Norwegian tribute to Polish destroyer ORP "Grom"

September 4th, 2007  
Venom PL

Topic: Norwegian tribute to Polish destroyer ORP "Grom"

Part 1

Oryginaly posted by Mishka Zubov

I took a liberty of combining several sources into one story, with appendices. I tried to limit myself only to several photos, but - given the sources I provided - you can fetch them yourself, if you like the photos embedded here - MZ.

Norwegian tribute to Polish destroyer Grom[2]
by Elżbieta Tomczyk-Miczka
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Dziennik Polski

The Grom Square Boys visiting Shanty Festival

The Grom Square Boys[1] - this is how they have been named by visitors from Nowy Sącz, Poland to Norwegian Narvik. Hard to believe but in the distant Narvik the Norwegians sing in Polish - pronuncing the words with some difficulty - a song written by themselves and translated to Polish:

There is a square - bare and empty
Where Warrior Grom has always stood.

(Names and professions of the group elided ...)

The group music has been born from a traditional Norwegian ballad and contains elements of blues, pop, folk and shanty. They play in clubs and record their albums. They have been connected by a Polish symbol: a monument of a Polish gunner from ORP Grom[2], raised in 1979 at the square known as "Grom Plass", Grom Square. They named themselves after that square, since they had practiced in a basement nearby and had become accustomed to it.

After the monument was damaged in the year 2000 and was removed from the square, they have decided to financially support its reconstruction. In their campaign to restore it they created a song „Krigeren Grom“ (Warrior Grom), which affected and galvanized the public:

When a young boy tried to measure up to him,
Grom could not take it and fell down.
A passerby, stop and look around
He is missing - has he meant nothing?

They have twice visited Shanty Festival in Kraków. They are sponsored by Captain Wojciech Marcinowski, who discovered them in 2002 while on cruise to Narvik on a sailboat "Dunajec", during centennial anniversary of Narvik. During the banquet the group handed a cheque of 1200 euros, the proceedings from the concert, to the mayor of Narvik for the restoration of the Grom monument. This was a beginning of their friendship with Marcinkowski, whom they call the sixth of the Groms.

The Nowy Sącz region, a part of Podhale[3], has much in common with Northern Norway. During the WW2, on Spring 1940, the Independent Podhale Rifles Brigade fought there as a part of allied expeditionary corps. They were supported from the sea by ORP "Grom" and ORP "Błyskawica". Many soldiers of Podhale Brigade were from Nowy Sącz region. 116 Podhale soldiers and 59 Grom sailors died at the battle of Narvik. Since 1964 Nowy Sącz is a sister town of Narvik.

A delegation of Polish soldiers at the graves of Polish soldiers and sailors at the Narvik war cemetary. The first group on the left are the soldiers from the 21st Podhale Rifles Brigade, which carries the traditions of the Independent Podhale Rifles Brigade that fought in Battle of Narvik. The uniforms are based on traditional garments of Podhale highlanders. Taken from photo-album[4] "67th anniversary of Battle of Narvik", June 9-10, 2007

It rested in a basement - covered in dust
A garland giant - bleeding
Alone, from another era
Bringing back a taste of war

Narvik people meticulously nurse a memory of allies battles; the town carefully maintains the war cemetery, commemorative plaques and interesting collections of the Museum of Struggle. They remember the soldiers who fought there and the Grom's crew has gained their sympathy and admiration. They reminisce how for the three days - before she was sunk - she would put out to Rombakken fiord and would shot down a Nazi flag at the top of the hill overlooking the town.

Grom and Błyskawica, the two sisters
Have run to a battle to bring you freedom
There is a square - bare and empty...

A Polish soldier standing guard at the plaque at Narvik, commemorating fallen soldiers of Independent Podhale Rifles Brigade. Credits to photo-album[4] "67th anniversary of Battle of Narvik", June 9-10, 2007
The "Groms Plass" group presented itself first time in 2003 at the Shanty Festival. They came on their own expense, with the help of Captain Marcinkowski. In 2005 they were already the guests of the festival organizers, as in this year's event. Chairman Krzysztof Bobrowicz, a festival director, stresses that the story about Grom monument makes huge impression on the public. "The song 'Warrior Grom' is being sung together with the public."

"One can notice better pronunciation of Polish words from concert to concert, and the Kraków audience sings in better Norwegian too. We happily invite them, they are true sea people" - says chairman Bobrowski.

(The rest of article elided ...)

September 4th, 2007  
Venom PL

Topic: Part 2

65th anniversary of Battle of Narvik
Independent Podhale Rifles Brigade, commanded by gen. Zygmunta Szyszko-Bohusz, landed at the coast of Hinnoy island at the night of May the 7/8th 1940, as a part of French 1st Light Division, allies expeditionary corps to Northern Norway.

Since May the 13th the Brigade participated in concentric attack on Bjerkvik, to gain the base of a peninsula, with a town of Narvik - a non-freezing harbor in Northern Norwey, the main object of the ally expeditionary force. In the middle of May the Brigade has been transfered to the Ankens peninsula, bordering Narvik from the south, and started its preparation to the attack.

The attack started at night on May the 27/28th. The Brigade, consisting one third of allied land forces, received an order to take the northern coast of the Ankens peninsula. This task has been achieved by the evening of May 28, against hard resistance of German 1st. Mountain Division. The German units, threaten by having their only way of retreat cut off, have withdrew from Narvik. Consequently, a Norwegian battalion entered the town.

The allied command, having just received an order to retreat from Norway, was from then on only interested in safe evacuation of their units. Polish Brigade have been rear guarding the evacuation of allied forces until June the 8th.

The Brigade losses around Narvik were almost 100 KIA and 200 wounded. A division of Polish destroyers also operated on Norwegian waters: Błyskawica, Burza and Grom (sunken on May the 4th). Three big Polish transport ships (ex transatlantic passenger ships) were also involved: Chrobry (sunken due to bombing on May 16), Sobieski and Batory.

King of Norway, Haakon VII, awarded several Polish soldiers and officers with highly valued medals. He also awarded all participants of the campaign, including the sailors, a badge of honor in shape of a lanyard in national white-blue-red colors, with Norwegian emblem.

The battles in Norway were the first clash of Polish soldiers with German units since September 1939, and as such they had tremendous military, moral and - most of all - political meaning.

Clarification, from another source, based on internet search

The operations of the allied forces in defense of Norway had an amphibious character. The initial main tasks had been carried by the fleet. On April the 13th, the British squadron - Polish Navy ships being part of it: ORP “Orzeł” (a submarine, torpedoed a German transport ship “Rio de Janeiro”) and destroyer division: ORP “Błyskawica”, ORP “ Burza”, and ORP “Grom” - has attacked German forces, sinking 8 German destroyers and gaining a control of Norwegian waters.

During the campaign three big Polish passenger ships participated as transport ships: “Sobieski”, “Batory” and “Chrobry” (bombed at the Bodo area).

During the battles of Norwegian forces in the mountainous Northern part of the country allied forces landed over there: British, French and Polish units. Polish Independent Podhale Rifles Brigade landed at Harstad harbor on Hinnoy island, on May the 8th. The Brigade has been initially used to protect the town and the harbor and to guard the Northern flank of the expeditionary corps.

On May the 12th the 2nd battalion of the Brigade has been relocated into Lenvik peninsula to take part in the attack on Gratangan-Bjerkvik - together with 13th Half-Brigade of Foreign Legion, 27th Half-Brigade of Alpine Rifles, Norwegian units and the fleet.

Bjerkvik has been taken by amphibious assault of units of the Foreign Legion, on May the 13th. The same day the 2nd Podhale battalion took a control of Oyord peninsula, North of Narvik.

The 13th Half-Brigade of Foreign Legion and 27th Half-Brigade of Alpine Rifles participated in battles in the mountains, north of fiord Rombakken.

Battle of Narvik started during the night, on May 27/28th. Polish battalions attacked Ankens and Nyborg settlements. After a long, 10 hours, battle in difficult, mountainous terrain the 2nd Podhale battalion has taken a fire control over the road from Narvik to the Swedish border. German forces had excellent units of mountain rifles.

Polish destroyers "Grom" and " Błyskawica" also participated in Battle of Narvik.

On May 28th the units of Foreign Legion, under the command of Polish general Szyszko-Bohusz, together with a Norwegian battalion, took Narvik.

Polish Brigade losses were: 100 KIA and 200 wounded and missing. Further, 59 sailors went down with bombed ORP "Grom".

The victory at Battle of Narvik made possible to evacuate forces of North-East expeditionary corps for Northern Norway. It was the first victory of allied forces against German forces.

[1] "The Arms Square Boys" is a direct translation of a Polish title of a book by Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnár, "A Pál utcai fiúk". The book has been translated into many languages and its English title is "The Paul Street Boys", The Polish title is important to explain the words play: "The Arms Square Boys" -- "The Grom Square Boys". Apparently the Molnár's book is still read in Poland.

[2] Polish Navy ships were operating in 1940 on Norwegian waters as part of British fleet. Since April 21, 1940 Polish destroyers ORP Burza, ORP Błyskawica and ORP Grom had been operating from the Skjelfjord base.

After building its two "Wicher" (Whirlwind) class destroyers, Polish Navy was searching for another project of two new destroyers. After two initial tenders in 1933 and 1934, where neither French nor Swedish yards satisfied the Polish side, the final order was placed in the English yard John Samuel White from Cowes.

Both destroyers, Grom and Błyskawica, in the time of their building, were on of the most powerful in their class in Baltic, maybe in the World. The decision of building two more of the Grom mod class destroyers, was made in the middle of the 1939, and before the war only ironplates were gathered.

ORP Grom had been operating in the Narvik area from April 22 to May the 4th. She had destroyed several German artillery batteries and machine gun nests, and had been shelling German formations and strategically important bridges, railroads and tunnels.
She was sunk on May the 4th. A German He-111 bomber dropped six bombs from 5400 meters and, miraculously, two bombs hit the target - one hit a torpedo turret, the second one missed the deck but its powerful explosion ripped of 20 m of her side plating. She went down with 59 sailors on board.

[2a] ORP stands for "Okręt Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej", Ship of Polish Republic
[2b] "Burza" means Storm, "Błyskawica" - Lightning, "Grom" - Thunder, "Piorun" - Thunderbolt (yet another Polish Navy ship)

A cross on the left of this map indicates the position of the sunken ORP Grom.
[3]Podhale, literally "below the mountains' meadows", foothills, piedmont

[4]Photo-album "67th anniversary of Battle of Narvik",
September 4th, 2007  
Additional information on the Narvik campaign (Wikipedia)

The battle of Narvik was the first allied victory on land against the German forces in World War II.

During the Norwegian campaign, Narvik and its surrounding area saw significant fighting, initially from 9 April between German and Norwegian forces, subsequently between Allied and German forces, conducted by the Norwegian 6th Division of the Norwegian Army as well as by an Allied expeditionary corps until 9 June 1940. Unlike the campaign in southern Norway, the Allied troops in Narvik would eventually outnumber the Norwegian troops. Five nations participated in the fighting. From 5 May to 10 May the fighting in the Narvik area was the only active theatre of land war in the Second World War.

At the outset, the position of the German commander, Dietl, was not good: his 2,000 troops were outnumbered. After the German destroyers had been sunk, however, about 2,600 German sailors joined in the land battle. Another 290 German specialists travelled via Sweden posing as health care workers. During the last 3-4 weeks the Germans were also reinforced by about 1,000 men air dropped over Bjørnefjell, thus bringing the total number of Germans to around 5,000. Their position and outlook changed from good to dire several times. Hitler's mood was reportedly swinging heavily and he repeatedly contemplated withdrawal. On occasions, the entire operation was controlled directly from the German High Command in Berlin.

The Norwegian force under General Fleischer eventually reached 8-10,000 men after a few weeks. The total number of Allied troops in the campaign, in and around Narvik, reached 24,500 men.

The early phase of the invasion was marked by the German advantage of surprise. Norwegian troops in northern Norway had been called out on a three month neutrality watch during the winter of 1939/1940 and so they had trained together. During April 9 - 25, the Norwegian forces suffered three catastrophes. First, the forces protecting Narvik were unable to resist the Germans due to the commanding officer, the later NS Hird commander Colonel Konrad Sundlo, refusing to fight the invaders; second, around 200 soldiers from the Narvik garrison who had escaped capture and was blocking the railway to Sweden was caught by surprise while resting at Bjørnefjell, most of the men being captured; third, the so-called "Trønder battalion" sent to hold Gratangsbotten was attacked by surprise while in camp, suffering casualties that ruined its spirit and effectively knocked it out of the remainder of the campaign.

Due to mounting Norwegian pressure and difficulties with bringing up supplies to the forward lying troops the Germans abandoned Gratangsbotn and withdrew from Lapphaugen and the Gratang valley, following the Battle of Gratangen. In the beginning of May, the Norwegians started an advance southwards towards Narvik. Once it became clear that the Allies would mount the main invasion of Narvik itself, in mid May, the Norwegian direction altered towards Bjørnefjell.

The British arrived first and set up headquarters in Harstad on 14 April. In the following days three battalions were deployed mainly at Sjøvegan, Skånland (where a naval base was established) and at Bogen. Later they were deployed south of Ofotfjord, at Ballangen and Håkvik. In May most British troops were withdrawn from the Narvik area and redeployed southwards to Nordland, in order to delay the German advance there.

The initial British detachment was reinforced on 28 April by a French expeditionary force, led by General Antoine Béthouart. Three battalions of Alpine troops and two battalions of 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade were deployed both north and south of the Ofotfjord, but later, the north would be the main French area of operation. Four Polish battalions arrived on 9 May. They were first deployed north of the Ofotfjord, but later redeployed to the area south of the fjord. In early June they were formed into the Polish Independent Highland Brigade under Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko.

In addition, the Allies had difficulties in deciding how best to retake Narvik and the iron ore railway. There was no unified Allied command for the troops at Narvik: the Norwegians and the Allies retained separate commanders and cooperation between them was not always smooth. Even within the British forces, the Army and Navy commanders (Major General Pierse J. Mackesy and Admiral William Boyle) had difficulties cooperating: Boyle advocated a swift and direct attack from the sea while Mackesy advocated a cautious approach from both sides of the Ofotfjord. In the end, the British Naval commander, Boyle, was given command of all Allied troops.

In the second week of May, the Norwegian advances against the Germans east of Gratangseidet were the most significant movements on the Narvik front. In addition, on the Norwegian's right flank French alpine troops advanced up the Laberg valley supported by a company of Norwegian ski troops. In the south the Allies did not have much success and in the north of the Ofotfjord they were not making any movements. The Norwegians continued their successful mountain campaign and in mid May the Allies took the initiative and achieved the significant victories. Both Paris and London had been growing impatient with the slow progress in Narvik and the French commander, Béthouart, had pressed for more action.

The cautious approach on land was abandoned and an amphibious attack was launched at around midnight on 12 May. This attack was directed at Bjerkvik and was preceded by a naval bombardment from British warships in Herjangsfjord. Then the French Foreign Legioneers were put ashore supported by five light French tanks. The French took Bjerkvik, Elvegårdsmoen and advanced north east to where the Germans were retreating and south along the east side of Herjangsfjord. The plan also required Polish troops to advance towards Bjerkvik from land on the west side of the fjord, but heavy terrain delayed then and they did not arrive before Bjerkvik was taken. It had also been part of the plan for French and Norwegian troops to advance from the north in order to box the Germans in, but cooperation problems between the Norwegian and French commanders left a gap through which the Germans escaped. Despite this, the Allies had a clear path north of Narvik and planned to attack over Rombaksfjord.

Again the attack was stalled while the Allies waited for air support to be fully established from Bardufoss. At 23:40 on 28 May a naval bombardment commenced from the north. Two French and one Norwegian battalion would be transported across the Rombaksfjord and advance on Narvik from the north. In the south the Polish battalllions would advance towards Ankenes and inner Beisfjord. The maximum capacity of the landing barges was 290 men and these troops could not be reinforced for 45 minutes. These first troops were able to get a foothold on Ornes by the time the rest of the French and the Norwegians were landed. The French moved westwards towards the city and eastwards along the railway. The Norwegians moved towards Taraldsvik mountain, circled around and moved down towards the city. The German commander decided to evacuate already before 07:00am and retired along Beisfjord. This was the first major allied victory on land.
September 14th, 2008  

Topic: ORP Grom Survivors/Memorials


I found this thred by searching on the net and it spurred me to research more into my grandfather who survived the Grom sinking. He then went on to serve on the piorun, he was also awarded the Virtuti Militari but i am unsure, specifically what for.

I am an active technical diver and i am considering mounting an expedition to dive the ORP Grom. I found that a group had dived it in 2003 but that was under special restrictions from the harbour master in Narvik.

2010 will be the 70th anniversy of the sinking and i wondered if there was any memorials that would take place and whether information that me and my team could provide to this. Eg installing flags or a plaque on the wreck site. I have TV experience and also wondered whether this would make a good documentary also.

I am currently doing 50-70m diving in the North Sea off scotland diving unknown wrecks and have been discovering many important wreck sites.

If anyone is interested in this project, has any information that would be of interest or could shed any more light on the ships exploits i would be grateful for the contact.

Shane Wasik
October 25th, 2009  

Topic: Narvik Diving

Hi Shane, i too have just found this thread, all be it a year since you posted!

I am just enquiring as to whnether you had any luck or whether you have dived the vessely your grandfather was on.

My grandfather was on MS Chrobry he survived the attack and went on to fight throughout the war with the irish guards and i too would love to dive the wreck that he was on.

Any light you can shed on this area or the locations and depths would be great?

very best

Paul Armer
October 26th, 2009  
Hi Paul,

get in touch via



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