Polish Naval Memories of WWII









Stanisław Nahorski, Commander

Allied evacuation of Dunkirk, France.

Captain Stanisław NahorskiPolish destroyers ORP Burza and ORP Błyskawica provide cover in the epic evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France 27th May- 4th June 1940.The Dunkirk EvacuationsAs France fell to Nazi Germany in May 1940 thousands of Allied troops, including the BEF (British Expeditionary Force which had been sent to aid the battle for France) were cut off and surrounded by the Wermacht. Operation Dynamo was the epic rescue and evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France between 27th May and 4th June 1940. By the ninth day of the evacuation, 338,226 soldiers had been rescued from certain death or imprisonment by a fleet of over 800 boats. The Royal Navy provided 39 destroyers, including those under Polish ensign to evacuate soldiers and also provide cover.The Polish destroyer Błyskawica was ordered to enter Dunkirk on the 27th May together with the British destroyer HMS Vega and conduct a night reconnaissance mission. The Admiralty wanted to find out if this harbour (partially blocked by wrecks) may be useful in Allied evacuation. Both destroyers were attacked by two German aircraft, but inspected the positions of wrecks. After that, Admiral Ramsay learned that navy vessels are able to conduct evacuation from Dunkirk and sent part of them there.

ORP Błyskawica, commanded by Captain Stanisław Nahorski, was ordered to patrol on Dunkirk evacuation route “Y” and provide anti-aircraft cover for Allied vessels.

Account of ORP Błyskawica during the Dunkirk Evacuations

On the night of 27th May 1940 Błyskawica was ordered to Dunkirk. At midnight they approached the Mole. Dunkirk was burning even then. A heavy bombing attack was in progress, and one plane detached itself and, dropping to less than 1,000 feet, opened fire with machine-guns and swept Błyskawica’s deck with bullets. She opened fire in turn, and the plane crashed shortly afterwards….

On May 29th in line ahead with a formation of British destroyers, she saw the leading destroyer make a sudden emergency turn to starboard, and between the wake of the next ahead and her own bow they saw from Błyskawica’s bridge the track of a torpedo. With her companion she carried out a depth charge attack and circled, coming in for fresh attack. Immediately they heard the roar of aircraft engines, and from the low cloud a German bomber came in, diving on Błyskawica. She followed the bombs with machine-gunning, and slipped back into the clouds, getting clear.

In the early evening she found the British destroyer Greyhound proceeding in the direction of the English coast at slow speed, heavily damaged by bombs. Błyskawica took her in tow … to Dover and then returned to patrol.

So the incredible, breathless story of the evacuation went on. Few men have any exact memories of those days. They passed in a wild turmoil of bombing, machine-gunning, artillery fire, strange patrols; of rescue work, towing, searching, helping.

In the early morning of the 31st she had a brush with a German E-boat, and a heavy explosion took place close to her bows… A little while later she heard the noise of the E-boat again and, sighting her, opened fire. Soon after they saw lights in the water and, steaming towards them, found the survivors of the French destroyer Sirocco which had been torpedoed by a German E-boat. They rescued one officer and 14 ratings.

At midday of 1st June she received orders to return to Harwich. Dunkirk, for her, was over.

From Navies in Exile by A.D. Divine

Excerpt from ORP Błyskawica log, Dunkirk 29th May 1940

0840      Heard the sound of an engine above the ship / cloud base is below 1500m/

AA Alarm. Observed 1 enemy aircraft. The plane goes into a dive and drops

2 bombs which explode 100m astern. It returns strafing the ship with its

machine guns, several rounds hit the base of the range finder on the battle

bridge and one damages the magazine of the Lewis machinegun.

A large number of rounds fall 50m ahead of the bow. We opened fire on

the plane ………..



Survivor Testimony

Log of Captain Nahorski, ORP Błyskawica, during the Dunkirk Evacuations.

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