Polish Navy 1939-45


Destroyer of the Grom class.


Polish destroyers ORP Grom and Błyskawica, moored side by side following their evacuation from Poand to G.B. in September 1939.


The Polish Navy submarine ORP Orzeł (Eagle) returning to her depot ship at Rosyth.

Once the German Führer had given his approval for the commencement of Fall Weiss (literally Case White) which began with a blitzkrieg offensive across the Polish border shortly before dawn (0445 hours) on 1 September, the governments in London and Paris were confronted with a stark choice: either to invoke or ignore their territorial guarantee to the beleaguered state. It took them a little over forty-eight hours to do the decent thing and go to war with Nazi Germany. Ironically, their fateful decision didn’t help the Poles who were left alone to try vainly to stem the tide of the invasion. They did their courageous best, but it was a quite hopeless task against a formidable enemy. At sea at least their force of five submarines defied the German surface fleet in the Baltic and kept laying mines until they ran out of supplies on 11 September. Thereafter three of them sought internment in Swedish waters and the other two (Orzel and Wilk) succeeded in the far more hazardous undertaking of trying to get through to British waters. In last days of August three destroyers (BLYSKAWICA, BURZA and GROM) were sent to UK. Only one (WICHER) was left. Although their submarines escaped destruction, the same could not be said of the rest of the modest Polish surface fleet, the remaining units of which, were either summarily destroyed or rendered inoperable by German air and naval forces in the first days of the campaign.

BURZA – as an ocean escort.

GARLAND – as ocean escort.



KRAKOWIAK – a Hunt II class.

SLAZAK – also a Hunt II class.

CONRAD – D class cruiser.

DRAGON – first operational cruiser of Polish Navy.

OURAGAN – taken over by RN after French surrender and later manned by Polish Navy.


JASTRZAB – former US submarine transferred to Polish Navy and sunk in 1942 by Allied craft.



ZBIK – in Sweden where she was interned in 1939.

S-1 – one of a pair of MTBs ordered pre-war by Polish Navy at J. S. White and completed in 1940 as MGB.

S-2 – a BPB boat; together with sister ship S-3 she was transferred to Poland in exchange for the sister of S-1.

S-7 – a White-built MTB manned by Polish Navy. There were 5 boats of that class, named S-5 to S-10. Polish MTBs/MGBs carried either Polish numbers (S-1 to S-10) on their sides or British ones (eg. “44” for MGB-44 or “426” for MTB-426)

MEDOC – former French cargo ship, commissioned for the war as auxiliary patrol and taken over in 1940 by RN together with sister POMEROL. Similar to OURAGAN both patrols were manned by Polish Navy for a short time..


BURZA and WICHER were built in France. The former joined RN in September 1939, later – since 1960 – became a floating museum in Gdynia until 1975. The latter was sunk by German aircraft on 3.09.1939.

KASZUB and MAZUR were WW1 German torpedo boats acquired after WW1 by Poland. KASZUB was lost in 1925 in accidental explosion, while MAZUR was rebuilt in 1930s as artillery training ship and was lost only on 1.09.1939 during German air attack on Gdynia.

KRAKOWIAK, KUJAWIAK, PODHALANIN and SLAZAK were ex German torpedo boats, too. Just before WW2 they were withdrawn from service.

WILK, RYS and ZBIK were French-built submarine minelayers. WILK managed to escape Baltic in September 1939 and then operated from UK. In 1950s she came back to Poland and was BU. RYS and ZBIK were interned in Sweden in 1939 and were returned to Poland in 1945. Both were BU in late 1950s.

ORZEL and SEP were built in Netherlands. The first is known for a daring escape from Tallin and – later – from Baltic. She was lost in May-June 1940. The SEP was interned in Sweden, but after coming back to Poland in 1945 she served Polish Navy until late 1960s.

GRYF was a modern training built in France. During the war she was to lay mines, but was damaged on 1.09.1939 in – what I believe – to be a first ever battle between a strong assembly of aircraft and a group of warships.

RYBITWA was a former FM-class German minesweeper bought for Polish Navy in 1920 together with sisters CZAJKA, JASKOLKA and MEWA. All were withdrawn in early 1930s.

Minesweeper JASKOLKA (second of that name) was built in Poland in first half of 1930s together with three sisters; they were named after the FM boats. In 1939 two more joined them – CZAPLA and ZURAW. CZAPLA and JASKOLKA were lost in September 1939 campaign (bombed by Germans), while remaining four were taken over by Germans as auxilliary craft. All returned to Poland in 1946 and served with Polish Navy as minesweepers nad patrol boats until late 1960s, except ZURAW. She became a survey ship in 1940s and was withdrawn only in 1970s.

Gunboats GENERAL HALLER and KOMENDANT PILSUDSKI were bought in Finland in 1920. Both were laid down by Russian Navy, but after bolshevik revolution were taken over by the Fins. Other two served with Finnish Navy. Of the Polish pair the HALLER was destroyed by German bombs in September 1939, while PILSUDSKI was taken over by Germans, only to be sunk in Nantes during Allied air attack in 1944. Until arrival of WICHER those two gunboats were largest ships of Polish Navy.

Survey ship POMORZANIN – bought in April 1920 – was the first seagoing ship of Polish Navy. In early 1930s she was sold into private hands and was used as a tug until BU in early 1950s.

Naval transports WILJA and WARTA were bought in France to ship military equipment sold to Poland in 1920s. The latter was sold in mid-1930s to Italy, then sailed under Hungarian colours as TURUL. During WW2 she was sometimes seen in Atlantic convoys, though under Panamian flag. The WILJA became a training ship and in 1939 arrived in Casablanca. In 1940 she was transferred to Polish Merchant Navy as MODLIN and in 1944 she was scuttled off Normandy coast as part of Gooseberry.

Training ship ISKRA was bought in 1920 in UK. During WW2 she was used in Gibraltar as MTB and/or submarine depot PIGMY and returned to Poland in 1948. She was used to train officers until mid-1970s.

Stationary training ship BALTYK was the former Frech cruiser D’ENTRCASTEAUX bought by Polish Navy in late 1920s. She was moored in Gdynia harbour. Taken over by Germans in 1939, she was BU in 1942, reportedly.

Polish navy before the World War II

Ships built and used before the war

Gryf class

ORP Gryf

Wicher-class destroyer

ORP Wicher

ORP Burza

Grom-class destroyer

ORP Grom

ORP Błyskawica

Orzeł-class submarine

ORP Orzeł


Wilk-class submarine

ORP Wilk


ORP Żbik

Minesweeper |Jaskółka-class Minesweeper

ORP Jaskółka

ORP Rybitwa

ORP Mewa

ORP Czajka

ORP Żuraw

ORP Czapla

Vodorez-class gunboat

ORP Komendant Piłsudski

ORP Generał Haller

Planned and in construction

   Improved Grom class destroyer

ORP Huragan

ORP Orkan

The improved Grom-class destroyers of 1939 were the third and fourth planned ships of the Grom class of destroyers ordered for the Polish Navy shortly before World War II. They were to be built in Poland, the first destroyers so constructed, and were to be named Huragan (“hurricane”) and Orkan (“windstorm”), respectively. Their design included greater power and displacement than the first two ships of the class. Their construction was interrupted by the beginning of World War II and they were never completed.

In the late 1930s, the Polish Navy decided to expand its destroyer fleet. With positive reviews of the operational service of the two British-built Grom-class destroyers, Grom and Błyskawica, the Navy decided to order two more ships of that type. This time, however, the order was given (on 1 May 1939) to the recently expanded Polish Naval Yard (Stocznia Marynarki Wojennej) in Gdynia rather than to the British J. Samuel White shipyard in Cowes, responsible for the two previous ships. They would have been the first destroyer-class warships to be built in Poland (till then, the Polish shipyards have been building smaller ships, such as minelayers and minesweepers). The White shipyards were to provide the turbines, and some armament was also ordered abroad (main and secondary guns from Swedish Bofors, and machine guns from the French company Hotchkiss et Cie). The cost of the destroyers was 32 millions zlotys, of which 55% was to be spent in Poland.

The two new destroyers were planned with several changes in the design. The superstructure and funnels were to be grouped together, and crew quarters layout was changed. Welding was to be used more prominently in the construction. Engine power was to be increased by 2,500 horsepower; the displacement would be increased by 70 tons.

Huragan was to be ready for April 1942 (36 months after being ordered), and Orkan, for October of that year. Construction work on Huragan begun on 15 July 1939, when its keel was laid down. The German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 interrupted the construction; some materials were diverted to the improvised armoured train “Kashubian Dragon”. Within the next few weeks, the Gdynia and Polish Navy shipyards were captured by the Germans. The construction of the two destroyers, barely started, was never resumed, as the materials were scrapped or re-purposed by the occupier.


Nikol A-2 was a Polish amphibious flying boat prototype built in 1939 by Jerzy Nikol.

Nikol started design of a small amphibious flying boat A-2 in 1929, when the Polish Navy showed interest in a small seaplane to use on major ships, starting with the ORP Gryf large minelayer. The plans of fitting Gryf with a board aircraft gear were abandoned. The A-2 was later intended as a patrol and training aircraft of the Polish Navy, and as a technology demonstrator of a proposed bigger four-seater two-engined flying boat A-1 (or A-4). Its possible use was also in the Riverine Flotila in Pińsk. In 1935 the A-2 design was approved by the Aviation Technical Research Institute.

The work on a prototype construction started in 1936 in a semi-amateur way, in workshops of the Naval Aviation Squadron (MDLot) in Puck, without official order of the Navy. The airbase was unsuitable for aeroplane construction and lacked experienced engineers, and it was not until March 1939 that the prototype was completed. It first flew on March 4, 1939, as a pure flying boat, without a landing gear. During later trials it was fitted with a retractable landing gear.

After the German invasion of Poland and the first unsuccessful air raid on a base in Puck on 1 September 1939, all Polish seaplanes were evacuated from Puck to Hel Peninsula. The A-2 prototype was evacuated to naval harbour in Hel. It was slightly damaged due to further air raids (older sources claimed it was destroyed).

The damaged prototype was captured by the Germans and taken to Rostock. As is apparent from one photo, it received the non-typical German registration D-GÖTZ. (This might have been false registration.) Its fate is unknown.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *