, are situated outside in the technical pavilion. We can find here a collection of various sappers’ boats, including a small wooden two-person raft used for crossing rivers, several amphibians, a TMP pontoon bridge park, a light foldable treadway bridge, as well as many vehicles (in various conditions) used for digging trenches, surveying the depth of the bottom, transporting mines or constructing roads. The object that deserves particular attention is an element of the pontoon bridge which is a war trophy. It was a lightweight aluminum structure made in Germany. Another very interesting exhibit is a German trench plough.

Eliza Głowicka - Wolska