- Head, Michael
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1993 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Next morning the captain of the ORZEL, Commander Kloczkowski, fell ill and typhus was suspected. He had to be landed.
On September 11 the order was issued to the submarines to try and run for Britain, and, next day, the WILK reported its intention to try. During the evening of the 14th the WILK trailed behind a Swedish convoy passing along the coast and through the minefields. Suddenly two warships were seen heading towards them. They were two destroyer types and briefly illuminated the submarine with a searchlight. The WILK had to pass within 50 yards of the ships, but the Germans apparently thought it was escorting the convoy and passed on. On September 15 the SEP made an attempt to break out to Britain but had to abort the operation as it was uncertain whether she could submerge or not. The WILK reached the British base in Scapa Flow on the 21st.
Still the battle went on. Early on the 21st the SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN joined the SCHLESIEN and a flotilla of minesweepers to bombard the Hela peninsula. The Polish Laskowski battery replied hitting the SCHLESIEN forcing her to withdraw under a cloud of smoke, and hitting the SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN as well. Not an impressive day for the German Navy.
Next day TASS carried the story that a Polish submarine had attacked and missed the Soviet freighter PIONIER, but torpedoed and sunk the freighter METALLIST (968 tons gross). It had been sunk in the Gulf of Navara and some of the crew lost their lives.
In 1941 it became known that Capt. R. Osipov had sailed the METALLIST into the Gulf of Navara under orders from party secretary A. Zdanov and C-in-C Adm. N.G. Kuznetsov. He was to report the sinking by a Polish submarine. Waiting for him were the Soviet submarine S.C. 303 and the torpedo boat TUCA. After the crew had been taken off, the S.C. 303 fired three torpedoes but failed to score a hit. Finally the TUCA sank the steamer with gunfire. To make publicity and later salvage easier, a shallow spot was selected and the METALLIST sank only as far as deck level.
The Estonian foreign minister, Karl Selter, was in Moscow and summoned before Molotov to be blamed for the attack as the weakness of the Estonian forces had allowed it to happen. A mutual assistance treaty was demanded and the threat made that the Soviet Government “…would see itself compelled to carry out its wishes by force“. The Russian fleet entered Estonian waters, bombers flew over Revel and troops moved up to the frontier. Appeals to German, Finland and the West went unanswered. Estonia was occupied and became a Soviet Republic “at the wish of the Estonian people“.
On Sunday, October 1, the 3rd Battalion 374 Infantry Regiment, supported by M.4, M.111, M.132 and Nettlebeck, a naval railway battery and army batteries, began a final attack on Hela. At 2.00 p.m. the Polish commander of naval forces requested a cease-fire; so ended resistance on the Baltic Coast.
At 2.20 p.m. fell a final act. The M.85 struck a mine and sank in a minute. Twenty-three went down in the ship but the captain and 47 others survived. She had run into a mine laid by the ZBIK, the only success of the Polish submarines, but their nuisance value more than justified their presence in the order of battle. They forced the Germans to tie up most of their minesweepers in escort duties when they were needed elsewhere ((The only other naval fighting occurred on rivers in the east. A flotilla of river monitors and gunboats had been created in 1920 for service on the Vistula but these had been moved eastwards to Polesie and Pinsk regions during the early 30s. The ships remained in eastern Poland after the German attack, but the Russian invasion gave them no chance. They were ordered not to resist unless attacked and retreated slowly along the Pohost Zararecany-Morocano blowing up bridges as they went. The large monitor Warszawa ran on a sand bar and was scuttled. The Wilno was blown up on September 19, using her own magazine. It was the only one of the river monitors to be completely destroyed. The Wilno had been in action against a Soviet river flotilla but was towing a barge of artillery stores when it had to be destroyed.