Landing in Normandy. MS Batory and others – unknown war history of the Polish merchant fleet [GALERIA]




Author: East News


The Allied landing in Normandy was the largest landing operation in history. The amount of powers and resources used still inspires respect today. The operation, conducted on June 6, 1944, opened a second front of hostilities in Western Europe. The Allied landings were also supported by the Polish merchant fleet. Here is its unknown history.

Landing of soldiers in Normandy

The main invasion forces of the Allied landing operations in Normandy were American, British and Canadian troops commanded by General Dwight Eisenhower. The Polish Air Force, the Polish Navy and the Polish Merchant Navy also took part in the grand landing. On the first day of the invasion on the morning of June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 Allied troops were transported across the English Channel to the 80-kilometer stretch of the French coast.

More than 4,000 people took part in the Allied sea landing on the beaches of Normandy. vessels. Including Polish warships and military cutters and merchant ships:

  • ORP Dragon
  • ORP lązak
  • ORP Krakowiak
  • ORP Blyskawica
  • ORP Piorun
  • MS Batory
  • MS Sobieski
  • MS Modlin
  • SS Poznan
  • SS Kmicic
  • SS Kordeckic
  • SS Chorzow
  • SS Narew
  • SS Vilnius
  • SS Katowice
  • SS Krakow

The Polish cruisers ORP Dragon, ORP Krakowiak and ORP Ślązak supported the landing troops with artillery fire. The destroyers ORP Błyskawica and ORP Piorun protected the Allied fleet against counter-attacks by the German fleet. Converted passenger ships carried Allied troops to the coast of France. There, at sea, the soldiers transferred to landing craft. The ship SS Pozna was carrying weapons and military equipment. SS Modlin became a breakwater. No less important was the service of Polish units in logistics activities. The other ships took part in the military transport of provisions, ammunition and additional equipment.

ORP Dragon was a British cruiser that was handed over to the Polish Navy by the Royal Navy in 1943. For a month, “Dragon” continued its mission in the land of Normandy, fighting with German artillery batteries. It was not until July 8, as a result of a collision with the live Neger torpedo that the ship was completely destroyed. Then 37 sailors were killed and 114 were injured. The ship was impossible to save. It was decided to sink it as a breakwater for the artificial invasion port. “Dragon” was the only unit of the Polish Navy that we lost during the landing operation off the coast of Normandy.

View the GALLERY of archive photos of the Normandy landings

Transatlantic ships in the navy

At the beginning of World War II, Polish passenger ships were chartered by the British Navy. Our finest ocean liners, ambassadors of Polish culture, MS Piłsudski and twin MS Batory, have been converted into military transport ships. As early as November 1939, the adaptation of MS Piłsudski began. Works of art and exclusive ship equipment were stored. Extra sleeping places and hammocks for 2,000 people have been placed in the holds, cabins and saloons. soldiers. The transatlantyk was armed with a 102mm gun and several light anti-aircraft guns. Unfortunately, on November 25, 1939, “Piłsudski” embarked on his first mission, from which he never returned. Sunk by an explosion in the hold.

MS Batory – “Lucky Ship”

Converted to a transport ship, MS Batory departed on December 23, 1939 for its maiden voyage. It took part in the Norwegian campaign of 1940. It was then that, repeatedly attacked by air and water, it was called the “Lucky Ship”. He miraculously avoided a torpedo attack. The missiles passed under the bottom of the ship. Luck left him only at the end of the war.

He made 59 military trips. He evacuated more than 120,000. people. Including soldiers from France. Constantly attacked by the Luftwaffe, it suffered no serious damage. In 1940 he brought the famous Wawel tapestries and other treasures to Canada. He also carried a cargo of Bank of England gold. She was the only Royal Navy ship to successfully carry out the mission to evacuate British children to Australia. From 1942 the “Batory” became a landing ship. He took part in Operation Torch in North Africa. In 1943, when landing in Sicily and Provence. “Batory” also transported Polish children who left the USSR after the departure of Anders’ army. During the journey from Egypt to Italy, the passenger was the famous soldier Wojtek, a bear from Anders’ army. She served as an auxiliary ship during the Allied landings in Normandy.

He completed his successful service in the British Navy on 11 April 1946. It did not go until April 1947 on its first post-war voyage to New York after a major overhaul.

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“Sobieski” and “Chrobry” at the World War II Front

Apart from the ambassadors of Polish culture, as “Piłsudski” and “Batory” were called, two other transatlantic ships were also used for military operations – MS Sobieski and MS Chrobry. Both ships would replace SS Kosciuszko and SS Pulaski on the South American line.

“Sobieski” was built in England in 1937. There were 350 passengers and 250 crew on board. The ship is designed as a passenger/cargo ship. Some cargo compartments could be converted into Spartan passenger quarters if needed. Then he could take another 750 people.

At the beginning of the Second World War it was converted into a military transport. In June 1940 he participated with MS Batory in the evacuation of Polish military units from France near the Spanish border. He also took part in the Allied landings in Normandy.

After the war, in 1947, he transported Polish children from Gdynia to Denmark with the help of the Red Cross. Until 1950 it sailed under the Polish flag on the Genoa – New York route. In 1950 it was sold to the USSR. The name was changed to MS Georgia with a port in Odessa. It was demolished in 1975.

“Chrobry” was built to the same design as MS Sobieski. It was built in 1939 at another shipyard. In Denmark it immediately took on the character of a typical emigrant ship. The space of the cabin was reduced, resulting in more places. Instead of 350 passenger seats, it got 1,100.

The last of the Polish ocean liners set out on her maiden voyage on July 29, 1939. He took 1042 people on a trip to Buenos Aires. Among them was Witold Gombrowicz, who never returned to Poland.

After the outbreak of war, “Chrobry” interrupted his return journey. Passengers dropped off in Brazil en route to Southampton. There it was immediately converted to military transport. At the end of 1939 he and “Batory” transported the soldiers of the 1st Canadian Division from Canada to England.

In February 1940 it was equipped with weapons, including a 152 mm gun on the quarterdeck.

In April, while transporting British troops to Norway, it was bombed by German aircraft. 12 crew members and many transported soldiers died. All the officers survived, including the high-ranking officer Karol Olgierd Borchardt, later a famous maritime writer. The ship burned for hours. Then he wandered off. In late May, it was sunk by a torpedo that had fallen from a British plane.

The battles of the sailors during the Normandy landings were commemorated with the inscription “INVASION IN NORMANDIA 6 VI 1944” on the tablets of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw.

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