An Unsung Hero In The Battle To Destroy Bismarck

An Unsung Hero In The Battle To Destroy Bismarck

Pictured when she was HMS Noble after the war.

One of the unsung heroes of the battle to destroy the Bismarck, The Polish destroyer that took on the Bismarck and signaled her “ We Are Polish” and then went into the attack.

ORP Piorun was an N-class destroyer launched on the 7th of May 1940 at a cost of 400,000 GBP. She would be operated by the Polish Navy in World War II. As a result of the Royal Navy transferred ownership of her to the Polish Navy during October 1940.

The word piorun is Polish for “Thunderbolt”.

On May 22nd, 1941, Piorun under the command of komandor porucznik (Captain) Eugeniusz Pławski (above) with ships of the British 4th Destroyer Flotilla (HMS Cossack, HMS Maori, HMS Sikh and HMS Zulu), commanded by Captain Philip Vian, provided additional escort to troop convoy WS8B en route from Glasgow to the Indian Ocean.

Plawski was a battle-hardened veteran having fought through the entire first World War after receiving training from a Russian Naval school in St. Petersburg. After World War 1 Plawski would switch to the Polish Navy.

On May 25th Vian’s destroyers (including Piorun) were detached from the convoy to join the search for the Bismarck.

On the evening of May 26th arriving first on the scene with the destroyer HMS Maori, Piorun charged at Bismarck by herself, while Maori maneuvered for position to fire torpedoes. Alone, Piorun exchanged fire with Bismarck for an hour, with neither side scoring any hits, although after the third salvo, Bismarck missed by only 20 yards causing Pławski to pull away.

According to one report (detailed at the Auschwitz I exhibition, Oświęcim, Poland), Pławski transmitted the message “I am a Pole” before commencing fire on Bismarck; other sources say the signal to commence fire was “Trzy salwy na cześć Polski” (“Three salvoes in honor of Poland”). At one time during the action Vian thought that Pławski was actually going to ram Bismarck.

Contemporary secret report commending Piorun

At 05:00 so at 05:00 Pławski was ordered home before Piorun had used her torpedoes. Pławski was reluctant to leave the area and ignored Vian’s order for an hour before returning to the United Kingdom.

Piorun returns to Plymouth after Bismarck has been sunk

An Unsung Hero In The Battle To Destroy Bismarck

Written by Harry Gillespie

Harry Gillespie is a writer who resides in the UK with his family. Furthermore, Harry’s work focuses on Naval & British history with a specific look at 20th century warfare and ships. Moreover, from World War 1 to The Falkland Islands Campaign.

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