The construction of “Błyskawica” commenced at the times when the dark shadows of the predicted conflict started to seriously gather over Europe. The English shipyard at Cowes received the order for a destroyer ship for the Polish navy. The works were finished almost exactly two years before WWII broke out. “Błyskawica” and her sister ship “Grom” were at the time onamong the fastest and most modern naval ships in the world. The Polish navy was proud of both of them and the ships’ combat efficiency increased the doubtful national security morale. Ironically, neither “Grom” nor “Błyskawica” ever launched a bullet in defence of Poland, invaded by the Germans in 1939. They were both sent to the UK by a controversial order issued the day before the war started.
The reason given was that such big warships were an easy target for the German air forces on the small Gdańsk Bay. The argument did not however convince the crew of the ships, as they wanted to fight and heard the news on the radio, in fact, while getting further away from their country. This way the odyssey of the Polish war ships stared, with “Błyskawica” appearing and fighting in many legendary battles and operations such as the Norwegian Campaign oand Overlord (the D-Day landings). She luckily came out untouched from all of its sea battles. She came back to Poland two years after the war ended to serve further the Polish navy still enjoying the reputation as the best Polish navy warship.
The great days of “Błyskawica” were ended after 30 years of service with a tragic accident, during which steam coming from a broken water pipe killed seven sailors. It was decided that repairs were pointless after the accident but she still served as an air defence battery. The ship retired after forty years of service and became a museum ship located at the South Pier in Gdynia. Today it is the oldest destroyer existing in the world.
ORP “Błyskawica” is a compulsory element of sightseeing Gdynia. The ship herself, her equipment and the museum exhibition located under the deck, describe the history of heroic fighting by the Polish navy in battles and in its everyday service.