When Poland regained its independence in 1918, it had limited access to the Baltic, a result of being late in
developing a navy. By 1939 Poland had a small number of destroyers, submarines and auxiliary ships and
merchant vessels placing it at a significant numerical disadvantage in relation to the German navy. Poland had 4
destroyers, 5 submarines and 1 mine layer plus 2 more destroyers under construction in Gdynia, and 2 motor
torpedo boats in England.
Despite its small size, and the overwhelming ferocity of Germany's attack in the September Campaign, the Polish
navy played a memorable part in the defence of Gdynia, the Hel Peninsula, and Westerplatte, as well as numerous
other missions. Polish ships and coastal batteries brought down about 53 German aircraft, sank 2 German
destroyers, and damaged the infamous German battleship, the Schleswig-Holstein.
Shortly before Germany's assault,3 Polish destroyers, the Blyskawica, the Grom, and the Burza, as well as two
submarines, had all escaped from the Baltic Sea, and arrived in British waters. They were incorporated into the
British navy and took part in many Allied maneuvers. Some allied ships temporarily gave over command to the
Polish officers and crew in the light of their superb seamanship. British shipyards rapidly constructed more ships to
add to the Polish fleet.
Their missions included taking part in the attack on Narvik, shelling shore batteries, and engaging German raiders.
They covered the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France, shelling the coast around Dunkirk.
The Blyskawica even entered the Dunkirk canal, experiencing heavy bombing and gun fire. From 1940, Polish
destroyers took part in the Battle of the Atlantic. They protected shipping in the English Channel, patrolled and
escorted convoys in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean. They also took part in naval operations at Tobruk,
Dieppe, Lefoten, Murmansk, Malta, and Normandy.
Polish valor was always evident in every battle. When the HMS Hood was sunk by Germany's Bismarck, the Polish
ship ORP Piorun, from a short distance began firing on the giant Bismarck. Her guns hardly made any damage, but
kept the Bismarck tied up in a duel, earning much needed time for the British navy to arrive and destroy the German
ship. The next day, the British government showered congratulations on the Polish Navy, but not one word of it was
printed in the newspapers nor in books published after the end of the war. The only mention of praise was for
British gallantry and heroism.
Polish ships were instrumental in sinking several enemy battleships, shooting down aircraft, and escorting convoys
and patrolling the seas of Western Europe.
POLISH NAVY - STATISTICS
|Other Military Ranks
At the end of the war, the Polish fleet consisted of 1 cruiser, 6 destroyers, 3 submarines, and 7 motorgun boats.