Captain of the third rank Henryk Klochkovsky seated second from the left among the personnel of the Polish Navy on the occasion of the celebration of Christmas, 1938.
The end of the article Baltic odyssey "Eagle".
The myth of the great patriot
Before the war Henryk Kloczkowski was considered one of the best Polish submariners, also thanks to his experience gained while serving in Russian navy in the First World War. Therefore, his true and abhorrent behavior during the Second World War was shrouded in silence for ideological and patriotic reasons.
"A man of strict rules, a great patriot",
those who appointed Klochkovsky as commander of the flagship of the Polish submarine fleet spoke about him.
But not only these qualities influenced his career advancement - whether in Russia, Poland or France, Klochkovsky was always distinguished by his academic success. He quickly became an expert in underwater weapons, rationalizer, good organizer and commander of the submarine "Zhbik" ("Wild Cat"). At the age of 34, he became the youngest captain of the third rank (Polish - Second Lieutenant Commander) in the Polish Navy.
The first signals that Henryk Klochkovsky did not properly treat his official duties appeared in the summer of 1938, even during the work of the selection committee in Holland. There Klochkovsky got involved in an affair with a prostitute. This, of course, caused a scandal, but this was not the most significant change in the behavior of the "commander".
In Holland, Klochkovsky suddenly became an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler. If earlier he was not noticed in an interest in politics, now he began to openly praise the policy of the Nazis and impose his opinion on his colleagues. But the authorities did not seem to notice the oddities in Klochkovsky's behavior.
It only got worse over time. And finally, on the eve of the outbreak of the war - despite the extremely tense situation between Germany and Poland, the commander went ashore, giving the crew members a dismissal. As a result, when the Germans attacked Poland, he was not on the ship, but arrived at the port on September 1 at 6:30 am, when the submarines Lynx, Semp, Wilk and Zhbik had long gone to sea.
The situation did not improve even after the "Ozel" under his command went to fight the Kriegsmarine. On the contrary, subsequent reports of German successes became increasingly depressing. Already on the second day of the war, after the meeting between the Ozhel and Vilka at sea, the commander of the latter (Lieutenant-Commander Boguslav Kravchik) aptly noted that the moral side of "Kloch" was none.
The commander of the "Ozhel" was depressed and spoke with irritation about the senselessness of the war, that is, clearly showed panic fear... From the very beginning of hostilities, the Polish command had the most problems with communication with the Ozhel. This submarine did not report on itself in due time and did not indicate its position.
The whole day on September 3, the "Ozhel" spent under water at a depth of about 28 meters. Despite this, Luftwaffe aircraft tracked her down and bombarded her. They were joined by the ships of the Kriegsmarine. The attacks were repeated several times, but the submarine escaped hits.
The turning point was the day of September 4, when the "Ozhela" attacked a lone German plane. Despite an immediate dive to a depth of 70 m, one of the depth charges exploded in close proximity to the ship. The submarine escaped with only minor damage, which cannot be said about its commander.
The raid had a negative impact on his morale. Klochkovsky informed his officers that he intends to change the patrol area and move north to the Gotland area. He believed that the sector assigned to him was too small (which was just the truth), and numerous attacks from the sea and from the air made it impossible to conduct any military operation (which was already an obvious lie).
Without notifying the command, at 20:20 he made an entry in the ship's log of his decision. Thus, he withdrew 20% of the Polish submarine from the battle, which put the rest of the submarines in greater danger and negatively affected the morale of their crews.
In short, Klochkovsky fled from the battlefield to a safe area of Gotland, where the enemy did not attack, but was almost not present, so there was no way to threaten him. Moreover, the Polish command was not notified of the movement of the "Ozhel".
In their testimony, already in Great Britain, the ship's officers pointed out other oddities of the "Commander's" behavior. He could, for example, smoke cigarettes underwater, degrading the already modest supply of air in an enclosed space. Didn't keep the ship log properly. The commission of inquiry subsequently found that his notes and reports were untrue. During meetings, he not only questioned the opinions of his subordinates, but also tried to ridicule them.
But the main thing was that since September 2, Klochkovsky had been complaining to everyone about some vague ailments. Allegedly, he poisoned himself with something else before the start of the war, in the officers' mess in Oksyva. The ship's doctor was unable to determine what the commander was ill with.
Officially, Klochkovsky did not eat anything, only drank tea. But later, the crew members claimed that they saw how some sailors secretly carried food to his cabin. While recharging the batteries, when the ship was in a flood position, Klochkovsky went out on deck, muttering something inarticulate, and sat down in the conning tower. If at this time the submarine was attacked by the enemy, a quick dive would be impossible.
The investigation into the Klochkovsky case did not answer the question of whether he was really sick or simply cowardly. However, in any case, the commander had to surrender the command to his deputy, which Klochkovsky did not.
The change of the district did not have a calming effect on Klochkovsky's nerves. Until September 7 "Ozhel" "patrolled" the waters near Gotland. Then he received an order to move closer to the German naval base Pillau. The "Commander" accepted the order, but was in no hurry to carry it out. At least there is no entry on this topic in the ship's log. But there is a record that the ship left the danger zone due to the poor health of the captain.
The crew began to suspect that their commander was evading combat. Despite Klochkovsky's assurances of readiness to take battle, the Polish sailors realized that they were in an area where warships and merchant ships of the enemy did not visit. When a depressed mood from inaction and bad News from the war, suddenly, on September 12, "Ozhel" spotted a German tanker passing in the vicinity. Thirsty sailors were seized by euphoria, which their commander immediately extinguished, saying that the tanker was going empty.
The opinion spread among the crew that, in fact, their commander was in hysterics, and he was only looking for an excuse to go ashore. But Klochkovsky did not at all strive to break through to his native shores. And after four days of deliberation, he finally decided to go to safe harbor. The officers insisted that Kloch leave the submarine in a rowboat off the coast of Gotland. But his choice fell on distant Tallinn, which Klochkovsky knew. And where did he have acquaintances since the days of service in the Russian Navy.
Just a glance at the map raises many questions about the motives of the "commander". The Ozel was close to neutral Sweden. And Swedish ports were considered for the temporary entry of Polish ships there. As for Finland, Estonia and Latvia, their ports were considered only if absolutely necessary - these countries had allied treaties with Germany. And there was a great danger that the Polish ships would be handed over to the Germans.
But Klochkovsky referred to the acquaintances that he made under the tsar and supported during numerous visits during the interwar period. He considered Tallinn to be the best place for compressor repairs and other minor damage.
It is still not entirely clear who brought "Ozhel" to Tallinn: Klochkovsky or Grudzinsky. But what happened on the raid was a curiosity for some, and a scandal for others. Klochkovsky, still ill and barely dragging his feet, suddenly recovered and almost ran across the deck, giving orders. Then, on September 14, the Ozhel entered the port, where it was quickly surrounded by armed Estonian sailors, and the gunboat Laine approached the side.
The commander, without delay, went ashore to meet with the Estonian officer. What they were talking about is unknown. But there is no doubt that their long negotiations determined the further fate of the Polish "Commander".
Going ashore, Klochkovsky took with him suitcases, a typewriter and a hunting rifle. He found a long-awaited refuge in a Tallinn hospital. It became clear to the sailors that their commander had abandoned them and left them at the mercy of the Estonians. They were able to carry out their daring escape and breakthrough to Great Britain thanks to the fact that Grudzinsky was at his best.
Of course, the question of Klochkovsky's behavior was widely discussed among Polish officers and sailors, not only from Ozhel and Wilka, since the behavior of the “Commander” greatly undermined the morale of the Polish crews.
Longest in the betrayal of Klochkovsky,
"A man of strict rules, a great patriot",
the officer of the underwater weapon "Wilka", Lieutenant Boleslav Romanovsky refused to believe. Klochkovsky was a big disappointment for his former commander and patron, Captain First Rank Eugeniusz Plawsky.
In Britain, submarine crew members drew up detailed testimonies describing the circumstances of their ship's internment in Tallinn and the behavior of their commander, who was accused of cowardice and treason.
Meanwhile, Klochkovsky remained in Estonia. He stayed in the hospital for only 3 days, which indicates that he did not suffer from any serious illness. Then he settled in Tartu, where he discharged his family.
After the annexation of Estonia to the USSR, Klochkovsky was arrested and sent to a camp for Polish prisoners of war in Kozelsk. There he again changed his political views: he became an ardent admirer of the Soviet system and the Soviet-Polish union. But this did not help him - Klochkovsky remained in Kozelsk until July 1941, when he was released under the Polish-Soviet Sikorsky-Maisky agreement.
After his release, Klochkovsky joined the Polish army of General Anders, left the USSR with it and appeared in London.
Guilty of desertion
There he was put under the tribunal from the spot. The tribunal found Klochkovsky guilty of desertion in the face of the enemy and sentenced him to demotion to rank and file and expulsion from the ranks of the Polish Navy.
Additionally, sailor Klochkovsky was sentenced to four years in prison after the end of hostilities - this part of the sentence was never carried out.
It was a very lenient sentence. For cowardice in the face of the enemy, misinformation of the higher command, desertion from the battlefield and abandonment of the ship and its crew, Klochkovsky was entitled to the gallows. But the death penalty could not be based solely on the testimony of deceased witnesses.
However, his name does not deserve the legend of the Ozhel commander,
"Landed for health reasons."
It is worth noting here that the trial of Klochkovsky was superficial and full of procedural violations.
The panel of judges was most interested in the question of whether Klochkovsky was a Soviet agent. Soviet intelligence allegedly could have recruited him during the mentioned episode with a prostitute in Holland. For some reason, it did not occur to the judges that Holland was then under the close supervision of the Abwehr, who could well have recruited a Polish officer caught in a compromising act.
Klochkovsky was not remembered for his pro-Nazi views, but denunciations of his pro-Soviet sympathies were filed to the case. Finally, during the trial, he was accused of deliberately leaving Tallinn (closer to the Soviet border), not noticing that such a decision removed a valuable unit of the navy from hostilities against Germany.
After the trial, Klochkovsky sailed on American merchant ships in Atlantic convoys. And after the war he settled in the United States, where he worked at shipyards. In particular, his experience in the submarine business was useful to him while working in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at a shipyard that built submarines for the US Navy. At that time, he was periodically checked by the US intelligence services. And, it is unlikely that (if they had found at least some evidence of cooperation between Klochkovsky and the USSR) they would have allowed him to stay in a job that requires complete secrecy and loyalty.
The traitor Klochkovsky died in the United States in 1962.
His case was the biggest shame for the Polish Navy during the Second World War.
It is not surprising that at the time when the "Ozhel" was elevated to the rank of a symbol of national heroism, the shameful история her commander was hiding.
This is evidenced by the feature film of the submarine "Ozhel", filmed in Poland in 1958. There, the personality of the first commander of the valiant submarine is depicted (contrary to the facts) very nicely.
(In preparing the text, materials from the field courts of the former Polish Armed Forces were used, kindly provided by the General Sikorski Institute in London, as well as documents from the personal archives of captains Eugeniusz Plawski, Boris Karnicki and Boleslav Romanovsky, kindly provided by their family members).