Hampshire & Isle of Wight

World War Two Isle of Wight bombing remembered 75 years on

ORP Błyskawica
Image caption Polish destroyer ORP Błyskawica was in Cowes for repairs at the time of the bombing raids

A Polish warship has arrived in the Isle of Wight to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of air raids during World War Two.

The Gniezno sailed into Cowes to mark the start of four days of events to mark the anniversary.

Seventy people died when Nazi bombers attacked the island on 4 May 1942.

At the time a Polish destroyer, ORP Błyskawica, happened to be in Cowes for repairs and played a key role in anti-aircraft defence.

The German Luftwaffe launched a ferocious overnight aerial attack on the Isle of Wight, with more than 160 bombers targeting its ship-building facilities.

ORP Błyskawica had been in Cowes for repairs but, aware of a potential attack, its captain Wojciech Francki, had ordered ammunition from Portsmouth enabling its guns to be used to bolster the island's defences.

Image caption Arctic Road in West Cowes was among the streets badly damaged in the raids

The ship created a smoke screen to confuse the bombers.

The crew also joined local emergency services in helping residents injured in the raids.

Geoff Banks, chairman of The Friends of the ORP Blyskawica Society, said the 75th anniversary said it was a chance to "pay homage" to the island's Polish defenders.

"The tragic loss of life that night of the blitz had a devastating effect on our towns and, but for the bravery of our Polish allies, that loss of life would have been that much greater," he said.

A series of exhibitions and other events are taking place to mark the anniversary.

Image copyright Williams Shipping / Julian Shawyer
Image caption Polish warship Gniezno sailed into Cowes to mark the anniversary

Poland's ambassador to the UK Dr Arkady Rzegocki, said it was "an opportunity to celebrate our shared culture and history".

"The links forged in these tragic circumstances form the foundation of our shared heritage and partnership, and act as an example for future generations," he added.

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