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When A Wolf And An Eagle Came Up The Tay

It was recently recalled in the Dundee Courier that during the early part of WW II, 1939 or 1940, two Polish submarines, called something like 'Orzel' and 'Wulk', escaped from the clutches of the Germans and came to Dundee, where there was a s/m base.

The 'Orzel' (Eagle) and the 'Wulk' (Wolf) joined the five-nation (Britain, Poland, France, Holland and Norway) underwater fleet based on HMS Ambrose at Dundee's Stannergate from 1939 - 45. Both had escaped from the Baltic despite the German blockade of the Skagerrak and the Kattegat.

What happened was described in an article in 1973 by the Evening Telegraph's shipping correspondent.

Of the s/ms' escape, he wrote, "The 'Orzel's' was a particular notable achievement. She left Gydnia on Sept 1 1939, the day the Germans invaded Poland. Her captain was seriously ill and she put into the supposedly neutral port of Tallinn in Estonia, so that he could be taken to hospital. The harbour was full of German shipping and the 'Orzel' was immediately relieved of all her torpedoes and ammunition. The firing mechanism was removed from her gun and her charts were confiscated.

Guards were posted beside and in the s/m. Her 1st lieutenant organised a night-time escape. The guards were overpowered and a heavy electric cable, which had been led aboard to charge the batteries, dropped overboard. There were flashes and blue sparks and all the harbour lights went out.

Despite grounding, the 'Orzel' was able to back clear and made for the open sea under machine-gun and small-arms fire. She couldn't submerge until a 'lid' had been made to cover the hole for the battery cable. This took two hours."

The article continues:

"Rain, hail and sleet came to the assistance of the 'Orzel', which passed through the narrows of the Sound between Denmark and Sweden three-quarters submerged. Much to the astonishment of the crew, this ruse to look like a fishing boat succeeded. Two German destroyers, escorting a merchant ship, didn't interfere.

A plain language message from the 'Orzel' in the North Sea seeking permission to enter a British port brought a destroyer to escort her to the Forth. She moved to the Tay shortly afterwards."

Operating from Dundee in the spring of 1940, the 'Orzel' sank a German merchant ship carrying troops for the invasion of Norway. She survived many hours of intensive depth-charging but was lost on another patrol shortly afterwards. It is thought she was mined off south-west Norway.


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