On the eve of WW2, 30th August 1939, three Polish destroyers escape to G.B. Two Polish submarines also escape in September. Most of the remaining Polish Navy fleet are destroyed in battle and the Polish Navy capitulates on 1st October. Under the high command of the British R.N. the Polish Navy continues to fight from exile.

Mieczysław Wożniak

Cadet See Wall of Names

Heroism in Casablanca, September

Mieczysław Wożniak

Cadet Mieczysław Wożniak

At the outbreak of WWII the Polish Navy training vessel ORP Iskra (a sailing ship), under the command of Cdr. Pacewicz, was positioned in the vicinity of Casablanca, which it entered on 2nd September 1939. The new Polish Navy cadets were on a study trip on Iskra from Casablanca to the Canary Islands. Mieczysław Wożniak was a Polish cadet of the class of 1938 on ORP Iskra. On 10th September, the crew of Iskra demonstrated their bravery and determination rescuing the crew of the French mine-laying cruiser Pluton which blew up whilst unloading her mines killing 186 and causing much port damage. Wożniak became the youngest recipient of the French Legion d’Honeur for heroism at Casablanca rescuing the French crew. Konstanty Okołów-Zubkowski was also a Cadet on Iskra and recalled the incident.

After the incident, Iskra moved onto Port Lyautey (in French Morocco) where, with the exception of a few crew members, the crew and cadets disembarked. It is from that port that Cdr. Pacewicz managed to get to Great Britain. In the middle of September 1939 the cadets were transferred to France via SS Marrakesh and then from France to G.B., where the Polish Navy school was also relocated.

Upon reaching the UK Mieczysław Wożniak trained as a ‘midshipman’ on the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth. After being commissioned he served on ORP Burza and then ORP Błyskawica. He won the DSC for service in the Mediterranean in 1943, and also the 2nd highest Polish award the ‘Cross of Valour’.  He married an English girl Naomi in Plymouth in 1943, and they had 2 sons and a daughter. Becoming a naturalised UK citizen at the end of the war he joined the merchant navy, first of all serving with Shell tankers. He eventually became harbourmaster at the Kharg Island oil terminal in the Persian Gulf. He died suddenly, and his body was brought back to Plymouth where his family lived. After a requiem mass at the Catholic Cathedral there the RN destroyer Caprice carried the coffin out of Plymouth Sound for a burial at sea.


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Survivor Testimony