Sunday, 6 May 2012

ORP BLYSKAWICA

At the beginning of World War 2, 3 Polish navy ships came under the jurisdiction of the British Royal Navy (The Peking Pact).  One of these ships was the destroyer ORP Blyskawica.  In Jan 1942, a young Polish sailor called Wincenty Pieczonka joined the ship.  Here he is, the middle of these 3 sailors.

 img224

After the war, Wincenty stayed in the UK, and married Marjorie. They had 3 sons, Robin, John and Maurice (my husband). They anglicised their name and Wincenty became Vincent Pierce, although he was known as Wicek for all his life. Sadly he died 11 years ago, aged 82. He did make return visits to Poland but not until 40 years later.  We went with him in 1988, and met many of Maurice’s Polish aunts, uncles and cousins!

In May 1942, ORP Blyskawica was in Cowes on the Isle of Wight for a refit, back at the shipyard, Samuel White, where she was built.  During the night of the 4th May, the Luftwaffe launched an attack on the town and the shipyard.  The Blyskawica defended the town, laying down smokescreens and firing  anti-aircraft guns.  Although there was a lot of damage to the town, and 70 people lost their lives, it is evident that it would have been much worse without the brave acts of the sailors on board the Blyskawica.

 

Yesterday, the town of East Cowes commemorated the 70th anniversary of the air raid.  We had a family outing to the Island to join in! 

From L-R, Mark (John’s son), John, Janice (Robin’s wife), Maurice and Robin.

12.05.05 IOW 007

We started off at East Cowes cemetary for a wreath laying ceremony.  Here are some present day Polish sailors giving their salute.

12.05.05 IOW 003

The local heritage centre had put on a brilliant display in their shop window and in the town hall.

12.05.05 IOW 010

Then we went on a guided ‘air-raid’ walk, around places where the worst damage was inflicted.  There were people who had actually lived there during the raid and it was fascinating to hear their stories.  One sad story was that one of the bombs – destined for the Blyskawica – hit a communal air raid shelter killing 20 out of 23 people sheltering in it.  One lady on the walk was the daughter of one of those 3 survivors!  As you can see, the weather wasn’t great!  It was bitterly cold and drizzly rain.

12.05.05 IOW 033

After watching some traditional Polish dancing, and studying the original plans of the ship (did you know that the space was planned right down to where they were going to store different types of provisions, one area for mates potatoes, and a separate area for officers potatoes!)

12.05.05 IOW 01612.05.05 IOW 038

We wandered around and went to West Cowes, where they have named a square after the Captain of the ship – Francki.  His daughter was present at this weekend’s commemorations.

12.05.05 IOW 01712.05.05 IOW 01812.05.05 IOW 020

The ship now resides in Gydnia in Poland and serves as a floating museum.  Wicek did visit the ship during the 1990s on one of his trips to Poland.

img226

I’m linking up with Sian’s Storytelling Sunday

17 comments:

Jo.C said...

What a fascinating story. TFS

Sian said...

What a fascinating story. I watched a programme quite recently on the Polish help during the war - what really struck me was how very brave they were and how little recognised their actions were. So I enjoyed reading this one very much indeed. Thank you for sharing it with us today Linda

Alison said...

How interesting Linda..and how lovely that you went to the IOW for the commemorations!
Alison xx

Sabrina S. said...

Hi
What a lovely story and nice pics.
Thanks for sharing.
Have a nice Sunday,
Cheers from France

Ladkyis said...

What a brilliant story. I had no idea anything like that had happened so I have learnt a lot today. I will be looking for more information about it too - I like to learn.
Thank you for telling us this.

Missus Wookie said...

We were reading about the Polish British war efforts at Bletchley Park, Wookie feels strongly that it should be more widely recognized. I'll tell him about this - thanks for sharing.

Louise said...

Such an interesting story - I enjoyed reading it :)

Clare said...

How heart-warming that the island still remembers the bravery of the crew today. Such an interesting insight into that period of history.

furrypig said...

what an interesting story, all that history, glad you managed to join in despite the awful weather

heart.hearth.home. said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I am so glad that the I of W made this a special occasion. How proud anyone connected to ORP Blyskawica must have been to be there. I love a bit of family history!

Burnice said...

Am honoured to be your pal Mrs Pierce!!!

Chicken Licken said...

Wow how interesting! Fab story

Sandie said...

That is such an interesting story, Linda, and how lovely that you went to the IOW for the commemorations.
I was in Guernsey last week and they were preparing for their Liberation Day this Wednesday. It is really important to remember and honour those who suffered and lived through those difficult days.
Thank you for sharing your story.

Cheri said...

Amazing that you have all that history about your husband's family!

Chipper said...

That was an amazing story. I loved all the details you included. I am glad that you were able to go to the commemorative day.

Gem's Crafts said...

What an interesting story, and how lovely that they still commemorate it now. My other half's grandfather was Polish, so I must see if I can find out more about him :)

alexa said...

This is such an interesting read and so wonderfully written. I've been quite absorbed ... Glad their bravery and commitment is recognised and celebrated...