Topics of coins

Destroyer „Piorun”

ORP Piorun [Thunderbolt] was a British N-class destroyer built in 1939–1940 in John Brown Co. shipyard in Clydebank. On 5 November 1940, British Admiralty transferred the ship to the Polish Navy as a replacement for the destroyer ORP Grom [Thunder], which had been lost during the Battle of Narvik. Before the transfer, ORP Piorun had been called HMS Nerissa. After her crew completed the training, Piorun was patrolling the British waters and escorting Atlantic convoys. In January 1941 she joined a squadron searching for German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on the Northern Atlantic. In March, while stationed in Glasgow, she took part in rescuing the crew of the Duke of York battleship, which had been shelled during an air raid. In the same month Piorun joined an escort of convoys cruising between Great Britain and Canada. In April, together with a British destroyer, she rescued some 290 people from British support cruiser Rajputana sunk between Iceland and Greenland.

What brought Piorun the greatest fame was the pursuit of German battleship Bismarck on the Atlantic. On 26 May 1941, she was detached from a convoy escort to join a group of destroyers hunting for Bismarck, which was posing a threat to British communication lines. At night, in difficult hydro-meteorological conditions Piorun detected the enemy and engaged her in a fight. For about an hour Piorun kept manoeuvring in order to remain in Bismarck’s field of visions. Although the Polish destroyer was not able to launch a torpedo attack and effectively respond to the hostile gunfire, she managed to fulfil her task – detected the enemy, maintained contact and reported its position. The main Allied forces followed the guidance and a dozen or so hours later sunk Bismarck.

Later Piorun was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, where she was again tasked with escorting convoys. In January 1942 she returned to Great Britain which became, for her and other destroyers, a starting point for six escort missions for Atlantic convoys and three escort missions for Arctic ones. In 1943 Piorun was again directed to the Mediterranean Sea, where she participated in the invasion of Italy. From November – after returning to the British waters – she was again included in Atlantic convoys escorts. In June 1944 she participated in a victorious night battle of destroyers near Ile de Batz and a skirmish near Jersey. On 12 August 1944 she sunk the mine barrage breaker Sperrbrecher 7 near La Rochelle. After the conclusion of repair works in January 1945, Piorun was still operating in inshore waters, and once the war was over, she was shipping supplies for Poles in Denmark and Norway. On 28 September 1946 she was returned to the British authorities, and under the name of HMS Noble served the Royal Navy until her scrapping in 1955.

Piorun had the displacement of 1,773 t and the following dimensions: length – 108.66 m, beam – 10.87 m and draught – 3.5 m. Her crew included 10 officers with 190 non-commissioned officers and sailors. She was armed with three double 120 mm sea artillery guns and a 102 mm anti-aircraft gun (mounted in 1942), a 40 mm four-axial anti-aircraft gun and four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns. She also had two 7.7 mm heavy machine guns, a 533.4 mm quintuple torpedo tube, eight torpedoes, two depth charge launchers, two depth charge throwers and 42 depth charges. She was propelled by two turbine assemblies with 40,000 HP. She reached the maximum speed of 33.25 knots, and had a range of 5,500 NM at the speed of 15 knots, and 3,700 NM at the speed of 20 knots.

ORP Piorun was commanded by: commodore lieutenant Eugeniusz Pławski (from 5 November 1940 to 30 December 1941), commodore lieutenant Stanisław Hryniewiecki (from 17 January 1942 to 24 May 1942), commodore sub-lieutenant Tadeusz Gorazdowski (from 24 May 1942 to 1 May 1943), commodore lieutenant Stanisław Dzienisiewicz (from 1 May 1943 to December 1943), once again commodore sub-lieutenant Tadeusz Gorazdowski (from 7 January 1944 to 7 January 1945), commodore sub-lieutenant Jan Tchórznicki (from 7 January 1945 to November 1945) and after that – until the date of returning the ship to the Royal Navy – by commodore sub-lieutenant Wszechwład Maracewicz.

Walter Pater
The Polish Navy Museum