The Polish destroyer ORP Blyskawica was the most modern destroyer in the World at the start of World War II (WWII), having been recently delivered by John Samuel White's shipyard.
On 30 August 1939, the Blyskawica, her sister ship Grom and the destroyer Burza were dispatched from the Baltic Sea to Britain
to avoid open conflict with Germany. She served with the Allied Forces throughout WWII in the Baltic, North Atlantic (on convoy duties) and the Mediterranean.
She was at both the Dunkirk withdrawals and the D-Day invasion.
My father, Czeslaw Guzenda, served on ORP Blyskawica in World War II. He was the Ship's Joiner, rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
The ORP Blyskawica is notable for many reasons, including:
- On September 7, 1939, ORP Blyskawica made contact with and attacked a German U-Boat. This was the first documented combat between the Allied Navies and the German submarine fleet in WWII.
- A month later, on November 7, 1939, the crew of ORP Blyskawica was the first to report seeing the Germans launch a torpedo from an aircraft, one of two Heinkel-115s that attacked the ship.
Although the Admiralty didn't believe it at the time, the observed attack and sinking of an allied ship a few days later in the same area confirmed their observation.
- On the nights of May 4 and May 5, 1942, ORP Blyskawica helped defend the shipyards and aircraft factory in Cowes, Isle of Wight from an air raid by 160 German bombers.
- ORP Blyskawica escorted the Queen Mary onto her destination after the collision which sunk HMS "Curacoa".
- ORP Blyskawica is the only Polish Navy ship awarded the Virtuti Militari medal, Poland's highest military decoration for courage in the face of the enemy.
- ORP Blyskawica served longer than any other military ship in WWII.
- During WWII, ORP Blyskawica logged 146,000 nautical miles and escorted eighty-three convoys.
- ORP Blyskawica is now the oldest destroyer in the World. The ship is preserved as a museum in Gdynia, Poland.
- The ship and crew are credited with fighting off enemy aircraft raiding the shipyards and aircraft factory in Cowes in 1942 - An incident which is still celebrated every year.
I've gathered together a collection of links to sites that have information, photos, paintings and film footage of ORP Blyskawica, all the way from
her launch to being a museum. Some of the video footage shows ORP Blyskawica in action, including being on convoy in the North Atlantic.