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Polish Navy
Marynarka Wojenna
POL Marynarka Wojenna.svg
Polish Navy's Eagle

PL navy flag IIIRP.svg
Polish Navy's Flag
Active 1918 - present
Country  Poland
Branch Navy
Size 14,300 personnel
~80 vessels [1]
Part of Polish Armed Forces
Headquarters Gdynia
Engagements Standing NRF Maritime Group 1
2003 Invasion of Iraq
Commander-in-chief Vice Admiral Andrzej Karweta
Polish Navy Ensign FIAV 000001.svg
(Bandera wojenna)
Naval Ensign of Poland.svg
Naval Jack
Naval Jack of Poland.svg

The Polish Navy (Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - MW RP, or unofficially Polska Marynarka Wojenna - PMW) is the branch of Poland's Armed Forces responsible for naval operations. It has 80 ships (including 5 submarines, 2 frigates, 3 corvette, 3 missile boats - as of 2008) and about 14,300 commissioned and enlisted personnel. The traditional ship prefix in the Polish Navy is ORP (Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - "Ship of the Polish Republic").

The Polish Navy is one of the bigger navies on the Baltic Sea. It is mostly responsible for Baltic Sea operations. Other duties include search and rescue operations covering parts of the Baltic, as well as hydrographic measurements and research.

Recently the Polish Navy played a more international role as part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, specifically providing logistical support for the United States Navy.


Organization and mission

The Polish Navy is organized into 2 separate flotillas, and a Naval Air Arm. In addition to this the Polish Navy supplies nearly 40 ships as part of the NATO Rapid Reaction Force, designed to be a force projection and conflict response force around the world.

The main mission of the Polish Navy is the defense of Polish territorial waters, the Polish coastline, and Polish interests abroad. Secondary roles include the support of NATO allied operations, such as in the Middle East, and search and rescue operations throughout the Baltic Sea.

Ships and naval aircraft

ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko a guided-missile frigate
ORP Generał Kazimierz Pułaski underway in the Baltic.
ORP Poznań during Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2004
ORP Bielik a Kobben class submarine
Polish naval honor guard
Polish Navy Kaman Seasprite landing on ORP Generał Tadeusz Kościuszko.

Surface Vessels


Auxiliary Vessels



Victory at the Battle of Oliwa in 1627.

The Polish Navy has its roots in naval vessels that were largely used on Poland's main rivers in defense of trade and commerce. During the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466), this small force of inland ships for the first time saw real open sea combat. At the battle of the Vistula Lagoon, a Polish privateer fleet defeated the Teutonic Knights Navy and secured permanent access to the Baltic Sea. The Second Peace of Thorn (1466) acquired for Poland the strategic naval city of Danzig (Gdańsk), and with it the means of maintaining a large fleet on the Baltic. In 1561, following a victory over Russian Naval forces in the Baltic, the Polish Navy acquired a second key port at Riga, in modern-day Latvia.

The most celebrated victory of the Commonwealth Navy was the Battle of Oliwa in 1627 against Sweden, during the Polish-Swedish War. The victory over Sweden secured for Poland permanent access to the Atlantic, and laid the foundations for expeditions beyond Europe. Around this time the need for a permanent naval force was recognized by King Sigismund August, and the Commission of Royal Ships (Komisja Okrętów Królewskich) was created in 1625. This commission, along with the ultimate allocation of funds by the Sejm in 1637, created a permanent Commonwealth Navy. However, the support for this navy was weak and it largely withered away by the 1650s.

The Duchy of Courland, by the time a fief of Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth had a strong navy: it established colonies on Tobago island in the West Indies (named New Courland) and on the estuary of Gambia River.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, although the dominant force in Central and Eastern Europe during the 16th-18th Centuries, never developed its navy to full potential. The small Polish coastline and the limited access to the Atlantic never allowed for a massive buildup of naval forces, especially not to the level of colonial powers such as England and France. The Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century brought an end to the independent Polish Navy.

Twentieth century

Torpedo boat ORP Mazur one of Polish Navy's first ships after WW I.
Minelayer ORP Gryf was Poland's largest interbellum ship.
ORP Burza docked at the Gdynia Naval Muzeum.
ORP Żbik a Wilk class submarine
ORP Conrad a World War II polish navy cruiser

Following World War I, the Second Polish Republic on 28 November 1918, by the order of Józef Piłsudski, commander of the Armed Forces of Poland, founded the modern Polish Navy. The token naval force was placed under the command of Captain Bogumił Nowotny as its first chief. The first ships were acquired from a division of the Imperial German Navy (because of Great Britain's politics, it was very small part, limited to six torpedo boats).

In the 1920s and 1930s the Polish Navy underwent a modernisation program under the leadership of Vice-Admiral Jerzy Świrski (Chief of Naval Staff) and Rear-Admiral Józef Unrug (CO of the Fleet). A number of modern ships were built in France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Despite ambitious plans (including 2 cruisers and 12 destroyers), the budgetary limitations placed on the government by the Great Depression never allowed the navy to expand beyond a small Baltic force. A building of one of submarines - the Orzeł, was even partly funded by a public collection. One of main goals of the Polish Navy was to protect the Polish coast against the Soviet Baltic Fleet, therefore it put emphasis on fast submarines, strong destroyers and mine warfare. By September 1939 the Polish Navy consisted of 5 submarines, 4 destroyers, big minelayer and various smaller support vessels and mine-warfare ships. This force was no match for the larger Kriegsmarine, and so a strategy of harassment and indirect engagement was implemented.

World War II

The outbreak of World War II caught the Polish Navy off guard and in a state of expansion. Lacking numerical superiority, Polish Naval commanders decided to withdraw main surface ships to Great Britain to join the Allied war effort and prevent them from being destroyed in a closed Baltic (Operation Peking). On August 30th, 1939, 3 destroyers (ORP Błyskawica, Grom, and Burza) sailed to the British naval base at Leith in Scotland. They then operated in combination with Royal Navy vessels against Germany. Also two submarines managed to flee from Baltic through the Danish straits to Great Britain during the Polish September Campaign (one of them, ORP Orzeł, made a daring escape from internment in Tallinn, Estonia, and traveled without maps). Three submarines were interned in Sweden, while remaining surface vessels were sunk by German aircraft.

During the war the Polish Navy in exile was supplemented with leased British ships, including 2 cruisers, 7 destroyers, 3 submarines, and a number of smaller fast-attack vessels. The Polish Navy fought alongside the Allied navies in Norway, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and aided in the escort of Atlantic and Arctic convoys. Polish naval vessels played a part in the sinking of the Bismarck, and in the landings in Normandy during D-Day. During all war, 1 cruiser, 4 destroyers, 1 mine layer, 1 torpedo boat, 2 submarines and some smaller boats (gunboats, mine hunters etc.) were sunk (total: 26 ships were lost - mostly in September 1939). Polish ships participied in sinking of German battleship and destroyer and sunk 6 surface ships, 2 submarines and some merchant vessels.


The following selection illustrates the breadth of Polish Naval activity.


After World War II, on July 7, 1945, the new Soviet-imposed Communist government revived the Polish Navy with headquarters in Gdynia. During Communist times, Poland's Navy experienced a great buildup, including the development of a separate amphibious force of Polish Marines. The Navy also acquired a number of Soviet-made ships, including 2 destroyers, 2 missile destroyers, 13 submarines and 17 missile boats. Among them was a Kilo class submarine Orzeł and a missile destroyer modified Kashin class (ORP Warszawa). Polish shipyards produced mostly landing craft, minesweepers and auxiliary vessels. The primary role of the Warsaw Pact Polish Navy was to be Baltic Sea control, as well as amphibious operations along the entire Baltic coastline against NATO forces in Denmark and Germany. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the fall of Communism ended this stance.

21st century

Poland's entrance into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has greatly changed the structure and role of the Polish Navy. Whereas before, most of Naval High Command was concerned with coastal defense and Baltic Sea Operations, the current mindset is for integration with international naval operations. The focus is on expansion of subsurface naval capabilities, and in the creation of a large submarine force. To facilitate these changes the Republic of Poland has undertaken a number of modernization programs aimed at creating a force capable of power projection around the world. This includes a number of foreign acquisitions, including the acquisition of four Kobben class submarines from Norway, and two Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates from the United States. Polish Navy has also one submarine of the Kilo class (ORP Orzeł). The Naval air arm has also acquired a number of SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters. Highly appreciated is a special diver commando service Formoza.

The Polish Navy has taken part in numerous joint force operations. In 1999 the naval base at Gdynia became the home base of all NATO submarine forces in the Baltic, codenamed COOPERATIVE POSEIDON. That same year joint US-Polish submarine training manoeuvres codenamed BALTIC PORPOISE for the first time utilized the port in a multinational military nature.

Naval colors

The flag of the Polish Navy is a red flag with the emblem of the Polish Armed Forces - Navy on the foreground. The Naval Emblem has an anchor to distinguish it from other Armed Forces branches. It is traditionally flown on naval bases on land, and at the headquarters of naval command in Gdynia.

The naval jack of the Polish navy is based on a traditional 17th Century fighting jack design of a scimitar ready to strike at the enemy. It was first used during the battle of Oliwa in 1627 against Sweden, during the Polish-Swedish War. It is traditionally flown from the bow of the ship, and the ensign at the rear when in port. The jack used before 1955 and in 1960-1993 was similar, but the armed hand was in flesh colour, with blue sleeve. In 1955-1959 there was a different jack used.

Naval ensign (up to 1945 and from 1993 on)
Naval ensign (up to 1945 and from 1993 on)
Naval jack (from 1993 on)
Naval jack (from 1993 on)
Auxiliary ships' ensign
Auxiliary ships' ensign
Polish Navy Flag
Polish Navy Flag

See also



  • Michael Alfred Peszke, Poland's Navy: 1918–1945, New York, Hippocrene Books, 1999, ISBN 0-7818-0672-0.

External links


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