17 wrecks on the bottom of the sea, no trace of the Orzel. “We don’t give up”

28 juni 2016 door Remy Luttik

Santi Find the EagleSanti Find the Eagle” is a long term project to find the wreck of the famous Polish warship ORP Orzel. The expedition team consists among others of four divers, two hydrographers and two historians, led by Tomasz Stachura from Santi. Their main focus is to find the wreck of the submarine to give the relatives clarity about their loved ones and possibly get answers about the disappearance of the submarine. At the same time an almost even important focus is to maintain the history and the heroic actions of the crew during World War II, and tell the story to a bigger audience. At the beginning of World War II the crew of ORP Orzel managed to escape from the Germans from the Baltic Sea. Captain Jan Grudzinski was given posthumously the War Order of Vituti Militari, the highest military award  for courage at wartime.

The expedition team made an expedition on the North Sea with Lamlash at the end of May, beginning of June 2016.

The text below is roughly translated and slightly adjusted from tvn24.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

At completion of their expedition, the Polish team examined 17 wrecks that where laying on the seabed of the North Sea off the coast of Holland. The Polish submarine ORP Orzel disappeared in 1940 and unfortunately they didn’t find her during this expedition. They will not stop searching and soon they will be going back to the sea again.

The expedition, where a dozen Polish men took part in, mainly divers, was focussed on the area around the Dutch harbour of Den Helder. During this expedition they investigated the hypothesis that the ORP Orzel could be gone lost in this area because of an attack from a German E-boat S 13.

They spend three days on sea

The weather during the expedition, that started on the 23rd of May, was for the expedition members not good – There was a very strong wind and from the ten days we wanted to spend doing research in the sea we finally ended up with only three days – said Tomasz Stachura, head of the expedition.

The team investigated 92 preselected positions, selected from information from various archives or given by the Dutch Navy and local researchers, wreck divers and amateur researchers with whom the Polish team have built a close cooperation with.

Photo: Maritime institute Gdansk

Photo: Maritime institute Gdansk

The team found wreck pieces or parts of it

In 17 of the 92 selected locations the team found wreck pieces or remains of wrecks or other objects. At one of the locations they found a big steam boiler, which was identified by a previous investigation with sonar as a possible tower from a submarine.

The research is mainly conducted with the help of the Maritime Institute at Gdansk. A modern multibeam sonar was used to map the seabed. – In cases where the images were looking promising, divers went down – said Stachura.

Many wreck can be spread under a thick layer of sand

The research involved a total area of about 10 nautical miles, and the main focus was the attack position on a submarine, written down in a war diary of 1940 which was written by the commander of the S 13.

Stachura is pointing out that in the most interesting part of this area, since 1940 very radical changes took place: The area got shallower, locally sometimes up to 6-8 meter. Many wrecks can be spread under a thick layer of sand, and therefore invisible for the sonar.

We don’t give up

The head of the expedition noted that in the upcoming years the search to the ORP Orzel will continue. – In the next months we will do further research in the archives etc. Here we hope to get more detailed information, or from the Dutch and English researchers, where we during the years of research built a very good relation – thus Stachura.

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

A great part of the speculation about the missing ship

Hypotheses about the circumstance in which the ORP Orzel has disappeared are plenty. The three most likely are: She maybe run on a minefield in the North Sea; she sunk as result of an attack of a British airplane; she was attacked and brought down by a German ship.

The expedition investigated the third hypothesis for the coast of Holland, based on the report of the commander of the S 13, who attacked in the area of Den Helder in the late spring of 1940 a submarine. With the debris that came after the explosion, came up a life raft with the name O 21 and therefore the attacked submarine was identified as the Dutch submarine O 21. Meanwhile the Polish researchers found out that the O 21 was on that day at the Scottish harbour from Rosyth, but they think that the ORP Orzel borrowed the life raft for their patrol.

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

The third expedition

The expedition for the coast of Holland was already the third expedition organised by the project “Santi Find the Eagle”. Santi is the name of the company, from which Stachura is the CEO, and is the main sponsor of the project. Partners of the expedition of this year where i.a. the Maritime Institute of Gdansk, the Maritime Museum at Gdynia and several private companies who decided to support the search financially.

During the first two expeditions “Santi Find the Eagle” in 2014 and 2015 they have investigated, with the help of a sonar, a selected area of the North Sea for the coast of England. Before, several expeditions took place to trace the wreck of the ORP Orzel. Some of them led to cooperation with the Navy and several other institutes, including the National Maritime Museum at Gdansk. Every expedition ended in disappointment.

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

Build on a Dutch shipyard

ORP Orzel was build during the interwar (the period between WOI and WOII) on a Dutch shipyard, mainly financed by gifts from the Polish society. Equipped with 12 torpedo shafts  and a double anti-aircraft canon, ORP Orzel arrived on the 10th of February 1939 at the harbour of Gdynia.

In the morning of 1 September 1939 ORP Orzel sailed over the Baltic sea to protect the Polish coast against possible German landings from sea. On the 15th of September the ship arrived at the harbour of Tallinn, because the captain wanted to go to the hospital. The unit got interned, the logbook, nautical maps and several guns were confiscated.

At night the Polish crew hijacked the submarine and left the Estonian harbour and without maps they sailed to England. After a forty day sailing trip  and despite the threat of the German fleet and attacks of German airplanes, the ship succeeded to reach the basis of Rosyth at the coast of the United Kingdom.

ORP Orzel got assigned to the second Submarina Flottile at Rosyth. During the winter they went on several patrol missions. On the 8th of April 1940 the ORP Orzel attacked and brought down the German trooptransport ship Rio de Janeiro. Therefore several hunderds of soldiers could not be part of the upcoming invasion of Norway by Hitler.

On the night of the 23rd of May 1940 the crew of the ORP Orzel took sail for the next patrol mission on the North Sea. From this mission the submarine never returns.

Source: tvn24

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

Photo: Grzegorz Pastuszak

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