Captain Wojciech Francki was the commander of Polish Navy destroyer ORP Błyskawica.
Polish banner on Błyskawica is lowered
“At the end of 1945 the Warsaw government demanded the return of the Polish warships, including Błyskawica, but this could only be discussed in accordance with the terms of the 1939 Naval Agreement meaning that there were two categories of Polish ships: those which were Polish before the war and those lent to the Polish Navy during the war. The latter were regulated by the Additional Protocol of 3 December 1940, which specifically stated that they would remain the property of the British Government. However, the ships needed extensive repairs, with the exception of Błyskawica, and were only fit to be towed. Eventually the Polish-owned ships returned to Gdynia.
Francki was summoned to London to report to Vice-Admiral Świrski, who being under pressure from the British Government, ordered him to hand the ship over to the British on 28 May 1946. In Rosyth on 26 May 1946 order number 31 was read out by Francki on board Błyskawica in front of her crew. The order said that Błyskawica would be withdrawn from active service and be transferred to the ownership of the communist authorities in Warsaw.
On 28 May 1946 in Rosyth in Scotland in the Bay of Forth, between 3pm and 4pm the Polish banner on Błyskawica was lowered. Due to the new political scene the Polish crew had to leave their famous ship which during the war years had been their home whilst representing independent Poland. Francki’s daughter, Janina Doroszkowska, says about that day:
‘We were all devastated that we had seemingly won the war but lost our country! It was a black time indeed. The worst day of all, was the day Father had to hand over ‘his’ beloved ORP Błyskawica to the Royal Navy who, he knew, would then hand her on to the Communist government in Poland. The grief of my parents, the poignancy and the completely funereal atmosphere of that day will stay with me all my life as the worst day of my life’.
So Błyskawica ended her active life which some sailors saw as a brutal ending to her glory.
Having relinquished his duties on Błyskawica, Francki served as commandant of the Demobolisation Camp in Salisbury.”
Reproduced from ‘ORP Błyskawica of Cowes and Gdynia: Work, War and Friendship’ by Wanda Troman, Published by Otton Z. Hulacki, Isle of Wight, 2012
Not only for Francki – for all Poles the end of the war was full of bitter disillusionment and tragic disappointment for the Poles. Vice-Admiral Jerzy Swirski, C-in-C of the Polish Navy addressed all men of the Polish Navy in an Order of the Day of the 28th September 1946 on the occasion of the handing back of the ships of the Polish Navy:
“…Thus we come to the end of the glorious pages of the history of our Navy, the armed forces of Poland on the high seas. But we remain, the Navy’s personnel deprived of our Motherland and of our Ships. The glorious part played by our Navy and the proud memory of our Ships – which for us constitute a part of our Country and our homes – will for ever remain in our hearts… In the war we were the first to stand at the side of our British Allies and it was with complete confidence that we gave all our moral and material help. We fulfilled our duties faithfully, as allies to the very end. The personnel of the British Navy, who were our trusty comrades and on whom we could always rely in all operations and circumstances, are witnesses to this. But the battles and hardships have not given us the results which we expected from this war. Our Country continues to remain in a political situation which prevents the majority of us from returning to Poland. We shall shortly cease to be a Navy; however, the knowledge of the complete fulfilment of our duties towards Poland as well as towards our Allies brightens the bitterness of our reality. We are not the debtors, as will be seen when the Allies close their accounts. Continuing to be united by a strong ideological tie – we, the naval family will continue to live and work for Poland, believing that in the end we shall regain our Country and that the majority of us will offer their services to the navy in a free Poland. At present, we are temporarily living through the end of our naval activity. May the good God take care of us all and may He spare us suffering and disillusion and may He lead us back to a free Poland. Long live Poland!”
- Captain Francki, commander of ORP Błyskawica
- Captain Francki, commander of ORP Błyskawica
- Crew of ORP Błyskawica 1946 (Francki seated middle, front row)
- Crew of ORP Błyskawica, (Francki seated middle, front row)
- ORP Błyskawica charges through the waves
- Polish Navy destroyer ORP Błyskawica in Plymouth sound
- Vice-Admiral Jerzy Swirski, C-in-C of the Polish Navy addressed all men of the Polish Navy in an Order of the Day of the 28th September 1946
- Seen here flag flying on Polish submarine
- Polish Navy sailor with Polish Navy flag on ship