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Ryzard Jan Polanski (aka Richard) was born on December 9, 1921, in the city of Lwow in eastern Poland which is now known as Lviv in Ukraine. His parents were Stanislav (director of the Eastern Sector Polish Railways) and Rozalia (a tailoress). He was one of a family of seven children.

He was a very active youngster (as he was throughout his life). He was a Boy Scout and enjoyed mountaineering, gliding and sailing. He enjoyed school and aspired to go to university and become a teacher. World War II thwarted those ambitions and, much to his father’s annoyance, he joined the resistance movement and eventually had to flee Poland, escaping through eastern Europe to France to join the Polish Army. His real intention was to join the RAF as a pilot.

Richard left the army, and did join the RAF, spending six months in training. However, he met up with his brother Zbigniew in the UK who was serving on Polish submarines based at Dundee. Richard decided to join the Polish Navy, serving on destroyers, and was trained as a gunner at Portsmouth.

He saw active service in the Mediterranean, particularly at the Siege of Malta. Helping to evacuate troops from Dunkirk in the spring of 1940 aboard the destroyer ORP Burza.He also served on the North Atlantic Convoys and Arctic Convoys to Murmansk. Ships names he served on include: ORP Burza, Kujawiak, Poirun, and Blyskawica. The Poirun was involved in the hunt for the famous German battleship Bismarck.

In May 1941, he was on board the Polish Navy's ORP Piorun N-class destroyer when it located the German battleship Bismarck and drew its fire. Other units of the Royal Naval task force engaged and sank the mighty ship. Richard is one of the last men still alive to see Hitler’s flagship Bismarck in its death throes.  Despite hostility to the Germans, Richard still feels a sense of sadness over the immense loss of life that day.

After the war had ended, Richard set up home in Caithness, Scotland, with his wife Joyce Burns Rosie, whom he had met in Glasgow when stationed there. They had four children: Janet, Richard, John, and Victor.

In June 2021, when he was promoted by the Polish Embassy, he thought back to his childhood in the city of Lwów and said: "My mother brought me up to love my country. I wish for peace on Earth forever. When I was fighting the Bismarck, I thought it must be a warning that war is not a solution. Thank you very much for recognising me."

Richard passed away in December 2022, at the age of 101.

Source:  John O'Groat Journal & Caithness Courier obituary

Copyright: Polanski family

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