Captain Francki's Report:



During the night of 5-6th May, there was a heavy air raid on Cowes where O.R.P. BLYSKAWICA is under repair.

The activity of the ship was as follows:-

At 2255 when the A.A. guns on the island started firing, the A.A. alarm was given on board at 2300.

A few minutes later the first German planes appeared, dropping flares, followed immediately by planes which dropped a large number of incendiary bombs on East Cowes along about 1 klm of the river bank, starting huge fires in the dockyard. High explosive bombs were dropped on West Cowes, which started three large fires along the river. One of the first bombs fell in the dockyard where the ship lies, starting quite a large fire.

At 2135 the ship was surrounded by fires which excellently illuminated the whole dockyard and the two destroyers building there. Owing to this I sent three men with smoke-candles to the lee-side of the river where they lit them in turn making a smoke-screen over the threatened area. I think the effect of the screen was considerable as it covered the ships and part of the dockyard almost continually.

At 2320 I sent my British Leading Signalman to the A.R.P. Headquarters, offering to help them, and also suggested making a first-aid post for the slightly injured on board.

At 2325 I sent about 20 men to help fight fires in the dockyard.

At 2400 I sent another party of about 30 men to help fight fires in the Saunders Roe aircraft factory.

At 2420 the raids ceased, but the alert was kept up on board.

At 0130 I sent 3 parties of about 11 men each to East Cowes to prevent the fire from spreading from the dockyard tracery to the other buildings. I sent these men when communication with the two banks was possible, thanks to an English motorboat.

At 0230 some of the parties working in West Cowes returned.

At 0320 the party from East Cowes returned.

At 0325 at the request of the A.R.P. Headquarters, I sent the doctor with a first-aid party to the first-aid post in West Cowes, leaving a sick-berth Petty Officer on board.

At 0415 a second violent raid came lasting until 0520. Immediately it had started I ordered the smoke screen to be kept up.

At 0445 I sent a party of 17 men who put out an oil fire in the dockyard. At 0615 – all clear – but the ship remained in readiness.

At 0820 the doctor and first-aid party returned.

The raids were made very quickly and from a fairly low ceiling. The planes often dive-bombed.

The ship fired her 40 mm guns and heavy machine guns by sound, which was usually possible when the planes dived before dropping their bombs, or by locating the position of the plane with the help of the search-lights on the island. Fire was always spread both in direction and elevation. The results appeared to good me, as very often the planes turned violently, which we could plainly hear. Once about 2400 we saw a plane in a very dense stream of machine gun bullets. About 0500 in a 40 mm shell barrage, we saw a large explosion, much lighter in colour than the exploding shells and from it fell large numbers of sparks. The ship fired 2030 40 mm shells and 10500 rounds of machine gun ammunition. (13.2mm). The main armament was not used as the control tower had been out of action during a previous raid and I considered that local control fire was ineffective and dangerous for the town and nearby buildings.

(Signed) Commander, Polish Navy. Copies to:- Flag Officer In Charge, Southampton. Captain (D), Greenock. AIR ATTACK ON COWES MAY 5/6th 1942. From: The Captain (D) , First Destroyer Flotilla. Date: 9th May, 1942. No.T.3/1154

To: The Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. Enclosure to Portsmouth No.2626/9692/1/6 of 21.5.42. From: The Commanding Officer, O.R.P.”BLYSKAWICA” Date 9th May 1942. To:- The Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. (Through Captain (D), First Destroyer Flotilla).

The attached report from the Commanding Officer, O.R.P. Blyskawica is forwarded. The Commanding Officer appears to have attacked vigorously, and in particular, I consider that his action in using “smoke candles” to make a smoke screen over the threatened area, is worthy of note. (Signed) Guy Hamilton. Captain.

Commander Francki received a Recommendation for Decoration or Mention in Despatches, with the following “Description of Services for which Officer or Man is recommended:

“For outstanding qualities of initiative and leadership during the enemy air attack on Cowes on the night of 4th/5th May,1942.‘This officer’s action in landing men to burn smoke floats ashore and the intensive barrage which he directed personallywere largely instrumental in saving the destroyers building at Messrs. Samuel White’s Shipyard in East Cowes.‘After the raid parties were landed from the BLYSKAWICA and did good service fire fighting at the Chasseur base and in East Cowes.”