Polish luxury liner PILSUDSKI mined 1939

Daily Post, Nov 27th 1939



The Polish luxury liner PILSUDSKI, 14,294tons said to be under charter by the British Admiralty was sunk by a German mine in the North Sea yesterday.

A British destroyer landed 103 survivors at one port, and a British trawler picked up 86.

14 British seamen on their way to join another ship were on board.

Many Poles were injured when two explosions crippled their ship, others suffered acutely from exposure, six were taken to hospital at one port, though their condition was not serious. None of the British seamen were hurt.

Wounded Captains courage

Survivors said a terrific explosion gave the ship a pronounced list to starboard, two minutes later a second explosion crippled the ship.

The Master Capt Hamart STANKIEWIER [as printed real name Captain Mamert Stankiewicz ] gave the order to abandon ship, the lifeboats were then immediately manned and lowered. The Captain refused to leave his ship until the others had got away, where he was helped onto a raft by others. Battered by the waves they clung on to the raft for about an hour till the destroyer arrived.

Stoker J. BELL and two other British seamen jumped overboard to their rescue and brought them to the destroyer. A few minutes later the skipper was dead.

2nd officer John MICHALSKI said, "I think about 140 got away in 6 boats, some were injured when parts of the upper berths collapsed as a result of the explosion. Some were killed or hopelessly pinned by the wreckage. The Captain died from shock and exposure.”

The Wireless operator said, “When the lights went out it was impossible to send a message.” He , too, was taken from the raft.

The men presented a sorry sight when they left the destroyer, half-clad and wrapped in blankets, many barefoot. Others had limbs bandaged, about a dozen were carried ashore on stretchers and taken immediately to hospital.

Local air raid precautions personnel helped get the men ashore and made them as comfortable as possible in public buildings, church halls and police stations were they were served with hot meals and coffee.

The dead include a 16yr old boy.

Nine Merseyside survivors landed from the destroyer ;-

2nd steward, ELLISON, Laird St, Birkenhead.

Cook, NUGENT, Drake Way, Liverpool.

Asst Cook, ROBERTS, Bedford Rd, Liverpool.

Asst Cook, SMITH, Seaforth Rd, Liverpool.

Asst Cook, ALCOCK, Rosalind St, Liverpool.

Asst steward, WHITFORD, Percy St, Bootle.

Asst Cook, ECCLESON, Webster St, Litherland, Liverpool.

There were pitiful scenes when the others were picked up and landed by the trawler, a dozen had cut feet and the scantiest clothing, some without trousers, one officer wore only his socks and had a blanket wrapped around him.

They had a big surprise later in the day when the cook, KAWKO, who was feared lost joined them.

KAWKO said, “I was asleep when the first explosion occurred and did not wake up. When the second explosion happened I woke and went on deck. Everyone had left and there I was absolutely alone. The ship began to turn over, luckily I saw a boat held by a rope, I managed to cut it adrift and jumped on. I was adrift for about 4hrs, I was giving up hope and a fishing boat hove in sight and picked me up.”

Chief Engineer OPAKI, who weighs 22st, said, he was blown out of the engine-room, which was full of escaping steam and oil.

The PILSUDSKI was built in Italy in 1935 and owned by GYDNIA-AMERICA Shipping Lines Ltd and had accommodation for 770 passengers. She left New York before war was declared and on sailing to home, on nearing Britain was escorted to port by British destroyer.


Copyright 2002 / To date