Poland saved the day in Vienna 336 years ago

On September 12, 1683, Polish, Austrian and German forces under the command of King John III Sobieski crushed the Ottoman Empire Army, thwarting its expansive ambitions in Europe.

In July 1683, the Turkish armies led by Kara Mustafa started the siege of Vienna, pushing the Austrian Habsburg Empire forces back. The capital of Austria turned into a stronghold which kept repelling the enemy’s attacks, however, its garrison was suffering casualties and becoming more and more fatigued.

Poland, in line with the alliance signed with the Habsburg Empire, was supposed to help in the case of a Turkish attack. The Polish king mobilised around 27,000 soldiers, including 14,000 cavalrymen, and set off to the rescue of Vienna.

After arriving on site, John III Sobieski took general command over the allied forces, which amassed around 67,000 soldiers. They faced the Turkish Army, which was similar in numbers.

While the Austrian-German soldiers attacked the main Turkish units, the Polish cavalry launched a devastating assault from the rear, shocking the enemy and causing the mass retreat of the Ottoman Turks and their commander.

The death toll among the Turks was 10,000, while 5,000 were wounded. Polish forces lost 1,500 men and 2,500 wounded. Although most of the Ottoman army managed to escape, they lost all the guns used in the Vienna siege and all their supply stocks.

The battle is noted for including the largest known cavalry charge in history, engaging about 20,000 cavalry soldiers.

The glorious victory brought an end to the Turkish expansion in Europe. As a result of his failure, the Turks’ chief commander, Kara Mustafa, was killed by the sultan.

Despite the major strategic importance of the battle’s outcome, Poland did not gain much from it. In less than 100 years, the country, engulfed in the nobility’s mischiefs, with a disorganised army, entered into a long period of partitions by the neighbouring powers.