Gunner and torpedo operator – two seamen from Błyskawica
The text titled “He fought for free Poland at sea – about a torpedo operator from Błyskawica”, telling the story of Adam Pieluszczak, was published by us in Gazeta Drezdenecka in September 2016 (No. 7, pp. 6-7). It was also included in our newspaper’s online edition and has been read by thousands of people, including Stanisław Feruś from Strzelin, who shared with me, in a telephone conversation, his inner feelings sparked by this article. He also told me that his uncle, Tomasz Feruś, served on board the warship Błyskawica and, after returning to Poland, faced similar problems as Adam Pieluszczak. He then sent me by e-mail some brief information about this distinguished seaman, which was, however, insufficient for writing an article. Therefore, we arranged a meeting that took place in Drezdenko on 22 April this year. On that day Tomasz’s nephew and his wife Agata first visited Stanisława Nowak and Henryk Pieluszczak in Gościm, where they scanned all the photos made available to them from an album of their father – Adam Pieluszczak, a torpedo operator from Błyskawica, and then came to meet with me. Additional, more detailed information about Tomasz Feruś, along with that previously obtained, has enabled me to write this text.
Tomasz Feruś was born on 2 February 1921 in Turaszówka near Krosno (now a district of this industrial town), located in the interwar period in the Lwów Province. Tomasz’s parents, i.e. Paulina Feruś née Nawrocka and Marcin, ran a small farm that could not fully meet the needs of a family of ten, which prompted his father to find additional work outside of agriculture, as a locksmith. His son Tomasz, after completing an elementary school in Odrzykoń, pursued further education at the Basic Vocational School at the aviation works. After its completion he was employed in those works as a welder.
After Poland’s defeat to Germany in September 1939, together with his twin brother Franciszek and their elder brother Józef – a priest and a La Salette missionary, he left his homeland and headed for the still free France. Raised in the spirit of love for their home country, they could not remain idle. They decided to fight for the freedom of Poland and protect themselves from enlistment into the enemy German army or, in the case of a flight towards Lwów, from enlistment into the Soviet Red Army or deportation to Siberia. At night, on bicycles, they crossed the Hungarian territory and soon arrived in Budapest (ca. 430 km), where they obtained fake passports as Jews fleeing to Palestine. With the financial assistance of Józef Feruś’s friend they got to Bucharest. After that, through Romania and Yugoslavia, they came to Italy. In the Naval Register (a note on the cover) one can read: ‘He crossed the Romanian border on 28 September 1939 and travelled through Yugoslavia and Italy’. They reached Lyon on 4 October 1939. In France their paths split. Father Józef returned to Italy and settled in the La Salette house in Turin, where he survived the whole war, carrying out his service as a priest. Father Józef had a joyous encounter with a Polish Army unit, which came to Turin through Monte Casino, Ancona and Milan. The friendships made and the pastoral care exercised facilitated his emigration to the United States. The twin brothers – Tomasz and Franciszek – went in different directions in France.
In December 1939 General Władysław Sikorski, the Minister of Military Affairs, gave his consent for the announcement of a volunteer navy draft for Poles staying in France. The draft covered young people born between 1920 and 1922. 997 volunteers presented themselves, 336 of whom, including Tomasz Feruś, were admitted to naval service. On the other hand, Franciszek Feruś joined the 2nd Rifle Division commanded by General Bronisław Prugar-Ketling. On 18 and 19 June 1940 the Division fought battles with German armoured forces for the town of Maiche and on the Clos du Doubs hills. After it ran out of ammunition, a decision was made to withdraw the troops to Switzerland. At dawn, on 20 June, around 13,000 soldiers of the Division crossed the border in several locations. Its combat losses included: 41 killed, 134 wounded and 2544 missing or captured. The Division’s soldiers remained there throughout the war. In Switzerland Franciszek Feruś completed a degree programme at a student camp in Winterthur, obtaining a master’s diploma in philosophy. Such diplomas were also received by 8 other Polish soldiers. Platoon Leader Officer Cadet Franciszek Feruś, Stanisław’s father, returned to Poland in the autumn of 1945 or at the very beginning of 1946. As a settler on the Recovered Territories he settled in Strzelin, where for many years he was the managing director of the local furniture factory. He died suddenly on 8 June 1974, at the age of 53, leaving behind his second wife and nine children. Stanisław, who is now seeking to preserve the memory of his forgotten uncle, was 7 years old at the time.
After the war Father Józef Feruś first went to the United States and in 1949 was transferred to Canada. In Beausejour he worked as a vicar under the supervision of the parish priest Father Peter Jaworski. After the latter’s death in 1959 he took over the administrative responsibility for the entire parish. For his conscientious work he was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit by the Polish War Veterans Association in 1972. In the final years of his service as a priest he looked after the chapels in Cloverleaf and Stead. He was diabetic. He died of a heart attack on 6 June 1973 at the age of 62.
Let us go back to the story of our principal character, Tomasz Feruś. He spent some time at Camp Coëtquidan in France. There, while serving in the 2nd company of the school battalion, he was properly trained and took a solemn oath, after which, on 15 May 1940, he was enlisted as a crew member of Błyskawica. Błyskawica, which has been a Polish Navy museum ship since 1 May 1976, was built in 1936 at the John White shipyard in Cowes, England. She was commissioned in 1937 and her first commanding officer was Cdr Tadeusz Morgenstern-Podjazd. She was a modern destroyer, armed with eight 102 mm guns, eight 13.2 mm heavy machine guns, four torpedo tubes, four throwers and two depth charge projectors. The total length of the ship was 114 m. and her maximum width was 11.3 m. Although she was designed for a crew of 192 officers, non-commissioned officers and seamen, around 200 men actually served on her. Her second commanding officer, from 4 January 1938, was Lt Cdr Włodzimierz Kodrębski. In the face of the imminent war three Polish warships – Grom, Burza and Błyskawica – set off from Gdynia on 29 August and headed for England. They first moored at Leith and later at Rosyth. When Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, the Polish ships joined the war operations at sea alongside the British navy.
Soon afterwards our destroyer took part in covering the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk to England. It was a large-scale operation, with close to 400,000 Allied, mainly British, soldiers waiting in Dunkirk. 848 seagoing ships and 150 warships, including the famous Błyskawica, participated in the operation, code-named “Dynamo”. On 29 May 1940 Błyskawica towed to Dover the British destroyer Greyhound, damaged and tilted to one side, with a thousand soldiers on board. On 30 May she rescued 15 survivors from the Siroco destroyer. At that time Tomasz Feruś was on board for the first time in his life, having served on the ship for eleven days. He was only nineteen.
On 26 May 1940 Błyskawica patrolled the English Channel, together with the British destroyer Galatea. When she was anchored in a harbour along with the British destroyer Vega, on the night of 27 and 28 May, they were attacked by a German aircraft, but the gunners, including Tomasz Feruś, managed to withstand the attack.
On 4 December 1940 a storm with a force of 10 to 11 degrees on the Beaufort scale caused serious damage on board. The rudder failure was removed thanks to the dedication of Lieutenants Franciszek Czelusta and Zbigniew Węglarz and twelve seamen accompanying them. The ship inclinations reached 62 degrees. The crew was at the end of their physical and mental powers. After thirty hours of storm the ship finally took a course on Greenock. The elimination of damage lasted until 10 February 1941.
From 30 August to 11 October 1941 Tomasz Feruś served on board the Polish warship Krakowiak, which was commissioned in the first half of 1941. Krakowiak operated in the British coastal waters until July 1943. The ship was equipped with strong anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weaponry. It had six 102 mm, four 40 mm and two 20 mm guns as well as depth charge launchers and projectors.
At the end of 1941, after being renovated and refitted, being better prepared to combat submarines, Błyskawica sailed from Cowes to Scapa Flow, where the crew received additional training, and from there was directed to Greenock, where she joined the escort group of destroyers. Tomasz Feruś was again aboard Błyskawica, from 6 November 1941, and remained there, apart from leave and training periods, until the end of the war.
Błyskawica often escorted large troopships, such as the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner in mid-February 1942, carrying several thousand soldiers. In mid-March 1942, while escorting a large troopship from Greenock to Reykjavik, it fought a battle with German long-range aircraft, and in the first days of April 1942 a convoy that included our destroyer entered the zone of an exceptionally strong storm. The ship’s inclinations reached dozens of degrees and she was having difficulties maintaining balance. Once again the crew struggled with the element, until the damaged ship reached Greenock on 6 April. On 1 May 1942 Tomasz Feruś was appointed extended service seaman.
On the night of 4 and 5 May 1942 German aircraft, arriving in groups, bombarded Cowes for about four hours. The town was defended by Błyskawica, staying in the local shipyard. Our destroyer’s gunners probably damaged 2 enemy planes and prevented many other from dropping bombs on target. To this day the town’s defence is celebrated on a large scale by the town authorities and the local Friends of Błyskawica Society. To honour this occasion, concerts, performances, sailing regattas, rallies and ceremonial parades are held. In 2017 the celebrations lasted four days, beginning with a piano concert performed by the granddaughter of the ship’s commanding officer, Wojciech Francki – Ewa Maria Doroszkowska. One of the town squares – Francki Place – has also been named after him.
On 9 August 1942 Błyskawica, along with the British destroyer Brooke, hurried off to help with the escort of the SC-94 convoy. The convoy, numbering 33 troopships, which was going, under the protection of 7 escort ships, from Canada to Great Britain, was attacked about 450 miles south of Cape Farewell in Greenland. On 10 August U-boats launched another attack on the troopships. The battle lasted all day and all night, with the escort ships having dropped off whole series of depth charges. The convoy lost, in total, as many as 11 ships, with a gross tonnage of about 53,000 GT. Of the 17 U-boats, 2 were sunk and 4 were damaged. After the battle, until the end of September, Błyskawica escorted larger troopships and convoys and patrolled water areas threatened by U-boats’ activity.
In the autumn of 1942 Błyskawica, whose commanding officer at the time was Lt Cdr Ludwik Lichodziejewski, was engaged in the Mediterranean. At the beginning of November 1942 intensive preparations were under way in Gibraltar for a large-scale operation code-named “Torch”, aimed at landing a large number of troops in northern Africa – in Morocco and Algeria – from where Erwin Rommel’s German forces were meant to be attacked. American and British forces participated in the operation, as well as ships and troops from other countries: Polish, Norwegian, Canadian, Greek and Free French. From 6 November, for four days, Błyskawica escorted troopships with landing troops, and from 9 November she fought German and Italian aircraft, which began to attack allied units.
On 12 November German and Italian aircraft appeared above the roadstead of the Bougie harbour, where our destroyer and the troopship escorted were anchored. The gunners managed to defend both their own ship and the troopship, after which Błyskawica went on a chase after the submarine. Then about 40 enemy planes launched an attack on, primarily, Błyskawica. The fight lasted more than four hours. Thanks to the ship’s brave defence and manoeuvres, she avoided direct hits. She did, however, suffer huge losses due to nearby explosions. The following crew members were killed: seaman Władysław Figas, able seaman Tadeusz Grzebień and petty officer Władysław Musserowicz (missing), while another 33, including 6 non-commissioned officers, were seriously wounded and 10 suffered lighter injuries. English signalman Geoffrey Trickett died on 23 November in hospital. A total of 46 people were hurt by nearby bomb explosions. Błyskawica came out victorious from this combat, albeit damaged and with painful losses. Tomasz Feruś did not sustain any serious injuries in this most tragic of battles, but the image of murderous fighting remained in his mind for the rest of his life. Just like Jan Kosik, he rarely reminisced about wartime events, as they were an immensely emotional experience for him. Boatswain’s mate (gunner) Stanisław Pawiński was severely injured, which affected his health throughout his later life. He died on an operating table after the war due to the wounds sustained in that period.
After he returned home, Tomasz Feruś would sometimes tell his family about how they went about saving the wounded. They carried them to the wardroom, where the ship doctor, all in blood, immediately attended to them. Others sealed ship ruptures so that too much water would not enter the hull. One of the guns on the stern was damaged to such an extent that it became completely silent. In tears, he also talked about how, using strong artillery fire, they prevented enemy planes from approaching the distance at which their bombs could hit the ship. Błyskawica was sent for yet another repair and the crew was allowed to go ashore. After the repair the destroyer remained in Gibraltar and was incorporated into the British fleet based in this stronghold. The command had to supplement the crew, which was severely depleted after the combat over the roadstead of the Bougie port. Among the new members was Adam Pieluszczak (3 December 1942), assigned with the task of operating one of the four torpedo tubes. The gunners and torpedo operators combined their efforts and, during harassing raids, jointly operated anti-aircraft guns, mainly those with a 102 mm calibre. It is possible that Adam Pieluszczak and Tomasz Feruś stood many times side by side in the firing position. Shared combat experience, carrying of bullets, cleaning of cannons, tidying up, painting and meal preparation brought the seamen closer together, turning them into one big family. Although the commanding officers changed frequently, the core part of the crew remained the same. It was the case since 1937, i.e. since the flag was raised on the destroyer until the end of the war. At that time Jan Bednarz arrived on board to take over the ship’s command after Władysław Figas was killed in action.
In March 1943 Błyskawica, along with many smaller ships, changed its base, moving to Bona, closer to the coast of Tunis, and from 20 March operated in the Strait of Tunisia at Pantelleria, even venturing as far as the Strait of Sicily. During one patrol, along with two British destroyers, she fought a battle with a group of about 15 German planes, during which bomb fragments hurt only one seaman.
On 7 May 1943, near the island of Morettino, bombs damaged the destroyer’s rudder and the ship had to be sent for repair, first to Algiers and later to Gibraltar and, on 11 May, to Plymouth. The repair lasted until December, exactly 168 days, and the seamen were granted a leave, having the opportunity to go ashore and relax from the hard and extremely stressful life at sea. They could visit restaurants and bars, meet girls, see the town, parks or monuments or, as in the case of Adam Pieluszczak, practise their favourite sport discipline, e.g. cycling. Those were certainly beautiful and unforgettable moments. They could fully enjoy the life that was in constant danger at sea. They realised that their next time at sea might well be their last.
After its repair Błyskawica, under the command of Cdr Konrad Namieśniowski, re-entered service and was based in Scapa Flow, with the aim of protecting the British teams operating in the Norwegian Sea. From time to time, she also went out to the Atlantic ocean, in order to escort convoys or conduct patrols. On 25 November Tomasz Feruś returned to Błyskawica as a rangefinder operator. That position was previously occupied by Wincenty Cygan, who later wrote a fascinating book titled Granatowa Załoga (“The Navy Blue Crew”). Next to the stand of rangefinder operators were the stands of signalmen Edward Gatner and Stanisław Taranda, who were part of the first crew and arrived in Great Britain in 1939.
In the second half of February 1944 Błyskawica took part in an excursion of an allied team near the Norwegian coast. The purpose of the expedition was to penetrate the Norwegian waters and destroy the enemy units encountered. On 24 February the British destroyer Musketeer made a wrong turn and hit the starboard side of Błyskawica. The collision caused a rupture on the starboard and the destroyer had to move to South Shields near Newcastle, where underwent another repair, which lasted until 14 April 1944.
From 12 to 16 May 1944 the warships Piorun and Błyskawica, together with British destroyers and cruisers, crossed the Norwegian Sea in search of U-boats and, returning to Scapa Flow, ended their operations in Norwegian waters.
At 1:30 a.m., on 6 June 1944, the allied forces proceeded to land in Normandy as part of operation Neptune. In the first days of the operation the Polish ships, including Błyskawica, Piorun, Krakowiak, Ślązak and Dragon, were doing a fine job. Błyskawica formed part of the 10th flotilla of destroyers and operated in the western part of the English Channel. In the night of 14 and 15 July 1944 one squadron of the 10th flotilla, which included our destroyer, defeated a small German convoy in the battle of Groix. Of the 6 convoy units 3 were sunk and the other three damaged.
At the beginning of September 1944 Błyskawica supplied arms to French partisans and contributed indirectly to their liberation of the island of Ouessant. In the last two months of 1944 she escorted several convoys and went out on patrols.
On the day when the war ended our most famous destroyer was at Cowes and celebrated the Allied victory there.
A total of 47 ships operated under the white and red Polish flag out of British bases during the war. In the course of fighting alongside the British navy the Poles lost 6 ships: a cruiser, 3 destroyers and 2 submarines. The total casualties amounted to 404 killed and 191 wounded officers, non-commissioned officers and seamen. During the Norwegian campaign we lost: Orzeł (missing), Grom (sunk) and Chrobry (bombed). Orkan was torpedoed on 7 October 1943, Modlin was laid up on 8 June 1944 during the building of an artificial harbour in the course of the invasion of Normandy and Dragon was sunk on 8 July 1944 in the Baie de la Seine. In December 1944 the Polish navy lost one more ship – Chorzów, which sank as a result of a severe storm; its crew was, however, rescued.
‘For their contribution to the wartime effort Polish seamen were awarded during the war 51 Virtuti Militari Crosses, 1052 Crosses of Valour, 68 Crosses of Merit with Swords as well as 83 high-level British decorations and 15 French decorations.’ (Edmund Kosiarz, Flota białego orła (“The Fleet of the White Eagle”), Gdansk 1981, p. 633).
Tomasz Feruś did not return to Poland immediately after the war and remained in England until 1 July 1947. He stayed at the repatriation camp in Hursley. He also spent some time transitioning to civilian life, improving his skills as a mechanic and welder, in Plymouth. He intended to remain in exile, fearing repressions from the Communists, which decision was made easier by the fact that he was in a relationship with a woman whose identity is unknown. For reasons that are also unknown he changed his mind and decided to go back to his native country. Błyskawica reached Gdynia on 4 July 1947. He came too late to see his mother Paulina, who died on 7 June 1947, i.e. almost a month earlier, at the age of fifty-eight. He also could not meet with his sister Zofia, who had been shot dead by a German soldier during the evacuation of the village, when she returned home to take some things for her child. He settled in his family home in Turaszówka, together with his father and his eldest brother’s family.
Soon afterwards he had to present himself at the secret police office in Krosno. Tomasz Feruś, honoured with the Cross of Valour, three Maritime Medals and many British decorations (Africa Star, Atlantic Star, War Medal, Silver Rose and other) could appear particularly dangerous to the Communists. There he most probably heard what Adam Pieluszczak heard at the secret police office in Strzelce Krajeńskie. He kept on being told that he was an enemy of the People’s Republic of Poland, i.e. a member of the Home Army, a deserter, a counter-revolutionary and a subversive, and as such must be carefully watched. He was also, most definitely, ordered to present himself at the secret police office every two weeks wearing a seaman’s uniform and forbidden from leaving his home without that uniform. He was only permitted to wear civilian clothes in his yard. Such information was communicated in an imperative manner and could not be objected to. Tomasz Feruś understood at that time to what kind of Poland he returned.
The order to wear a seaman’s uniform outside of one’s property was meant to facilitate the observation of a person whom secret police officers might consider suspicious. I do, however, think that those actions of the authorities had an unintended effect, as Tomasz – a handsome man, with blue eyes, blonde, tall (one metre eighty-one centimetres), athletic and dressed in a seaman’s uniform – inspired admiration and respect even among those who accepted the current political situation.
In order to earn a living, he returned to his previous place of work, i.e. to the aviation works in Krosno. There he proved to be a disciplined, reliable, professional and friendly welder. The management appreciated his competence and, as a result, he was sent to do welding work on the construction of the University Children’s Hospital in Krakow, popularly known as Prokocim. The hospital was built between 1961 and 1966. This appreciation of the management of the aviation works was probably expressed with extreme caution in those days, as this and any other management in the People’s Republic of Poland was under careful observation of the secret police. The fact that he was liked in his place of work is consistent with how he was perceived aboard the ship. Let me quote the opinion on him of Wojciech Francki, the commander of Błyskawica: ‘Intelligent, intent on self-improvement, a good gunner, very disciplined, eager and reliable, physically fit. Generally good. 30 December 1940’, the opinion of Cdr Lichodziejewski: ‘Quite intelligent, very disciplined, obedient, loyal and dutiful. A very eager, hard-working and diligent seaman. A good specialist and a well-formed soldier. Of cheerful disposition. Generally very good. 19 December 1942’ and one more opinion, dated 15 December 1943 and expressed by Cdr Namieśniowski (the other opinions are, unfortunately, not very legible): ‘Quite intelligent, disciplined and loyal. Of joyful disposition. Friendly and liked by his companions. A very hard working, dutiful seaman. A good and very diligent rangefinder operator. Trustworthy during and outside of service. Very good.’ A man with so many strengths could have many well-wishing persons on his side in his career, but the duty to present himself at the secret police office in Krosno every two weeks and the long tiresome and exhausting interrogations weakened his mental strength. And if we take into account his seven-year service as a seaman and participation in dramatic battles with German and Italian aircraft and U-boats, we will understand why his mental condition was being subjected to gradual decompensation, which manifested itself in his progressive visible withdrawal from active life into his own inner world. After work he usually stayed at home and read books – both classical and contemporary literature. He also collected books, which were for him a refuge from everyday problems. Aware of the fact that he was under constant surveillance, he avoided extensive contacts with people. He would leave Turaszówka only occasionally, but did not tell his family where and to whom he was going. He had a very narrow circle of sincere friends. One of them was a man named Zajdel, with whom he held confidential conversations. In addition, he was sometimes visited by a war veteran (a soldier or a seaman) from the village of Potok. Tomasz took part in family get-togethers, but was not very active in discussions, usually limiting himself to listening and brief comments on the topics talked about. He was a believer and regularly attended Sunday masses. He liked children. He would go for swims in the Wisłok river together with his godson Jerzy Feruś (son of his twin brother Franciszek), who came to Turaszówka from Strzelin for his summer holidays from time to time. It was a relaxing respite from the stressful thoughts and tragic memories. The other family members, who were children at the time, also speak favourably of him. Unfortunately, people of his age have been dead for many years. According to the accounts of his family members, when he nevertheless got into a frank discussion, he usually returned to 1942 and the struggles to capture the northern coasts of Africa. He also talked about the fight in which he was injured in the leg. The wound was healing badly and he felt it for the rest of his life. It has not, however, been possible to determine when and in what circumstances it occurred and trusted companions who may have known it are no longer alive. He never had a permanent relationship with a woman and did not have a family of his own, even though he had opportunities to do so, as several women, at different times, sought his favour.
It is not known whether he corresponded with any of his companions who had come to Poland. Conducting such correspondence was very risky until 1956, i.e. until Władysław Gomułka came to power. If he did, it was destroyed, along with other mementos brought to Turaszówka. It happened in a state of deep bitterness and sorrow, in which he found himself just before his death. He brought out of the room where he lived everything that testified to his seven-year struggle for free Poland and burnt it in the yard. He did not realise that those mementos would now be a family treasure, looked after with care, as is done by Stanisława Nowak from Gościm, who honours the memory of her father Adam Pieluszczak, a torpedo operator from Błyskawica.
Tomasz Feruś died on 8 December 1986, i.e. three years before the political transformation, at the age of 65, in his home in Turaszówka. He had a severe haemorrhage, which may suggest an extensive hemorrhagic stroke. His funeral was a modest one, attended only by his family members. He was buried in the cemetery in Krosno, in the G 11-4-1 sector, with no solemn speeches, military standards, youth delegations, military orchestra or the woman that he fell in love with in England. A hero passed away, but his persecutors, who deprived him of the joy of life, lived on – in prosperity and splendour.
Between 1945 and 1947 177 seamen, non-commissioned officers and officers from Błyskawica returned to Poland. Each of them experienced tribulations and torments in Poland, for the freedom of which they fought from September 1939. And the higher the person’s rank in the navy the more they suffered.
Every individual story, not only that of Błyskawica seamen, deserves a separate presentation.
This text is an encouragement for those who care about the fate of patriots persecuted in the People’s Republic of Poland.
The memory of the seamen mentioned here should remain alive and the adults and youths from the schools in Odrzykoń and Krosno attended by Tomasz Feruś and from the Primary School in Gościm in the Strzelce Krajeńskie district, where Adam Pieluszczak, a torpedo operator from Błyskawica, lived and worked, have a special obligation to ensure that the graves of our heroes are always decorated with fresh flowers.
Tomasz Feruś’s family, after obtaining documents from the APC Polish Inquiries RAF Northolt and becoming familiar with the achievements of their uncle, have sponsored a gravestone plaque commemorating his service on the warship Błyskawica. A particular gratitude is owed to Katarzyna and Piotr Kozubal, Jerzy Feruś, Halina and Jan Delimat, Elżbieta Jurek, Zofia and Eugeniusz Ozimina, Zofia Feruś, Agata and Stanisław Feruś, Bogusława and Józef Feruś, Inez and Ryszard Ziemiański, Małgorzata and Łukasz Mazur, Teresa and Tadeusz Grabowiec, Jakub Jurek and Irena and Andrzej Brzozowski for their financial support of this project.
I encourage all the families of the seamen who returned to Poland to contact Stanisław Feruś, to join in the effort of gathering information on their lives, describing their hardships after their return to their home country and giving them due respect by honouring their resting places. Preferred contact e-mail: [email protected], message title: “POWRÓT MARYNARZA DO KRAJU” (A SEAMAN’S RETURN TO HIS HOME COUNTRY).
The combat trail of Błyskawica was described on the basis of a book by Edmund Kosiarz titled “Flota białego orła” (“The Fleet of the White Eagle”), Gdansk 1981.
Tłumaczenie/translation Dariusz Gereta
 In Odrzykoń there are ruins of the Kamieniec Castle. On 8 July 1828 Polish playwright Aleksander Fredro was married to Zofia Jabłonowska, whose dowry included half of the old castle. When studying documents related to the history of the castle, Fredro came across 17th c. court files concerning a 30-year-long dispute, on the basis of which he wrote his famous play Revenge.
 His first wife, with whom he had five children, died in 1956.
[3 Peking (Beijing) Plan – an operation consisting in the withdrawal of part of the Polish naval force, i.e. three destroyers, from the Baltic Sea to Great Britain.
 After his return to Poland during the period of Stalinism he was repressed, tortured and sentenced to 8 years in prison. On 19 January 1955 he was rehabilitated. He died on 8 January 2007 in Krakow.
 During the war the warship Krakowiak, ID No. L 115, travelled 146,000 nautical miles, escorted 206 convoys including 9 Atlantic convoys, and shot down 3 planes.
 The District Public Security Office (a secret police unit) in Krosno was located near the Market Square, at No. 2 Portiusa Street.
 He might have been a seaman, as two persons with this surname are entered in the Navy register from that period – Władysław Zajdel and Zygmunt Zajdel.
 In the early days of June 1947 seamen who were willing to return to Poland were assembled at repatriation camp No. 98 in Cumnock near Glasgow. A group of 100 persons sailed off to Rosyth. Then, on 19 June, a second group, numbering 67 persons, including four officers, boarded Błyskawica. A further thirteen seamen boarded the ship on subsequent days. Bolesław Romanowski became the ship commander and Zbigniew Węglarz – his deputy.