Two Isle of Wight towns are preparing to mark the 80th anniversary of the defence of Cowes and East Cowes, by the Polish destroyer, ORP Błyskawica.

Annually, the Friends of the ORP Błyskawica hold a ceremony on Cowes Parade to mark the date of the Second World War blitz, on the evening of May 4-5, 1942.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see old pictures of Blyskawica, plus photos from the 70th anniversary in 2012 and more...

A host of events are planned to mark the anniversary in the coming days.

Isle of Wight County Press: The Blyskawica, pictured in Gdynia in 2012.The Blyskawica, pictured in Gdynia in 2012.

Why are the actions of the Błyskawica crew remembered on the Isle of Wight?

During that night, two waves of Luftwaffe bombers attacked the strategic ports, which were a vital manufacturing area towards the Second World War effort.

The personal tragic losses at that time were significant. ORP Błyskawica, along with her sister ship, ORP Grom, were built in the local shipyards of J. S. White and were the world’s fastest destroyers when launched; Błyskawica achieving 41.5 knots at her peak.

Today Blyskawica lies in the port of Gdynia, Poland, where she’s an immaculately preserved floating museum which has received more than seven million visitors. The ship is the pride of Poland’s maritime history.

The defence of Cowes by Błyskawica was brought about by the ship being in port for re-armament, enabling her to defend our Island towns throughout the night of the raid.

Isle of Wight County Press: The ship in Poland (photo: IWCP archive).The ship in Poland (photo: IWCP archive).

What events are taking place to remember the actions of the ORP Błyskawica?

The Isle of Wight-based ORP Błyskawica Society aims to make the 80th anniversary between Wednesday (May 4) and Sunday (May 8), while an exhibition opens today (Saturday), in East Cowes.

The Polish government has taken great interest in this anniversary event and members of the society met with Poland’s Ambassador to Great Britain at the embassy, where they were offered liaison and support for the forthcoming commemoration.

However, due to the situation in the Ukraine and the refugee exodus into Poland, the Polish Ministry of Defence regrets that the Polish Naval Band will not be able to attend the 80th commemoration.

Here is a run down of the key events this week...

Today (Saturday) until Monday, May 2: 10am to 4pm: East Cowes Town Hall, Exhibition about ORP Blyskawica. Also Saturday, May 7, (until 6pm). Organised by East Cowes Heritage Centre

Wednesday, May 4: East Cowes Town Hall, 7pm, Blitz talk and film, Voices of the East Cowes Blitz. Organised by East Cowes Heritage Centre.

Thursday, May 5:

Between 8am and 10am: Arrival of Polish naval vessel, ORP Wodnik, at Cowes Roads. The Royal Yacht Squadron will greet the Polish warship with a five-gun salute.

2pm: Plaque unveiling in Kings Square (adjacent to Waitrose), East Cowes. 2.30pm: Guided blitz walk from Kings Square to Kingston Cemetery. 4 pm: Memorial service at Kingston Cemetery.

6pm (by invitation): Welcome reception by Brigadier Maurice Sheen, vice lord-lieutenant of the Isle of Wight.

7.30pm: Gala piano recital at the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) by Eva Maria Doroszkowska, granddaughter of Captain Francki, commander of the ORP Blyskawica on the night of the blitz on Cowes in May 1942. Eva will be performing to commemorate the defence of Cowes and East Cowes.

After the piano recital the RYS will fire a five-gun salute and the Polish ship will fire white flares to commemorate the anniversary. On-line booking for the recital and optional supper at:

Isle of Wight County Press: Pianist Eva Maria Doroszkowska, pictured here at the 70th anniversary celebrations in 2012.Pianist Eva Maria Doroszkowska, pictured here at the 70th anniversary celebrations in 2012.

Friday, May 6:

7.30pm: East Cowes Town Hall, concert: Never Forgotten Polish and English Music by Katy Carr and Medina Marching Band in support of the Ukraine refugees in Poland.

Award-winning singer and song-writer Katy Carr will perform Polish and English music. A musician, aviator and multi-instrumentalist (piano, ukulele, banjolele and vintage keyboardist), she has performed her music internationally with live concerts and tours, workshops through the UK and the continent.

Medina Marching Band needs no introduction in East Cowes, where it was originally formed. The band will be performing to cover many genres of music from military marches, wind band music to stage show and pop tunes. On-line booking for the concert at:

Saturday, May 7:

10am – 6pm: East Cowes Town Hall, Exhibition on the Blitz, school art and stalls. Refreshments available.

10am – 6pm: Northwood Cemetery, Cowes, Exhibition on the Blitz

1pm – 4pm: Kings Square (adjacent to Waitrose), East Cowes, performances by local groups: Little Karpaty and Karolinka Dancers. Polish food market

2.30pm: Cowes Blitz Walk, from the war memorial in Northwood Park to Northwood Cemetery, approximately one hour.

4 pm: Northwood Cemetery, Cowes, rededication ceremony of the refurbished communal war grave.

7pm - 11pm: 1940s dance at East Cowes Town Hall. Period dress encouraged. Tickets £5 available from The Heritage Centre; Flix Hairdressers, East Cowes, or on the door.

Sunday, May 8:

12 noon: Short remembrance ceremony at Francki Place, Cowes.

1.30pm: Cowes Parade Commemoration, 80th Anniversary Ceremony of the defence of Cowes and East Cowes. Inauguration of the new Consulate of the Republic of Poland in the presence of Poland’s UK ambassador. The Royal British Legion Band will play too.

  • The Friends of the ORP Blyskawica Society, in organising this commemoration, much appreciate the support of East Cowes and Cowes town councils, the Daisy Rich Trust, Red Funnel, G.J and H.K Banks, Island Concerts and Rotary.

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