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Story of the hero Polish warship - 75 years since the bombing of Cowes

 

Exactly 75 years to the day on the 4 May, the German air force launched a sustained bombing raid on Cowes on the Isle of Wight.   The Polish destroyer ORP BLYSKAWICA had returned to the town of its manufacture for refitting. Captain Francki led his crew to the defence of the town and island.

Although 70 people died during the two-night blitz, the bravery of the crew of the ORP BLYSKAWICA saved more loss of life. To commemorate this act of heroism, the Island is inviting Polish dignitaries and the Polish Navy to a busy programme of events and exhibitions during the first week of May.

Organised by the Friends of the ORP BLYSKAWICA, the programme of events is as follows:

THURSDAY 4 MAY 2017

  • Reception for Polish Naval Officers at midday at the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes
  • ORP Gniezno will be in dock from 6am
  • Gala Piano Recital at 19:30 in the Pavilion at the Royal Yacht Squadron. The granddaughter of Capt. Francki, Eva Maria Doroszkowska will play Chopin and other pieces to reflect the raid and its defence. Canon will fire at 22:00 to commemorate the start of the raid.

FRIDAY 5 MAY 2017

  • Performance by the Polish Marine Band at 19:30 at Cowes Yacht Haven Event centre. Tickets are £15 with concessions.
  • Coach trip around the island for Polish visitors starting at 10:00 from Cowes Parade.

SATURAY 6 MAY 2017

  • Ambassador’s Cup Challenge round the island race organised by the Polish Yacht Club in London. Open to club members are any other participants. Followed by presentations and social event in the evening at Cowes Yacht Haven.
  • Miles of Coins at The Cut, just off Cowes High Street at 10:00. Anyone can be involved to help re-enact this wartime event that raised money for the ORP XXX and its sister ship, ORP Grom. Money raised will go to the Cadet forces.
  • Dancing by Polish Schools from Southampton in Kings Square, East Cowes as part of the Polish Food and Craft Market.
  • Polish Food Market in Kings Square, East Cowes
  • Blitz Walk, East Cowes. Starting at 10:30, open to all.
  • Blitz Walk, Cowes. Leaving from Northwood Park War Memorial at 14:30
  • 1940s Dance, East Cowes Heritage Centre at 19:00. Tickets £5.
  • VIP tour of the River Medina. Limited numbers for Polish VIPs and Island dignitaries. Starting at 09:00 at Trinity Landing, Cowes. Returning at 10:00.
  • Ave Verum Choir performance at St Mary’s Church at 19:30, with Polish music. Jointly hosted by Friends of St Mary’s Church.

SUNDAY 7 MAY 2017

  • Dedication and wreath laying, Northwood Cemetery, Cowes at 10:00 in presence of senior Polish representatives and Island civic dignitaries.
  • Radio link to ORP BLYSKAWICA in Gdynia, Poland, with a mobile shore station on Cowes Parade between 10:00 and 16:00.
  • Public remembrance service at Cowes War Memorial, Northwood Park at 11.30, followed by a service at noon at St Mary’s Church. A parade will then march down to Cowes Parade for the salute at 13:00. Attended by the Polish Marine band, the Cowes RBL Band and accompanying dignitaries. Formal ceremony at 13:30, including addresses from representatives of both the Society and the Polish representatives. A commemoration plaque will be unveiled by the Island’s Lord Lieutenant and Poland’s Ambassador.
  • Reception on board the ORP GNIEZNO at 16:00
  • Farewell reception for our visitors at the Royal Yacht Squadron, hosted by the Friends of the ORP BLYSKAWICA Society.

In addition to the formal programme of events, there are also ongoing exhibitions throughout the week for the public to enjoy. These are:

  • Exhibition of photography from the Maritime Museum in Gdynia, Poland. Held at the Regatta Office on Cowes Parade from 5 to 7 May. It will then be taken to Cowes Library Museum.
  • Exhibition of schools’ painting at East Cowes Town Hall from 5 to 7 May.
  • Cowes Heritage Exhibition of photographs and exhibits relating to the raid in 1942 at Cowes Maritime Library, Beckford Road, Cowes. It will be open from 4 May until sometime after 7 May.
  • East Cowes Heritage Centre will follow the theme and be open to the public.
  • King’s Square Events, East Cowes. This will include a food and craft market as well as displays of Polish dancing.
  • ORP GNIEZO will be in port from 6am on 4 May. This is a refurbished Polish warship. May be open to the public.

Two talks will also be held in the weeks leading up to the events, as follows:

  • Friday 21 April. A talk will be held in East Cowes about the defence of the towns.
  • Friday 28 April. A talk at St Mary’s Church, Cowes at 19:30 by Geoff Banks on the ORP BLYSKAWIKA.