In the spring of 1942 the Polish submarine Jastrzab was ordered to help protect convoy PQ15 bound for Murmansk. The submarines were to act as a screen to protect from German surface ship attack from out of Norway. On 2nd May, in bad weather and dreadful visibility, the zig-zaging convoy escorts found via their Asdic the Polish submarine, submerged. Jastrzab was probably out of position due to inability to navigate accurately because of the weather conditions. After being depth charged the submarine surfaced and furiously tried to signal via aldis lamp, but the Norwegian escort destroyer St Albans and RN minesweeper Seagull opened fire at close range. Jastrzab lit flares and the Polish flag was displayed. By now all of the seamen were appearing on deck. Eventually, some fifty metres away, St Albans hailed the submarine with the question, ‘Are you German?’ A wounded Lt Cdr. Romanowski replied, ‘I am Polish submarine, you bloody fool, can’t you see P551?’ By now the submarine was full of chlorine gas and so the crew were forced to abandon ship. Peszke, a medical doctor, in his book wrote about Romanowski’s later memoirs. He noted how well he had described the hell of the injured and shell shocked during this convoy to Russia, of the ‘pain, fear, smell of gangrene and of the horrible sight of burns and disfigurement’ which often resulted in what is now known as post traumatic stress disorder. To quote Peszke again, ‘… the hospital in Murmansk, filled with hundreds of sailors, both naval and merchant marine, of many nationalities, some dying, some facing loss of limbs and of sight, brings a different and horrible perspective to the glamour of war…’
‘Friendly fire’ had killed five crew and injured six more. Seagull, along with St Albans, which had rescued the survivors was herself sunk returning to the UK from Murmansk. Such were the fortunes of war.
Source: Poles Apart: Polish Naval Memories of WWII by Martin Hazell