The Polish Navy in 1939
Grom class destroyers (1936)
ORP Grom in 1940
In the absence of cruisers, many third rank marines chose to build powerful destroyers. This was the case for Poland with these two units built in Great Britain at Cowes. They were launched in 1936 and operational the following year. When they came out, they were the best and fastest destroyers in the world. Their artillery was impressive, with no less than seven guns of 120 mm in twin and a single mount. They also had quad heavy machine gun positions and Bofors AA, and could carry and laid 44 mines.
Two others, the Orkan and Huragan were started in Gdynia in 1938, but their construction was barely begun when they were captured and dismantled. These two ships, which were the pride of the Polish Navy, however, had to flee at the time of the invasion to avoid both the Stukas and a possible capture. It was the "Peking" operation that avoided the hopeless sacrifice of these units to allow them to reach the British Isles and from there continue the struggle.
The two destroyers were rearmed, giving up their TT rear bench for a 102 mm AA gun. The Grom operated in Norway in May 1940 and was sank on May 5 by Stukas of Kwg-100. Bryslawicka survived this campaign and was prepared for escort missions. Her 120 mm guns were placed by four twin mounts of 102 mm AA, plus four 20 mm AA guns and four Bofors 40 mm. In 1942, the 102 mm central lookout was removed and the two TT banks were replaced. A type 271 radar was added. In 1944, Bryslawicka received a Type 291 radar, a 284 firing system and another Type 293 radar. She was still used intensively until September 1945 and became in 1947 the flagship of the new Polish fleet, was decommissioned in 1965 and preserved. She is currently exhibited at Gdynia.
Błyskawica in the Atlantic
Wicher class destroyers (1936)
Władysław Grabski government tried to obtain a large credit from France, with French stock owners and the new Caen shipyard, which only stood if it signed a contract with the Poles. On September 9, 1925 the government decided to purchase two destroyers to Caen shipyard for approximately 22 million złotys. The shipyard presented a plan for two modified Bourrasque-class destroyers
and on April 2, 1926 the order was signed.
However, if the yard could deliver blueprints relatively fast, the ships were far from perfect. They were relatively slow and betrayed by a tall silhouette and handicapped by poor protection. It was revealed later they also had poorly designed watertight compartments and pipelines. In case of minor damage they could have been paralyzed. Stability was also poor due to the placement of the fuel tanks, high up on the superstructure. Through this, the shipyard's lack of experience was showing its true colors. Numerous other construction flaws were corrected after the ships's delivery by order of the Polish admiralty, but many issues were left unaddressed.
The Wicher class
construction took four years, two years above schedule. The steam turbines has been provided by Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire in St. Nazaire. The armament came from the Cherbourg arsenal and Schneider-St Chamond armory. Both ships had the same French standard-issue four 130 mm guns and two triple 550 mm/533 mm/450 mm torpedo tubes banks, but they were complemented by Polish armament, two 40 mm wz. 28 AA Bofors guns, two 240 mm Thornycroft depth charge launchers and two Wz BH200 depth charge launchers, plus two 60 wz. 08 naval mines.
ORP Wicher was eventually launched on July 10, 1928, but finally commissioned two years later at Cherbourg. Wicher means "gale", as a reminder of the class French names of meteorological events. She arrived at Gdynia and was well covered by the press unaware of her limitations, as Polish's first modern warship. ORP Burza ("storm"), had to wait until 1932, four years after the initial deadline. The construction choices had been mainly political, with French financial interests, but left a desperate yard manager and an angry Polish staff as a result. ORP Wicher career was short: She was sunk during the first three days of the war by aviation. ORP Burza survived the war however and became a museum ship, scrapped in 1977.
ORP Burza as a museum ship in the 1960s
Displacement: 1540t standard
Dimensions: 106.90 x 10.5 x 3.5m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Loire turbines, 8 Normand Boilers, 6000 hp, 28 knots.
Armament: 4 x 130 mm, 2 × 40 mm wz. 28 AA guns, 2×3 550 mm/533 mm/450 mm TTs, 2 × 240 mm Thornycroft & 2 × Wz BH200 DCT, 2 × 60 wz. 08 naval mines
Gryf, minelayer destroyer (1936)
This ship was one of the largest in the Polish fleet. She had been designed for a wide variety of tasks but was disappointing in the latter: As a training ship and presidential yacht. Designed in France by Augustin Normand, she was heavily armed and rolled a lot, with a high metacentric height. In addition, she was too cramped and underpowered. Operational in February 1938, she was attacked and struck on 1 September by the German Luftwaffe. She then served as a floating battery in Hela and was bombed on September 3 and sunk for good. Part of her armament was later recovered to reinforce Hela's defense. The Germans towed the hull to Gdansk and she served as a training target before being finally raised well after the war and sent to shipbreakers in 1964.
Displacement: 2250t, 2900t FL
Dimensions: 103.20 x 13.1 x 3.6m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Sulzer diesels and 6000 hp, 20 knots.
Armament: 6 x 120 mm (2x1, 2x2), 4 Bofors 40 mm AA (2x2), 4 MG 13,2 mm (2x2), 60 mines.
Wilk class submarines (1929)
ORP Wilk in 1939
These were French-built Normand-Fenaux type minelayer submarines. The Rys (1929), Wilk (1929) and Zbik (1931) came from AC de la loire, nantes, Augustin Normand and CNF. They were derived from the Saphir class
, longer, with a 260 ft diving limit 2500 nautical miles of radius at 10 knots. Of double hull configuration, they carried 40 mines in ten separate wells, each with four mines. But the system proved unreliable. These were good sea boats but noisy and left oil trails. In addition to the tubes they had four bow TTs and two trainable external TTs in the French tradition, further aft.
In addition to a 100 mm/40 gun on the forward deck, she also carried a 40 mm bofors behind the kiosk for AA defense, replaced later by a twin 13.2 mm heavy MG mount. After the war broke out, none could escape to UK due to their limited range. Rys and Zbik took refuge in the Swedish port of Stavnas, later joined by Sep. All three were transferred to Loch Malar. Only Wilk managed to escape through the Skagerrak and joined the Royal navy, but served only until 1942, because of the lack of spare parts and their age and condition. The two others were returned to Poland and scrapped in the 1950s.
Displacement: 980t, 1250t FL
Dimensions: 78.5 x 5.9 x 4.2m
Propulsion: 2 shaft Normand-Vickers diesels, 2 emevtric motors and 1800/1200 hp, 14/9 knots.
Armament: 6 x 550 mm (6, 1x2) TTs, 100 mm/40, Bofors 40 mm AA, 40 mines.
Orzel class submarines (1938)
The best Polish submarines by a fair margin were the two long-range cruisers built in the Netherlands at De Schelde and Rotterdam. They were 1400 tons, 84 m (275 feets) long boats tailored to attack German shipping in the Baltic and beyond. They were built by public subscription raised from 1935. These were large oceanic types with excellent fightng qualities, of the double hull type with five compartments. They could dive beyond 270 feets, and had a 7000 nautical miles radius at 10 knots. Orzel was commissioned in Feruary 1939, and arrived at Gdynia in April 1939 but made her trials in a hurry to avoid German sabotage in the Netherlands.
ORP Sep in 1939
However her sister-ship Sep was not ready in september and was interned at Stavnas, while Orzel was interned at Tallinn. She saw all her documents confiscated but later managed to sail off in the Baltic and get through the sund narrows in November, and later joined the UK. From there, she started a new wartime carrer. Her escape t Rosyth was applaud as she passed through German minefields and air and ASW patrols. She managed to sink the German steamer Rio de Janeiro but was ultimately lost probably becaiseuof a mine in the north sea in June 1940 while Sep was inactive during the war and returned to poland in 1945.
There was a modified Orzel class on paper by 1939. Both submersibles were to be built in France, at AC Augustin Normand and Loire, both of a modified Orzel type, with a 1550 tons displacement when diving, 87 m long, armed with twelve 550 mm tubes (four bow, four stern and two twin trainable banks on the surface), 20 torpedoes in store, two twin Bofors and possibly a single twin 13.2 mm heavy MG. Work was suspended in April 1939 and the hulls were later destroyed by the Germans to free the slipways.
Displacement: 1100t, 1473t FL
Dimensions: 84 x 6.7 x 4.17
Propulsion: 2 shaft Sulzer diesels, 2 Brown-Boveri electric motors and 4740/1100 hp, 20/9 knots.
Armament: 12 x 550 mm (4 bow, 4 stern, 2x2 pressure hull) TTs, 105 mm/41, 1x2 Bofors 40 mm AA, 1x2 13.2 mm MG
Jaskolka class minesweepers (1939)
Six new minesweepers were in service in September 1939. Their construction began in Modlin and Gdynia in 1933 and ended in 1938 with the admission of the latter, the Zuraw. They were solid units, but slow and weakly defended. In fact, the six ships were stationed in Gdynia in September 1939 and were attacked by the Luftwaffe and seriously damaged or sunk and permanently lost. four will be salvaged, repaired, and returned to service under German supervision as TFA 11, 7 and 8, escaping destruction. Their retrocession took place in 1946, only to be scrapped in 1960.
Dimensions: 45 x 5.5 x 1.37 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Nohab diesels and 1040 hp, 17.5 knots.
Armament: 1x 76 mm gun, 2x MG 13.2 mm, 30 mines.
Polish Monitors (1920-25)
The Polish River Monitors numbered six in September 1939. The first four and older were those of the Warsawa class
, including the Horodyszcze, Torun, Pinsk and Warsawa. They had been built in 1920 at Dantziger Werft shipyards to serve on the Vistula and its tributaries, protecting eastern Poland against Russian appetites. They were then the spearhead of the "Pinsk Flotilla". Originally they were armed with two pieces of 105 mm and 5 machine guns in turrets. Fully armored, they had a small superstructure and a lookout mast. However in 1928 they were rearmed by a 100 mm howitzer and two pieces of 75 mm, four AA machine guns. Between 1936 and 1939 they were rebuilt and their silhouette was lowered, the engine changed for two Glennifer of 100 hp. Three 75 mm turret pieces were mounted while four turret machine guns were installed on a central armored casemate. On September 1, 1939, they scuttled without fighting on the Prypec and were captured and renamed by the Russians who in 1941 used them against the German invasion. They were scuttled to avoid capture.
Displacement: 110t, 130 t FL
Dimensions: 34.5 x 5.1 x 0.7 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Glennifer diesels 4 cylinders and 200 hp, 11 knots.
Armour: Max 11 mm
Armament: 3 x 75 mm (3in), 4 x 13,2 mm MGs.
The Krakow class monitors
were a bit more recent, and these two buildings built at the Zelnewskiego shipyard in 1924-26 were assigned to the Pinsk flotilla. His locally built diesels were Perkun-Kromhout. Originally, their weaponry included a 100 mm turret Howitzer at the rear and two 75 mm central turret pieces with a 360 degree firing arc, and four turreted machine guns. In 1932, the two 75 mm pieces were replaced by 100 mm Howitzers. In 1939, we had added 4 machine guns in double turrets. The Krakow was scuttled on the Prypec near Kuzliczyn on September 21, 1939 and the Wilno sunk near Osobowicze on the 19th. The Krakow was later captured by the Russians, renamed Bobruisk and was part of the Pinsk flotilla. It was bombed and sunk during Operation Barbarossa in 1941.
Displacement: 80t, 110 t FL
Dimensions: 35 x 6 x 0,39 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 diesels PK 120 hp, 7,5 knots.
Armour: 5-8 mm
Armament: 3 Howitzer 100 mm, 8 x 13,2 mm MGs.
Kaszub class TBs (1914)
Of the six torpedo boats owned by Poland in 1920 and German acquisitions, four were of type A56 and dated to 1918. Displacing 381 tons, they were only three in 1939 as Krakowiak was scrapped in 1937. Capable of reaching 28 knots, they were armed with two 88 mm guns and a single 450 mm TT that can be reloaded. They were captured at berth in 1939 but presumably not used by the Kriegsmarine. Two other torpedo-destroyers of type V105 (1914) had also been in service, the Kaszub being badly damaged during a storm on July 20, 1925. Subsequently, the Mazur was completely rebuilt to serve as a gunners training ship, while torpedo tubes were deposed and the 88 mm main gun, for four 76 mm (3 in). Machines were renovated, and she was sunk by the Luftwaffe during the first hours of the German attack, becoming, on September 1st, the first ship sunk during the Second World War
Specifications (Mazur 1939)
Displacement: 350t, 440 t FL
Dimensions: 62 x 6,2 x 2,60 m
Propulsion: 2 shaft 2 Vulkan AEG turbines, 4500 hp, 25 knots.
Armament: 4 x 76 mm (3 in).
The Free Polish Navy (1941-45)
"During the war the Polish Navy in exile was supplemented with leased British ships, including two cruisers, seven destroyers, three submarines, and a number of smaller fast-attack vessels. The Polish Navy fought alongside the Allied navies in Norway, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and aided in the escort of Atlantic and Arctic convoys, in which ORP Orkan was lost in 1943. Polish naval vessels played a part in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, and in the landings in Normandy during D-Day.
ORP Orkan in 1943
During the course of the war, one cruiser, four destroyers, one minelayer, one torpedo boat, two submarines and some smaller vessels (gunboats, mine hunters etc.) were sunk; in total, twenty-six ships were lost, mostly in September 1939. In addition to participating in the sinking of Bismarck, the Polish Navy sank an enemy destroyer and six other surface ships, two submarines and a number of merchant vessels."
But the most important transfers were those of the Dragon cruiser in 1943 (ex-HMS Dragon) and Conrad, ex-Danae in 1944, after the loss of the first. They were also the submersible Jastrzab, ex-S25 American, an ancient unit transferred to the British under the "lend-lease" device, and which was sent to escort convoys of the Arctic. But two more recent ones were attributed to him, of class U, the Dzik and Sokol, who operated successfully in the Mediterranean against the Italian convoys and gained the nickname of "terrible twins". There were also 10 torpedo launchers transferred to the summer (Type MTB White and Type MGB) and for one year, two French submarine fighters captured in Great Britain in July 1940.
D class cruisers
ORP Dragon in 1944
The Polish Navy did not have any cruiser in 1939. Her ships were destroyed or took refuge in Great Britain. Afterwards, some ships resumed service under Polish colors but fully integrated into the Royal Navy. As more and more Polish seamen also took refuge in UK, and were available for action at sea, but without a ship. The British choosed to give two cruisers to the Poles, the Conrad and Dragon. They were not in service simultaneously: The first into service was ORP Dragon, ex-HMS Dragon. Both ships were light cruiser of the class "D" of 1918.
They had their main artillery in simple shielded mounts but their armament was supplemented by modern torpedo tubes banks, and an updated AAA. In addition, a radar, a huff-duff antenna, a sonar room, and ASW grenade launchers were installed. Official transfer was done in January 15, 1943. ORP Dragon was sank on July 8, 1944 off the Normandy coast, supporting supply operations of the beachheads, by a human torpedo of the Nebel type. Judged irreparable, she was towed away and finally sunk to form a breakwater in front of one of the artificial ports of the coast.
On October 4, 1944, the Royal Navy gave the Poles the former HMS Danae of the same class, renamed ORP Conrad, with the same modifications. She served intensively until the end of the war and was sent back to Great Britain on September 26, 1946, to be shortly after broken up.
Displacement: 4990t, 6100t FL
Dimensions: 143.6 x 13.9 x 5 m
Propulsion: 2 propellers, 2 Brown-Curtis turbines, 6 Yarrow boilers, 40,000 hp, 29 knots.
Armament: 5 x 152 mm, 12 x TLT 533 mm (4x3), 16 x 40 mm AA (4x4) Bofors AA.
Polish (ex-British) destroyers
A "G" class destroyer transferred in may 1840, loaned by the Royal Navy, and keeping her name. She served until the end of the war and was returned to UK i 1946.
The former French Ouragan seized in a british port after the fall of France. She was roughly of the same type than the Wicher class, and this helped training the Polish crews. She was transferred on 18/07/1940 and returned to the Royal Navy in April 1941.
An "N" class destroyer, former HMS nerissa, transferred on 5.11.1940 to compensate for the loss of Grom. She served well during wartime and was returned in 1946.
Already on drydocks for repairs she she took part in the defence of Clydebank against the Luftwaffe in March 1941. In may, she joined the British 4th Destroyer Flotilla (Cossack, Maori, Sikh and Zulu, Captain Philip Vian) to escort the troop convoy WS8B from Glasgow to the Indian Ocean. On 25 May, this force was hastily detached to join for the German battleship Bismarck, unleashed in the Atlantic.
Piorun eventually spotted the battleship, shadowing her and leading torpedo attacks the night before she was sunk. She operated in pait with HMS Maori, charged at Bismarck to distract some fire while Maori manoeuvred to fire her torpedoes. Piorun duelled with Bismarck for an hour, without hit although a near miss at 20 yards (18 m) make Piorun brake the duel and retire. Piorun will also participated in Operation Halberd (Malta convoys), Operation Husky (Sicily). She returned to the Home Fleet in 1944, particpated in Operation Deadlight, sinking several captured German Type XXI submarines.
An M-class destroyers, wartime repeats of the preceding L class named HMS Myrmidon and built in Scotland in 1942. She was transferred to the free Polish navy in December 1942. ORP Orkan served in the Arctic, to Mursmansk. Early in 1943, she has been succesfully escorting the convoy JW-53 to Russia, plus the return convoy RA-52. She patrolled and was also a convoy escort in the North Atlantic. In July of the same year she transferred the body Władysław Sikorski from Gibraltar to England. However in october 8, she was torpedoed and sank at 07.05 hours by a GNAT homing torpedo fired from U-378. She was escorting the convoy SC 143. One officer and 43 men survived, thanks to the quick and risky intervention of HMS Musketeer.
This type of destroyer was armed with three twin 4.7 in (120 mm) Mk XI dual-purpose guns, a single QF 4 in (102 mm) Mk V anti-aircraft gun a quadruple QF 2-pdr (40 mm) Mk VIII AA guns "pom pom" and two single Oerlikon 20 mm (0.8 in) AA guns plus two quadruple, and two twin 0.5 in (12.7 mm) Vickers Mark III anti-aircraft machineguns. Torpedoes were reduced to a single quadruple 21 in (533 mm) bank but she also carried 42 depth charges, two racks, and two DC throwers for ASW warfare, which reflected the priorities already in 1941 when the Type M plans were first drafted.
Former US-built S25? She has been at first transferred to the RN to evaluate the adoption of these WW1-vintage surplus American types. At the time the crew of Wilk (lost) was available, it was decided in 1941 to transfer the boat to the Poles and renamed her. Jastrzab screened the convoy PQ but was sunk later by error by the Norwegian destroyer St Albans and British Seagull on 2.5.1942.
-Dzik class submarines:
The "terrible twins" were ex-U class submarines Urchin and P52 transferred on 11.10.1942. Both served in the Mediterranean. Dzik was used from December 1944 as a training submarine, joined later by ORP Sokol.
-S1 class MTB:
Two motor torpedo boats built by public subscription at White, Cowes in March 1940, and the first was ceded as S1 to the Poles in August 1940, returned in February 1944.
-S2 class MTB:
Two ASW power boats intended for the RN as MGB44 and 45, transferred in July 1940 and commissioned as S2 Wilczur and S3 Wysel. The first was discarded in 1943 and the second in 1944.
-S4, S5 class MTBs:
In total six more MTBs were transferred in 1943 and 1944. They were renamed S4-S10 and returned in 1944 or 1945.
Ex-French sub-chasers which took refuge at the French capitulation, were interned and later ceded to the Poles on 19.7.1940. after some service they were returned in February 1941.
http://hmscavalier.org.uk/G90/ About the ORP Orkan