Rear-Admiral Jerzy Świrski
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”.
Commencing with seven fighting vessels of their own the Polish Navy manned forty-five all told; seven of which were lost.
- The Polish Navy sailed a total of 1,213,000 miles
- 787 convoys were escorted
- 1,162 combat patrols carried out
- 431 Polish sailors lost their lives
- 51 officers and other ranks were awarded the Virtuti Militari
The Polish Navy numbered 943 men in 1939, rising to a complement of over 4,000 by 1945. In addition to hard won victory, the majority of sailors lost their country. In all eleven Polish vessels were lost during the war, including three major liners, as troopships, the Piłsudski, Chrobry and Warszawa.
Between 1939 and 1946 132 officer cadets graduated, and 50 officers successfully completed expert courses in training centres all over the UK.
Polish expertise during the war, for example, produced direction finders which were able to track the bearings of short-wave broadcasts to Nazi submarines, an important element in the defeat of the U-boats in the battle of the Atlantic.
Source: ‘Poles Apart: Polish Naval Memories of WW2’ by Martin Hazell
- Rear-Admiral Jerzy Świrski, Chief of the Directorate of the Polish Navy, Polish Government-in-Exile
- General Sikorski and Rear-Admiral Świrski take control of ORP Piorun
- Destroyer ORP Piorun anti-aircraft crew at their station
- Destroyer ORP Błyskawica charges through the waves
- Loading Mark VIIIs to the ORP Wilk submarine
- First Officer Andrzej Piasecki aboard the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł
- Destroyers ORP Grom and Błyskawica in G.B. 1939 after Operation Peking
- Polish sailors on submarine ORP Wilk
- Polish sailors on destroyer ORP Piourn
- Polish crew on ORP Garland during the Arctic convoys to Murmanskk
- Chasing the Bismark, 1941
- Polish Navy sailors on parade, UK 1943
- Crew on the bridge of ORP Błyskawica during Narvik campaign
- Frank Grams piping an order on ORP Piorun 1941 during the hunt for the Bismark