Polish submarine “Orzel” escapes

to map

18. September 1939

On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland, and the conflict grew into a World War in only few days, after France and Great Britain got involved.
Germans reached Poland's capital city, Warsaw, very quickly and on September17, the Soviet Union interfered, claiming self defense and annexing the eastern areas of Poland, the ones it had received with the secret protocol of MRP.
On the day Germany launched its hostilities towards Poland, the Republic of Estonia passed "the law about Estonia's neutrality", declaring neutrality. Yet, Estonian government did not condemn Germany's assault and declare public support to Poland. In addition, government discarded the plan of a full- or semi mobilization, thus ignoring the ideas promoted to the public, saying that neutrality is possible only if it is decisively protected.

After fourth division of Poland, the Soviet Union decided that taking the current international situation into account, the easiest way to gain control over the Baltics and thus over the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland was to build its bases in the Baltic states. In addition, bases could be also used in the future.
In order to establish bases, the Soviet Union had to find a suitable excuse. An excellent incident for this was presented by Polish submarine "Orzel" (see image), which stopped in Tallinn on the night of September 14, claiming a fault in the engine. The submarine was interned but escaped on the night of September 17. The Soviet Union sent an official warning notice, and Soviet news agency TASS accused Estonian government of helping the submarine to escape. This incident was followed by fictitious torpedoing Soviet cargo ship "Metallist" on September 27, and accusation of pillaging steamboat "Pioner" on the night of September 28-29. This is how Estonias' will and capability to defend their autonomy and neutrality was tested.

Source: Eesti ajalugu. VI, Vabadussõjast taasiseseisvumiseni. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2005
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.
                                                                                                

Image source :http://comprint.cp2.win.pl/wch/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/orp-orzel-submarine-1939r.jpg  http://www.dutchsubmarines.com/export/images/poland/boat_orzel.jpg


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