Comander Wilhelm K. Pacewicz

A tribute to an Officer of the Polish Navy fighting for Poland and freedom of other nations during WWII (1939-1945)

 

" The battles of Oksywie, Hel, on the Baltic, Atlantic, Mediterranean and on the Arctic waters are glorious pages in the history of your country. You are a part of the Polish Armed Forces which did not cease their fight for even one moment.
*The names of our ships are written in gold in the book of fame. Polish sailors have frequently shown that they know how to die for their Motherland. Through their daily work and unceasing effort they prove that they know how to live, fight and win for Her."


(From the Order of the General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, issued on 25th Anniversary of the Polish Navy, London, 2 November 1943)

Polish destroyer "Blyskawica". April - July 1940, Norway Campaign & Battle of Narvik.

Comander W. K. Pacewicz

is one of the few still living honored veterans of WWII who contributed to the fame of the Polish Navy in battles on the seas and oceans of the world, spreading the name of the Polish Navy- a member of the coalition of naval countries fighting the German Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.

After graduation from the Polish Naval Officers School in Torun, Poland in 1934, Commander Pacewicz served as a Watch Officer on Polish Navy ships "Wicher", "Rybitwa", and "Wilia" as well as on the Polish Navy tall ship "Iskra". After the start of WWII, Commander Pacewicz reaches the United Kingdom where he is assigned to the Headquarters of the Polish Navy in London.

Reassigned to the destroyer "Blyskawica" he serves as the Navigation Officer during the Norway Campaign and the battle of Narwik.  During 1941-1944 he serves as the Navigation Officer aboard "Krakowiak" and as the Executive Officer on "Slazak".
 Cdr. Pacewicz takes part in patrolling the La Manche Channel, the raid on the Lofoten Islands as well as in support of landings on Sicily and Salerno, Italy. In 1944, due to his health he is transferred to the Polish Naval Headquarters in London where he is in charge of the Personnel Department. He also works in the Training Department.
From 1945 to 1946 he attends the Polish Airman School where upon graduation he receives his promotion to Lieutenant Commander.

Commander Pacewicz participated in the following major navy combat campaigns:

The Battle of Narwik

Beginning in April 1940 Cdr. Pacewicz participated in naval landings in the Battle of Narwik. The major role was played by the Navy which included, besides the ships from the British Navy, the Polish destroyers "Blyskawica", "Burza", "Grom" (sunken in a battle with the German Luftwaffe) and the Polish submarine "Orzel". These ships provided supporting artillery fire to the Allied Forces. On land fought the Polish Independent Brigade "Strzelc Podhalanskich". In the battle participated the Polish troop transport ships "Sobieski", "Batory" and "Chrobry".  "Chrobry" was sunken in the Bodo region of the Luftwaffe bombs.

Major Decorations:
Twice Cross for Bravery, Navy Medal with three leaves, Norway Campaign Cross for Narwik

Attack on the Lofoten Islands

On 15 December 1941 Cdr. Pacewicz participated on board of the destroyer "Krakowiak" in operation "Anklet" against the German base Rheine, Lofoten Islands. The aim of the raid was the destruction of German installations in the harbor, observation points and radio and listening post facilities. A further goal was the use of the harbor against the German naval forces in the region. The operation included the cruiser "Arethus" destroyers "Ashanti", "Bedouin", "Eskimo", "Krakowiak", "Kujawiak", "Lamerton", and "Somali" as well as two Norvegian corvettes "Acanthus" and "Eglatine" three trawlers, two tankers and two landing ships. The force left Scapa Flow on 22 Dec. After the destruction of the facilities the operation was cancelled and the ships returned to base three days later.

Dieppe Landing Operation

Destroyer "Slazak" April 1942 - April 1944 between other duties, on patrols in the Mediterranean and supporting landings in Sicily-Salerno, Italy.

Destroyer "Slazak" fires on Sicily

On 18 August, 1942 destroyer "Slazak" left Portsmouth in support of operation "Jubilee" aimed to land an Allied Expeditionary Force on the coast of France.  "Slazak" was assigned to the protection forces and for the support of landing operation. During the operation which lasted until 19 of August, over 1000 soldiers (primarily Canadians) lost their lives. The Polish destroyer for 15 hours battled 30 Luftwaffe attacks shooting down two Do217 one Me 109 and one Ju 88.

Subsequently "Slazak" participated in twenty attacks against German shore batteries. The ship rescued 21 wounded Canadians, one British pilot and 5 German sailors from a sunken trawler. During a German counter-attack a near miss caused extensive damage aboard ship destroying distance measuring and aiming installations. Three crewmen lost their lives and twelve were wounded. The ship returned to Portsmouth under its own power for repairs.

Landing on Sicily

July 1943. As the Executive Officer on the destroyer "Slzak" Cdr. Pacewicz participated in the naval artillery support of the landing of Allied Forces in Sicily. Polish destroyers "Piorun" and "Krakowiak" as well as, submarines "Sokol" and "Dzik" took part in the action. The landing involved 478,000 troops including 250,000 British and 228,000 American soldiers. Naval support was provided by British - American Mediterranean fleets divided into Eastern and Western groups. The goal of operation "Husky" was the conquest of Sicily and the establishment of a beachhead for the invasion of the European Continent and Allied control of the Mediterranean basin.
 

Cdr. Pacewicz on Navy Tall Ship "Iskra"

The beginning of WWII found Cdr. Pacewicz on board of the training vessel "Iskra" The sailing ship was in the vicinity of Casablanca which it entered on 2 September 1939. On 10 September the crew of "Iskra" demonstrated their bravery and determination rescuing the crew of the French minelayer "Pluton" which suffered a mine explosion on board.  "Iskra" moved on to Port Lyautey where, with the exception of a few crewmembers the crew and the cadets disembarked. It is from that port that Cdr. Pacewicz managed to get to Great Britain.

In January of 1949 CDR Pacewicz emigrated from Great Britain to Canada. For five years he sailed as 3rd Officer on commercial vessels and later worked on land as "Supercargo". From 1955 to 1965 he worked at Canada Air while studying at the University of Montreal.

In 1967 he accepted a position with the Boeing Company in Seattle, WA. USA. That same year he became a citizen. Cdr. Pacewicz retired in 1985. An active member of the Polish Navy Self Help Organization he participated in the annual meetings in London. In 1978 he was a member of the World meeting of Poles in Toronto.

Currently he resides with his daughter in Bellevue, WA.

 

Sources:

1) Sawicki, J. K. (Ed.), 1996, Marine Officers of Poland, Part .I: Navy Officers 1918-1947,
2) Polish Navy from First to Last Volley of the Second WW, Instytut of LIterature, Rome, 1947,
3) http://db.toolbuyers.com,
4) http://www.strategie.com.pl
5) http://stat.webmedia.pl/cgi-bin/analbryskadow
6) www.polishnavy.prv.pl
7) Kmdr.ppor. Michal Benett-Bialowski, Anniversary Speech, 2002,
8) Interview i bibliographic materials received from Cdr. Pacewicz.

Prepared by: V. M. Kaczynski, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Email: vkaczyn@u.washington.edu lub vkaczynski@.msn.com

Modified: 05/09/2006