The ORP Błyskawica was a destroyer in the Polish Navy during and after World War II .
The warship was evacuated to Great Britain before the start of the war as part of Operation Beijing and took part in several Allied operations in the service of the Polish government- in- exile .
The Błyskawica survived the war and has been a museum ship in the Polish Naval Museum in Gdynia since May 1, 1976 . At the moment (as of Nov. 2019) the "Błyskawica", with her 82 years of service, is also the oldest existing destroyer in the world.
Construction and design features
To support the outdated Wicher- class destroyers , the Polish Navy ordered from the British shipyard John Samuel White & Co Ltd. in Cowes on the Isle of Wight two modern large destroyers. Construction of both ships began in 1935.
Since Poland had only a very short coastline, the planned main task of the destroyers was to protect supplies. Therefore, the ships were given the ability to defend both coasts and convoys escort.
With three steam boilers driving two shafts via two Parsons steam turbines with a total output of 54,000 hp , the destroyers were able to travel up to 39.5 knots , which is the speed of the then modern destroyers of the Farragut -, Porter -, Le Fantasque - or Tribal -Class exceeded.
The ships were very large with a maximum displacement of 2,400 ts for the shallow and narrow waters of the Baltic Sea .
Due to their size and range of 3,500 nautical miles , the destroyers were able to escort allied convoys in Great Britain and France to both Gdynia ( Gdansk Bay ) and Constanța ( Black Sea ) in Romania .
The Błyskawica was laid down in September 1935 , launched on October 1, 1936 , and entered service on November 25, 1937. The ship's godmother was Edward Raczyński's wife , Ambassador to London, Cycilia Raczyńska (1906–1962).
Since the tasks of the Błyskawica during the war changed more and more to those of a destroyer escort, the British anti-submarine techniques continued to develop and the air defense became more and more important, the armament had to be fundamentally converted twice during the war. After the end of the war, the ship continued to be used by the Polish Navy. From this point on, Poland was integrated into the Soviet Warsaw Pact alliance system. This alliance had completely different weapons standards that required further conversion.
- Armament from 1941
- eight 10.2 cm anti-aircraft guns (4 × 2)
- four 4.0 cm anti-aircraft guns (2 × 2)
- four 2.0 cm flak
- six 55.0 / 53.3 cm torpedo tubes (2 × 3)
- Depth charges
- Armament from 1942
- nine 10.2 cm anti-aircraft guns (4 × 2, 1 × 1)
- four 4.0 cm anti-aircraft guns (2 × 2)
- four 2.0 cm flak
- three 55.0 / 53.3 cm torpedo tubes (1 × 3)
- Depth charges
- Armament from 1951
- eight 10.0 cm guns (4 × 2)
- ten 3.7 cm anti-aircraft guns (4 × 2, 2 × 1)
- Depth charges
- current armament (as museum ship)
- eight 10.0 cm guns (4 × 2)
- two 4.0 cm flak (1 × 2)
- eight 3.7 cm anti-aircraft guns (3 × 2, 2 × 1)
- three torpedo tubes (1 × 3)
- Depth charges
- two sea mines wz.-08/39
Due to the overwhelming superiority of the German Navy (see: Balance of power at the beginning of the war ), plans were made to evacuate the large Polish surface units to Great Britain even before the war began . Therefore, on August 29, 1939, as part of Operation Peking Błyskawica , the older sister ship Grom and the Wicher- class destroyer Burza left their home base in Gdynia to escape to Great Britain. The destroyer association reached the North Sea on September 1 without incident , where it met the British destroyers Wanderer and Wallace , who were escorting the three Polish ships to Leith in Scotland . The base of operations of the Polish Association was Harwich in England until April 1940 .
On November 6th, Grom and Błyskawica received the order to rescue shot down British pilots from the Dogger Bank area . The destroyers were with torpedoes from the German He 115 - seaplanes attacked and had to retreat.
On November 21, Grom , Burza and Błyskawica ran together with the British destroyer Gipsy for patrol in the North Sea. The Gipsy hit a German sea mine , broke in half and sank. The three Polish warships rescued the survivors and continued patrol.
On April 4, 1940, the three Polish destroyers were relocated to their new base in Rosyth , but left it immediately to run together with the British light cruisers Arethusa and Galatea and three destroyers off the Norwegian coast. On April 9, the German company Weserübungen began the invasion of Norway and Denmark . The three Polish destroyers were commissioned to escort the HN-24 convoy, which consisted of 31 merchant ships , together with the British destroyer Tartar . The ships fled Norway, some were loaded with the Norwegian gold treasure . The convoy reached Great Britain without losses.
On April 12th, Burza , Grom and Błyskawica reached the base in Rosyth, were refueled and drove immediately to Scapa Flow , which they left on April 19th for Narvik . During the crossing, the Burza was damaged by a storm and forced to turn back. On April 21st, Grom and Błyskawica reached the Vestfjord . Both ships actively participated in the defense against the German invasion.
On May 2, Błyskawica drove into the Rombakken Fjord off Narvik and was involved in an artillery duel with German land troops. Three land guns were destroyed. The destroyer received five hits, killing three sailors.
After a two-day retreat in the Skjell Fjord, where the ship was repaired, the Błyskawica returned to the Rombakken Fjord on May 5. The day before, Grom was lost in a German air raid . The Błyskawica was attacked unsuccessfully by German bombers for twelve hours. In the evening there was another exchange of fire with German 8.8 cm flak , which could be held down.
On May 6th, there was heavy fighting with German aircraft, one of which could be shot down. On May 10, there were again heavy air strikes in which another bomber was shot down. On the same day, Błyskawica left Norwegian waters for Scapa Flow.
On May 26, the Błyskawica was sent to the English Channel together with the British light cruiser Galatea . That day, Operation Dynamo , the evacuation of Allied troops from France, began. The next day the destroyer was instructed to meet with the British destroyers Gallant and Vivacious in order to enter the small port of La Panne (De Panne has no port!) Near Dunkirk . The Polish destroyer missed the meeting point and was then ordered to enter the port of Dunkirk with the destroyer Vega to find out whether it was suitable for the evacuation mission, which was confirmed.
On May 29, the Błyskawica was unsuccessfully attacked by two German bombers. During the night the help signal from the badly damaged British destroyer Greyhound was received. The Polish destroyer was able to tow the ship, totally overloaded with several thousand soldiers, to Dover .
On May 30, the French Bourrasque- class destroyer Cyclone was attacked by the S-24 speedboat and badly damaged. The ship could only run at five knots and requested escort from the Polish destroyer. The Błyskawica accompanied the ailing ship. In the dark, both ships met the French destroyer Scirocco , loaded with many soldiers , which was sunk an hour later by the German speedboats S-23 and S-26 . The Błyskawica then left the association for a short time, but was only able to save 15 survivors.
On June 9, the destroyer ran for maintenance work in its shipyard in Cowes on the Isle of Wight .
On August 12, the Błyskawica took part in the air defense of Portsmouth and was able to shoot down a German He 111 .
On August 30, the destroyer ran out together with the Burza to escort a convoy to the USA . However, due to an accident, Burza soon had to turn back.
A lifeboat was picked up on September 1 at 56 ° 20 ' N , 10 ° 34' W. On board was the seaman Osman Adem, the only survivor of the British merchant ship Har Zion . The ship had been sunk the day before by the German submarine U 38 . The remaining 34 men of the crew were killed.
On September 2, the Błyskawica left the convoy together with several British destroyers and escorted a convoy to Great Britain. The next day was the periscope of a German U-boat sighted and the submarine with depth charges attacked. Two hours later, the same submarine was probably caught and attacked again in thick fog.
On September 29, a destroyer unit, to which the Błyskawica belonged, ran out in the English Channel. Błyskawica and the British destroyer Broke were supposed to take action against German speedboats. These captured the Allied ships earlier and attacked with torpedoes . The destroyers were able to avoid the torpedoes, but could not pursue the speedboats.
On October 20th, the Polish ship patrolled the British destroyers Kashmir , Jaguar and Broke in the English Channel. Four German destroyers were cleared up. The German ships were able to withdraw and the Allied force could not attack.
On October 26th, Błyskawica collided with a freighter . The accident did not claim any victims. The destroyer was damaged and had to be repaired.
After the repair, the destroyer set sail on December 4th to escort a convoy to the USA. The ship got caught in a storm that severely damaged the steering gear and torpedo tubes , among other things . The Błyskawica had to return to Greenock on December 6th due to the accident .
From February 11, the destroyer escorted a convoy to Iceland , but was damaged again in a storm on February 14 and returned to Greenock early.
On March 13, the Polish ship, although it was in dock , had to take part in Glasgow's air defense .
After lengthy repairs and modifications to the armament, the Błyskawica was transferred to Scapa Flow for training on December 2nd. After a stopover in Greenock on December 20, the destroyer reached Reykjavík , Iceland on December 30 .
On April 4, the destroyer was damaged again in a storm and returned to Cowes for repairs on April 11, where the ship was caught in a German air raid.
On April 23, the air force attacked Cowes again and Błyskawica , which was in the dock, was damaged by a bomb that exploded nearby. On April 28, the ship was attacked by six German Messerschmitt Bf 109s and suffered minor damage.
After heavy German air raids on Cowes on May 4th, the crew of the Błyskawica took part in the fire fighting in the city.
From August 10, the destroyer escorted the convoy SC-94 together with the Broke .
In November the Błyskawica took part near Algiers in Operation Torch , the Anglo-American landing in North Africa .
After the Allied landing in Normandy began on June 6, the German destroyers Z 32 , Z 24 , ZH 1 and the torpedo boat T 24 attempted to attack Allied ships in the English Channel on the night of June 8th to 9th . An allied association, consisting of the eight destroyers Tatar , Ashanti , Haida , Huron , Piorun , Eskimo , Javelin and Błyskawica , captured the German ships on the French island of Ouessant . During the following artillery duel, the Z 32 and ZH 1 were sunk. T 24 and Z 24 were badly damaged. On the Allied side, Tatar was seriously damaged.
During the war, the Błyskawica drove 146,000 nautical miles, damaged or sunk three submarines, shot down at least four aircraft and was also involved in the sinking of other enemy ships.
After the end of the war
A year after the end of the war, the ship went to the Royal Navy , which handed it over to the Navy of the Republic of Poland in 1947. The Błyskawica was overhauled in 1951 and modernized according to Soviet standards.
On May 1, 1976, the Błyskawica replaced the Burza in the Naval Museum in Gdynia as a museum ship and has since been on public display in the presidential pool on the south pier. The history of the Polish Navy is presented on board. In 1986 the Błyskawica received the highest Polish war award, the Cross in Gold of the Virtuti Militari order, on behalf of its team for their services in the Second World War .
In 2004 the Błyskawica was given a general overhaul at the naval shipyard and given the light blue camouflage that it wore when it patrolled the North Sea between autumn 1941 and spring 1942 . The exhibition on the history of the Polish Navy has also been revised. The ship can be viewed between May 1st and mid-November every day except Mondays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and in the afternoon between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
- komandor podporucznik Tadeusz Podjazd-Morgenstern - November 7, 1937 - January 2, 1939
- komandor podporucznik Włodzimierz Kodrębski - January 2, 1939 - October 1939
- komandor podporucznik Jerzy Umecki - November 23, 1939 - February 2, 1940
- komandor podporucznik Stanisław Nahorski - February 2, 1940 - May 28, 1940
- komandor podporucznik Wojciech Francki - May 28, 1940 - August 1940
- kapitan marynarki Tadeusz Gorazdowski - August 1940 - February 1941
- komandor podporucznik Wojciech Francki - March 1941 - March 1942
- komandor podporucznik Tadeusz Gorazdowski - March 1942 - June 1942
- komandor podporucznik Ludwik Lichodziejewski - June 1942 - June 1943
- komandor podporucznik Konrad Namieśniowski - July 1943 - December 1944
- komandor podporucznik Ludwik Lichodziejewski - December 1944 - November 1945
- komandor podporucznik Wojciech Francki - November 1945 - May 28, 1946
- komandor podporucznik Bolesław Romanowski - 1947
- Komandor podporucznik Wacław Krzywiec - 1947–1948
- komandor podporucznik Zbigniew Węglarz - 1948–1950
- komandor podporucznik Zdzisław Studziński - 1950–1952
- captain marynarki Stanisław Mielczarek - 1952–1954
- captain marynarki Hieronim Kubera - 1954–1957
- porucznik marynarki Kryspin Lech - 1957–1962
- captain marynarki Tadeusz Morzycki - 1962–1963
- captain marynarki Józef Żywczak - 1963–1967
- komandor podporucznik Bolesław Kilians - 1967–1968
- captain marynarki Zenon Sawa - 1969–1974
- komandor podporucznik Zbigniew Strych - 1974-1979
- komandor podporucznik Władysław Łomża - 1979–1982
- captain marynarki Mieczysław Waryszak - 1982–1990
- komandor porucznik Lesław Paprocki - 1990–2002
- komandor porucznik Jerzy Łubkowski - 2002–2017
- komandor porucznik Walter Jarosz - 2017–
- MJ Whitley: Destroyers in World War II , Motorbuchverlag, Stuttgart, 2nd edition 1997, ISBN 3-613-01426-2
- Błyskawica on uboat.net ( engl. )
- GROM destroyers on navypedia
- Błyskawica on polishnavy
- Błyskawica - Polish newsreel report on YouTube (Polish)
- ^ "ORP" is the abbreviation for "Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej" and the name prefix of Polish ships. ORP means "Warship of the Republic of Poland".
- ↑ In the Polish language "Błyskawica" means " lightning ".
- ↑ a b Historia Gdyni , section Dynia Wspolczesna , accessed on September 27, 2011.
- ↑ "komandor podporucznik" corresponds to lieutenant commander .
- ↑ "kapitan marynarki" is comparable to first lieutenant at sea .
- ↑ "porucznik marynarki" is comparable to first lieutenant at sea .
Coordinates: 54 ° 31 '10.4 " N , 18 ° 33' 4.4" E