About the Exhibition
Welcome to Polish Naval Memories of World War II 1939-1947
The Polish Navy, fighting in exile from G.B. with the Royal Navy, was an elite service numbering only 3,720 officers and sailors on 1st July 1945. Yet the achievements of the Polish Navy to the Allied WW2 effort were both distinguished and heroic and included the participation in the major theatres of War – September 1939 campaign, Battle of the Atlantic, Arctic Convoys, the Mediterranean, operations in Narvik, Dunkirk, the Lofoten Islands, Tobruk, Dieppe and the allied landings in Normandy and Italy. British First Lord of the Admiralty said of the Polish Navy in 1944 …”In view of its small size, the number of operations in which the Polish Navy has taken a part is almost incredible”.
At least 840 of these sailors escaped from exile in the USSR with General Anders Army in 1942 via Persia. My own father, Władysław Pacewicz, was one such recruit. At 13 years of age, as a deportee in the USSR, he enlisted in the 6th Infantry Division in Totskoye, Russia following the “Amnesty” to Polish captives in 1941. Lying about his age he volunteered for the Polish Navy and, by October 1942, aged just 14 years he was in G.B. and sworn into the Polish Navy. He served in several theatres of the war at sea on ORP Piorun and ORP Garland. My interest in the Polish Navy, and my desire to commemorate the stories of these brave sailors, led me to Martin Hazell – also the son of a Polish Navy veteran. In finding out about the father he never really knew his research during the last 20 years took him to other stories, all over the world, via personal interviews of veterans and their families, and via the internet. Martin published many of these stories in his 2012 book “Poles Apart: Polish Naval Memories of WWII” published by the South West Martime Historical Society (G.B.).
A great many of the veteran stories in this exhibition come from stories that Martin Hazell has generously shared with Kresy-Siberia. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Martin for his collaboration and to express my pleasure that we have been able to share these stories from Polish Navy veterans. Thank you also to the many families who so generously shared the stories of their loved ones and to the many Kresy-Siberia members who assisted with translation work and material for the KSVM Hall of Memories.
This multi-media special exhibition explores the contribution of the Polish Navy to the Allied war effort during the six years of the war at sea 1939-1945 and the two years immediately afterwards until 1947 with the Polish Resettlement Corps in G.B. Whilst many of the details of the Polish Navy during WWII are well known (the battles, the ships, the facts), the stories of the veterans are not. This exhibition tells the story of the Polish Navy in WWII through the witness testimony, memories, photographs and stories of the brave men who served her.
The Polish Navy Special Exhibition has been made possible from funds provided by the EMC Heritage Trust in 2013.