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THE TWINNING OF HMCS HAIDA and
ORP BLYSKAWICA
by Jerry Proc

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BACKGROUND

The Parks Canada program booklet produced for this event provides some excellent background information for the twinning of HMCS Haida and ORP Blyskawica.

"HMCS Haida and ORP Blyskawica have a historic connection through their service together in the 10th Destroyer Flotilla during 1944.

In January 1944, the Commander-in-Charge of the Royal Navy's Plymouth Command, Vice-Admiral Sir Ralph Leatham, formed an offensive strike force of Allied ships to battle German destroyers in the English Channel and Bay of Biscay known as the 10th Destroyer Flotilla. The 10th Destroyer Flotilla was comprised mainly of Tribal Class destroyers and was formed  to win control of the western English Channel through aggressive night fighting. HMCS Haida joined the 10th Destroyer Flotilla in January 1944 and continued as part of it until September.

Due to a loss in strength after the sinking of HMCS Athabaskan in April 1944, the flotilla was reinforced with four additional ships in May 1944. Of these four ships, two British destroyers and two Polish destroyers were added: ORP Blyskawica and ORP Piorun. HMCS Haida continued to serve together with Blyskawica and other Allied ships until September 1944.

In 2005, HMCS Haida National Historic Site of Canada was invited by the Polish Navy to enter into a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the preserved Polish destroyer ORP Blyskawica for the purpose of sharing information, expertise and goodwill. The Polish Navy invited an HMCS Haida delegation to attend this celebration as their guests to commemorate this special partnership. On June 28, 2006, the Memorandum of Understanding between the two ships was signed aboard ORP Blyskawica witnessed by Mr. David Fairbarns, a Haida Second World War Canadian veteran and Mr. Stan Brodzki, a Second World War Polish veteran.

The celebration aboard HMCS Haida on September 22, 2007 completes the twinning of these two ships. A delegation from ORP Blyskawica were invited as special guests for this signing ceremony in Hamilton, a year after the Polish signing ceremony.

The objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two ships include:

Promote cooperation and mutual exchange of historical information and of research material to help increase public knowledge of this period by the citizens of Poland and Canada.

Facilitate employee exchange arrangements whose main objective is to enhance the quality of programs offered at each of the two sites.

Heighten the profile of each site to ensure that Poles and Canadians have a better understanding of their own history; and

Demonstrate the tie between the two sites by means of the themes developed at ORP Blyskawica and HMCS Haida National Historic Site."

TRIVIA:  During WWII,  Blyskawica was known universally by the moniker "Bottle Of Whisky".

THE EVENT

The ceremony began at 2:00 PM on September 22, 2007. During the proceedings, there were speeches by the honoured guests of the podium, a flyby of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Mynarski Memorial Avro Lancaster, vocals by a Polish-English female soloist Danielle Bourre and music from any of three bands comprised of the Royal Regiment of Canada,  HMCS Star and the 48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums. After the ceremony, invited guests proceeded to HMCS Star's Mess Halls for a VIP reception. For those who purchased tickets, there was a gala banquet held at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum where additional honours were received by Haida and the Polish delegation.

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A view of the audience taken from the deck of HAIDA just prior to the commencement of ceremonies. 
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Honoured guests of  the podium. 
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The Mynarski Memorial Lancaster from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum collection does a flyby during the Twinning Ceremony. It is only one of two airworthy examples left in the entire world. The other is in the UK. 
All photos in this table by Jerry Proc

SIGNING THE DOCUMENTS


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Cdr. Slawomir Kudela (L) , Director of the Polish Navy Museum (Gdynia) and Mr David Sweet, Member of Parliament for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale sign the twinning documents. Mr. Sweet was representing the Honourable John Baird, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada and ultimately HMCS HAIDA. Cdr Kudela signed on behalf of the Polish Navy Museum who is  responsible for ORP BLYSKAWICA,  a preserved ship still in commission in the Polish Navy.
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Jack Hannam (L), who served in HAIDA during WWII,  signs on behalf of Canadian naval veterans who served in WWII . To his left is Stan Brodzki, a Polish WWII naval veteran who served on ORP PIORUN which was also part of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla. Similarly, Stan signed on behalf of WWII Polish naval vets. 
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The signing has been completed and both ships are officially twinned. Carla Morse (R), HAIDA's Collections Manager was one of the members of the Twinning organizing committee which also included Stan Brodzki, Bill Green, Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, John Walker and Robert Willson. 
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The bands of the Royal Regiment of Canada and the 48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums march off the jetty at the conclusion of the ceremony. In addition, HMCS Star band  also participated in the musical portion of the event. 
All photos in this table by Jerry Proc

POST CEREMONY

 
VIP's of the Twinning Ceremony. 
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A reception was held for invited guests in HMCS Star Naval Reserve Unit. 
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Symphonia, a community based Polish choir from Hamilton, entertained guests at the banquet held at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton. The choir sang both in English and Polish. 
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For over 60 years, Pat Begley held on to a pair of 2 pounder shell casings fired by ORP BLYSKAWICA. In a gesture of kindness, he donated these casings to BLYSKAWICA and HAIDA to symbolize the twinning of the two ships. These artifacts were accepted by Cdr. Kudela of BLYSKAWICA and Carla Morse of HAIDA. Of all the honours bestowed upon BLYSKAWICA during the course of the day, the donation of these shell casings was without a doubt, the most important one. 
All photos in this table by Jerry Proc

EVENT SPONSORS


ADMIRAL LEVEL
 

DGN Marketing Services

CAPTAIN LEVEL 

Canada Company
HAIDA Association
Showline Ltd.
LOT Polish Airlines
Di and Gabby's Pub

COMMANDER 
LEVEL

Waste Mgt of Canada 
Dominelli Service  Stations
Coffee Time Donuts Inc
Worker Canada
Terrasan Corp 
Canada Auto Parks

OTHER SUPPORT

Capt John's Restaurant
Muizik Nightclub
Royal Canadian 
Military Institute
Naval Officers Assoc of Canada
Friends of HMCS HAIDA
Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
HMCS Star
Cdr R.A. Willson (Ret'd) 
Polish Consulate 
Michael and Sheena Vollmer
 

Transportation provided by: Global Luxury Transport. Adam  and Mike Lotakow

For additional information and photos about ORP Blyskawica, please visit the ship's web site.



Additional Credits and References:

1) Parks Canada  - Twinning Ceremony Program  Booklet.
2) Philip Gibbon  <gibbon(at)offfarm.demon.co.uk>

Dec 10/08

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