Polish submarine sinks German ship in Mediterranean

Polish submarine DZIK, originally British U class submarine P-52, underway in coastal waters.

Polish submarine DZIK, originally British U class submarine P-52, underway in coastal waters.

A number of ships and submarines from the small Polish Navy had managed to escape from Poland at the outbreak of war in 1939. They continued to operate as the Polish Navy and saw action alongside the Royal Navy throughout the war. Sufficient men escaped from Poland for them to man other ships, amongst those transferred to the Polish Navy were two U class submarines.

The two Polish submarines ORP Sokol ‘Falcon’ and sister ship ORP Dzik ‘Wild Boar’ were known as the terrible twins in the Mediterranean. ORP Sokol was to have a run of success in the autumn of 1943, sinking a series of small ships taken over from the Greeks and Italians by the Germans.

On 11th November Lieutenant Commander Jerzy Koziolowski, commanding Sokol, was pleased to celebrate Polish Independence Day with another success, even things did go entirely smoothly. This is his Patrol Report of the action, now kept with Royal Navy records:

At 1215, while seven miles north of Anedro [Anydro], two-masted schooner was sighted on bearing 515°, at a distance of nine miles. Schooner was proceeding on her motor on course 100° towards Amorgos, at a speed of about eight Knots. Course north was set to approach schooner at close range.

At 1250 schooner passed at 200 yards, beam on. She was about 140 tons, fully rigged with topmasts, flying German flag. The crew of more than a dozen were seen wearing naval uniforms. Her bulwarks were suspiciously high, with canvas covering amidships, and high superstructures beside both masts. Something like DC rails were seen under the stern. Two boats were on tow.

Observation was difficult due to haze low above the surface and the sunlight played tricks with the shadows on the superstructures — they appeared to have no fore and after bulkheads, thus looking like only side coverings.

Went to action stations at 1513, surfaced four miles off SW point of Amorgos Island. Schooner was 140° on the starboard bow at a distance of 4,000 yards, steering 110° parallel to the coast. Opened fire with 3-inch gun at a range of 4,000 yards firing on rel. bear. Red 020° and closing on course 090° at full speed.

First three rounds were scattered about 500 yards – the following ones straddled the target within 50-80 yards.

Schooner turned towards the coast, showing 140° on the port bow and opened fire with two heavy MGs. The 11th round hit the foremast and brought it down. Enemy ceased fire for a while and slowed down. After 24 rounds the gun jammed beyond quick repair, due to defective ammunition.

Enemy immediately reopened fire, apparently stopping — the range closing to 2,000 yards. Fired 400 rounds from 2 Vickers MGs and at 1230 dived hurriedly, for enemy’s fire was becoming unpleasantly hot. Examined target through periscope – she was stopped and adrift, two small rowing boats leaving towards shore, but with only a few men; the others were still on board.

Manoeuvred to obtain firing position, and at 1347 fired one torpedo set to two feet at 500 yards, on 100° track. Torpedo slightly turned to the port and either it deviated from its track or schooner was on the drift – torpedo passed under stern and missed. It caused, however, considerable panic on board, and remaining crew left schooner in a hurry in a motor boat, steering to the coast. Closed to 200 yards and confirmed schooner was really abandoned.

Surfaced at 1406 and put S/Lieutenant Fritz in charge of boarding party of four on board. As soon as boarding party landed, lookout was much impressed by mountainous islands all round the horizon, and in the same moment aircraft, E-boat, merchant vessel and caique were reported approaching from different bearings. A/C was possible, for intensive A/C patrolling was carried out during the forenoon, and CO without confirming the sighting blew the whistle for the boarding party to come back.

Two demolition charges were fired with 10-minute fuze, and boarding party hurried on board. At this moment, securing line broke, schooner started to drift away and the last two of the boarding party, including S/Lieutenant Fritz carrying charts, books and signals, had to jump overboard and swim a few yards. Of course, none of the panicky-sighted targets materialised, but now the fuze was set and the chance of a considerable prize was lost.

Schooner was 120 feet long, estimated at 140 tons, and carefully equipped. Captain’s cabin was fully loaded with charts, books etc. — a pair of earphones was seen but whether these belonged to the wireless or listening device could not be confirmed. She was carrying some stores: bunches of naval clothing, rifles, ammunition belts, bayonets, boots — all brand new and stored in the focs’le. There was a loading hold amidships, but locked tightly.

Two 0.5-inch MGs were counted on each side, and rifles were dropped on the deck, apparently freshly used. Possibly four depth charges were astern, covered by canvas, with movable doors on the bulwarks.

At 1455 schooner blew up magnicently and sank. When jumping overboard, S/Lieutenant Fritz could only save charts. Schooner’s course led from Nio to Stampalia.

See TNA 199/1854

The Polish submarine ORP Sokol, previously HMS Urchin.

The Polish submarine ORP Sokol, previously HMS Urchin.

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