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ORP "Wicher" - pride of the Polish Navy of the Second Republic

In 1925 the Naval Command decided to include two destroyers in the plans for expansion of the Polish fleet. According to the Polish government’s commitments, ORP “Wicher” and ORP “Burza” were to be built at the French shipyard Chantiers Naval Francais in Blainville. ORP “Wicher” was incorporated into the Polish fleet on 8 July 1930.
Published: December 10, 2018 - 11:45
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 17:10
ORP “Wicher” – pride of the Polish Navy of the Second Republic

In 1925 the Naval Command decided to include two destroyers in the plans for expansion of the Polish fleet. According to the Polish government’s commitments, ORP “Wicher” and ORP “Burza” were to be built at the French shipyard Chantiers Naval Francais in Blainville.

ORP “Wicher” was incorporated into the Polish fleet on 8 July 1930. Its first commander was Lieutenant Commander Tadeusz Morgenstern-Podjazd, who brought the vessel from France to Polish waters. Immediately after entering service, “Wicher” was appointed flagship to the commander of the Torpedo Boat Squadron, Lieutenant Commander Roman Stankiewicz. It performed this role until 1937, when the function of the flagship was taken over by a more modern destroyer – ORP “Grom”.

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ORP_Wicher_4

The Wicher was a ship measuring 106.9 metres long (100.9 between perpendiculars) and 10.5 metres wide, with a standard displacement of 1400 tonnes. The propulsion unit consisted of two sets of Parsonas steam turbines, with a combined output of 35,000 hp. The operational range of the ship was 3000 NM, with a maximum speed of 33 knots (the record speed obtained during trials was 33.8 knots). The crew of the ship consisted of 10-12 officers and 150 non-commissioned officers and sailors.

The ship’s artillery armament consisted of four single Schneider-Creusot (1924) 130 mm guns, two single Vickers (28) 40 mm guns and since 1935 also two heaviest Hotchkiss (1930) 13.2 mm machine guns. Additionally, ORP “Wicher” was equipped with two 550 mm triple torpedo tubes, two depth bomb launchers and two depth bomb throwers, which were later removed. This was complemented by two mine tracks.

ORP “Wicher” played its first serious role (apart from escorting other Polish vessels or courteous visits to European ports) in 1932, during the so-called “Gdansk Crisis”. Thanks to the decisive actions of its commander, Polish ships again gained the right to use the port of Gdansk as their home port, as well as all the privileges that go with it.

An interesting episode took place in 1935, when the ship played in the film “Rapsodia Bałtyku” by Leon Buczkowski.

Not included in the Peking Plan (a plan to send Polish units westward), ORP “Wicher” was assigned to defend the Polish coast. After Germany annexed Klaipeda to the Third Reich, the whole squadron of destroyers was put on high alert.

In September 1939, together with the mine-laying vessel ORP “Gryf”, “Wicher” defended the Polish coast, participating in a victorious skirmish with German destroyers. She finished her service under the Polish flag on 3 September 1939, when, around 17.00, she was bombed in the Hel harbour by German Stukas planes from the 4th Diving Bomber Squadron.

After the end of the September campaign, the wreck of the ship was raised, but the impossibility of repair resulted in its renewed sinking near the breakwater on Hel. In the post-war years it was the target of practice aerial bombardments. Part of the wreck was excavated and dismantled in 1963.

The remains of a great ship, which ORP “Wicher” undoubtedly was, are today the target of many recreational dives. What is left on the bottom is located on a sandy slope at the depth of 5-16 meters. This is another item for beginner divers who are just beginning their adventure with wreck diving.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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