Józef Unrug

Józef Unrug (German: Joseph von Unruh; 7 October 1884 – 28 February 1973) was a Polish admiral who helped reestablish Poland's navy after World War I. During the opening stages of World War II, he served as the Polish Navy's commander-in-chief. As a German POW, he refused all German offers to change sides and was incarcerated in several Oflags, including Colditz Castle. He stayed in exile after the war in the United Kingdom, Morocco and France where he died and was buried. In September 2018 he was posthumously promoted in the rank of Admiral of the fleet by the President of Poland. After 45 years his remains, along with those of his wife Zofia, were exhumed from Montrésor and taken in October 2018 to his final resting place in Gdynia, Poland.

Józef Unrug
Józef Unrug
Born7 October 1884
Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany
Died28 February 1973 (aged 88)
Lailly-en-Val, France
Allegiance German Empire
Poland Second Polish Republic
Service/branch Imperial German Navy
 Polish Navy
Years of servicefrom 1907
RankAdmiral (Admirał)
Commands heldSM UB-25, SM UC-11 and SM UC-28
C-i-C of the Polish Navy
Battles/warsWorld War I, Polish-Soviet War, Invasion of Poland (1939)


Józef Michał Hubert Unrug was born in Brandenburg an der Havel into a noble family of German descent. He was the son of Thaddäus Gustav von Unruh, a Generalmajor in the Prussian Army. After graduating from the gymnasium in Dresden, Unrug completed naval college in 1907 and began his service in the German Navy. During World War I he commanded a U-boat, and was promoted to command the training-submarine half-flotilla.


In 1919, after Poland regained independence, Unrug left Germany and volunteered for the Polish Armed Forces. Soon afterwards, he was transferred to the nascent Polish Navy, where he served as chief of the Hydrographic Division and then as commanding officer of a submarine flotilla. One of the most skilled officers in the Polish Navy, Unrug was quickly promoted to Rear Admiral. Overcoming his limitations in the Polish language, he became Commander of the Fleet of the Polish Navy in 1925.

World War II

During the 1939 invasion of Poland, Unrug executed his plan of strategically withdrawing the Polish Navy's major vessels to the United Kingdom ("Operation Peking"). At the same time, he got all Polish submersibles to lay naval mines in the Bay of Gdańsk ("Plan Worek"). Following that operation, these vessels either escaped to the United Kingdom or sought refuge in neutral countries.

Despite having effectively given up control of Poland's naval vessels, Unrug remained in command of multiple military units, which he tasked with protecting the Polish Corridor from German attacks. On 1 October 1939, however, after both Warsaw and Modlin had capitulated, Admiral Unrug decided that further defence of the isolated Hel Peninsula was pointless, and the following day all units under his command capitulated.

Unrug spent the rest of World War II in various German POW camps, including Fort Srebrna Góra,[1] Oflag II-C in Woldenberg, Oflag XVIII-C in Spittal, Stalag X-B in Sandbostel, Oflag IV-C (Colditz Castle), and finally Oflag VII-A Murnau. In Oflag VII-A Murnau, Unrug was the highest-ranking officer and commander of the Polish soldiers interned there as prisoners of war. The Germans treated Unrug with great respect, on account of him having previously been a German officer, by bringing former Imperial German Navy friends to visit him with the intention of making him switch sides. Unrug responded by refusing to speak German, saying that he had forgotten that language in September 1939. To the irritation of the Germans, Unrug would always insist on having a translator present or communicating in French, when speaking with the Germans, even though he was a native German speaker. Unrug's spirit and unbowed attitude proved to be an inspiration to his fellow prisoners.[2]

Post-war exile

After Poland was taken over by the Soviet Union in 1945, Unrug went to the United Kingdom, where he served with the Polish Navy in the West and took part in its demobilisation. After the Allies withdrew support from the Polish government, Unrug remained in exile, in the United Kingdom, and then moved to France. He died there on 28 February 1973 in the Polish Veterans' care home in Lailly-en-Val near Beaugency, at the age of 88. On 5 March 1973, he was buried in Montrėsor cemetery. In 1976, a stone tablet commemorating Unrug was unveiled in Oksywie. Unrug had specified in his will that he should not be buried on Polish soil until such time as all the remains of his fellow naval officers and men had been recovered from enemy control.

Exhumation and state funeral

On 24 September 2018 Admiral of the fleet Joseph Unrug and his wife, Zofia (died 1980), were exhumed and transferred with a guard of honour at the French port of Brest for reburial in the Polish port of Gdynia, Poland, after a delay of 45 years.[3] A state funeral was held in Oksywie on 2 October 2018 in the presence of Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland among other members of the Polish government and leaders of the Polish Armed Forces. The chief mourner was Christophe Unrug, the admiral's grandson and, by happenstance, the current mayor of Montrésor in France.[4]

In September 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda had posthumously promoted Rear admiral Joseph Unrug to Admiral of the fleet. The promotion citation was handed to Unrug's family during the funeral at the cemetery.

Honours and awards

Jozef Unrug
Józef Unrug (left)
POL Virtuti Militari Złoty BAR
Gold Cross of the Virtuti Militari
Polonia Restituta Komandorski
Polonia Restituta, Commanders' Cross
Zloty Krzyz Zaslugi z Mieczami
Gold Cross of Merits with Swords
POL Złoty Krzyż Zasługi BAR
Gold Cross of Merit
Legion Honneur GO ribbon
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Krzyz Walecznosci Ribbon
Iron Cross, First and Second Classes (German Empire)
DNK Order of Danebrog Knight BAR
Order of Dannebrog (Denmark)
Order of the White Elephant - Medal (Thailand) ribbon
Order of the White Elephant (Siam)
Order of the Sword - Ribbon bar
Royal Order of the Sword (Sweden)
POL Virtuti Militari Złoty BAR
Polonia Restituta Komandorski
Zloty Krzyz Zaslugi z Mieczami
POL Złoty Krzyż Zasługi BAR
Legion Honneur GO ribbon
Krzyz Walecznosci Ribbon
DNK Order of Danebrog Knight BAR
Order of the White Elephant - Medal (Thailand) ribbon
Order of the Sword - Ribbon bar

See also


  1. ^ "Pomink historii: Srebrna Góra – Twierdza Srebrnogórska, nowożytna warownia górska z XVIII wieku" (in Polish). Nid.pl. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  2. ^ Kazimierz Sławiński: Wspomnienie o kontradmirale, "Morze" Monthly, 9/1973, p.17
  3. ^ Frachet, Stéphane (2018-09-25). "Indre-et-Loire : la dépouille de l'amiral Unrug, héros polonais, rentre au pays". Le Parisien (in French).
  4. ^ "Nowy Czas: Obituary Admirał Józef Unrug 1884-1973". Nowy Czas, London (in Polish) (237/238): 52. 10 December 2018. ISSN 1752-0339. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
Battle of Gdynia

Battle of Gdynia was one of the major battles in northern Poland during the Invasion of Poland of 1939. The Germans' main push towards Gdynia began on 8 September and they captured Gdynia less than a week later on 14 September.

Battle of Hel

The Battle of Hel was one of the longest battles of the Invasion of Poland during World War II.

The Hel Peninsula, together with the town of Hel, was the pocket of Polish Army resistance that held out the longest against the German invasion. Approximately 2,800 soldiers of the Fortified Region Hel unit (Helski Rejon Umocniony), part of the Coastal Defence Group (Grupa Obrony Wybrzeża) under Włodzimierz Steyer, defended the area against overwhelming odds from 9 September until 2 October 1939, when they surrendered.[1]

Battle of the Border

The Battle of the Border (Polish: Bitwa graniczna) refers to the battles that occurred in the first days of the German invasion of Poland in September, 1939. The series of battles ended in a German victory, as Polish forces were either destroyed or forced to retreat.

Brandenburg an der Havel

Brandenburg an der Havel is a town in Brandenburg, Germany, which served as the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg until replaced by Berlin in 1417.

With a population of 71,778 (as of 2010), it is located on the banks of the River Havel. The town of Brandenburg provided the name for the medieval Bishopric of Brandenburg, the Margraviate of Brandenburg, and the current state of Brandenburg. Today it is a small town compared to nearby Berlin, but it was the original nucleus of the former realms of Brandenburg and Prussia.

Fort Srebrna Góra

Fort Srebrna Góra or Srebrnogórska Fortress (German: Festung Silberberg, lit. Silver Mountain Fort) is a former military fort, now a monument and a museum, located in the town of Srebrna Góra (lit. Silver Mountain), Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. It was constructed in 1765–1777 when the territory was part of the Kingdom of Prussia.

The fort is one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments (Pomnik historii), as designated May 1, 2004. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland. It has been declared a rare example of a surviving European 18th century mountain stronghold.The fort has been called a "Gibraltar of Prussia", or "Gibraltar of Silesia", a reference to its foundation in solid bedrock.

French cruiser D'Entrecasteaux

D'Entrecasteaux, later ORP Bałtyk was a French protected cruiser laid down in June 1894 and launched on 12 June 1896, she was completed in 1898. She was constructed at Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, La Seyne. Created as protected cruiser and used as French flagship in the Far East. Polish school hulk, altered from French cruiser D’Entrecasteaux in 1927. Largest warship in Second Polish Republic's Navy and the only cruiser in it. Scrapped in 1942 by Germans.

Land Coastal Defence

Land Coastal Defence (or Land Coastal Command, Polish: Lądowa Obrona Wybrzeża, abbr. LOW), commanded by Colonel Stanisław Dąbek (land forces), was an important unit tasked with the defence of Poland's Baltic Sea coast during the 1939 invasion.

List of Légion d'honneur recipients by name (U)

The following is a list of some notable Légion d'honneur recipients by name. The Légion d'honneur is the highest order of France. A complete, chronological list of the members of the Legion of Honour nominated from the very first ceremony in 1803 to now does not exist. The number is estimated at one million including about 3,000 Grand Cross.

List of Polish admirals

The following is a list of Polish officers holding the rank of admiral, as well as generals serving in the Polish Navy. It is to be noted that prior to 1918 the term admirał (and, consistently, wiceadmirał and kontradmirał) referred to a function held in the navy rather than a military rank as such.

List of Polish generals

The following is a list of Polish generals, that is the people who held the rank of general, as well as those who acted as de facto generals by commanding a division or brigade.

Note that until the Partitions of Poland of late 18th century the rank of general as such was mostly (though not exclusively) reserved for commanders of artillery, while large tactical units (equivalent of divisions) were usually commanded by hetmans and voivodes.

Oflag VII-A Murnau

Oflag VII-A Murnau was a German Army POW camp for Polish Army officers during World War II. It was located 2 km (1.2 mi) north of the Bavarian town of Murnau am Staffelsee.

Oflag VIII-E Johannisbrunn

Oflag VIII-E was a World War II German prisoner-of-war camp for Allied general officers (Offizierlager) located in Johannisbrunn, Sudetenland (now Jánské Koupele, Moravian–Silesian Region, Czech Republic).

Oflag X-B

Oflag X-B was a World War II German prisoner-of-war camp for officers (Offizierlager) located in Nienburg am Weser, Lower Saxony, in north-western Germany. Adjacent to it was the enlisted men's camp (Stammlager) Stalag X-C.

Order of the White Elephant

The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant (Thai: เครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์อันเป็นที่เชิดชูยิ่งช้างเผือก; RTGS: Khrueang Ratcha-itsariyaphon An Pen Thi Choetchu Ying Chang Phueak) is an order of Thailand. It was established in 1861 by King Rama IV of the Kingdom of Siam. Along with the Order of the Crown of Thailand, it is regularly awarded to any government official for services rendered to Thailand for five years, making it Thailand's most-commonly awarded order.

Peking Plan

The Peking Plan (or Operation Peking) was an operation in which three destroyers of the Polish Navy, the Burza ("Storm"), Błyskawica ("Lightning"), and Grom ("Thunder"), were evacuated to the United Kingdom in late August and early September 1939. They were ordered to travel to British ports and assist the British Royal Navy in the event of a war with Nazi Germany. The plan was successful and allowed the ships to avoid certain destruction or capture in the German invasion.

Polish Navy

The Polish Navy (Polish: Marynarka Wojenna, "War Navy") is a military branch of the Polish Armed Forces responsible for naval operations. The Polish Navy consists of 48 ships and about 12,000 commissioned and enlisted personnel. The traditional ship prefix in the Polish Navy is ORP (Okręt Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, "Warship of the Republic of Poland").

Polish Navy order of battle in 1939

This article details the Order of Battle of the Polish Navy prior to the outbreak of World War II and the Polish Defensive War of 1939. Following World War I, Poland's shoreline was relatively short and included no major seaports. In the 1920s and 1930s, such ports were built in Gdynia and Hel, and the Polish Navy underwent a modernisation program under the leadership of Counter-Admiral Józef Unrug (Commanding Officer of the Fleet) and Vice-Admiral Jerzy Świrski (Chief of Naval Staff). Ships were acquired from France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and the navy was to be able to secure the Polish supply lines in case of a war against the Soviet Union. By September 1939 the Polish Navy consisted of 5 submarines, 4 destroyers, and various support vessels and mine-warfare ships.

This force was no match for the large German Navy, and so a strategy of harassment and indirect engagement was implemented. Lacking numerical superiority, Polish naval commanders decided to execute the Peking Plan, an operation to withdraw most of the naval vessels to British ports, from where the ships were to secure convoys with aid for Poland, either bound for Gdynia or for Constanca in Romania.


Unruh (or Unrug) is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Fritz von Unruh (1885–1970), German dramatist

Hans Victor von Unruh (1806–1886), Prussian politician

Howard Unruh (1921–2009), American spree killer

Jack Unruh (1935–2016), American illustrator

Jesse M. Unruh (1922–1987), American politician

Jessica Unruh, American politician

Józef Unrug (Joseph von Unruh in German; 1884–1973), Polish naval officer

Leslee Unruh, American activist

N. U. Unruh (born 1957), German musician

Otto D. Unruh (1899–1992), American football player and coach

Paul Unruh (born 1928), American basketball player

Sigismund von Unruh (1676–1732), Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth noble and court official

William George "Bill" Unruh (born 1945), Canadian physicist

Worek Plan

The Worek Plan (or Operation Worek, Polish: Plan Worek, literally Plan Sack) was an operation of the Polish Navy in the first days of World War II, in which its five submarines formed a screen in order to prevent German naval forces from carrying out landings on the Polish coast, and to attack enemy ships bombarding Polish coastal fortifications, in particular the base on the Hel Peninsula.

The operation came to naught, as the Germans did not have any plans for naval landings. It caused the submarines to operate in a confined area near the shore in shallow waters, making them vulnerable to strong enemy anti-submarine forces. As a result, despite making a number of attempts, the submarines were unable to directly sink any enemy ships during the operation, although a mine placed by the Żbik did sink a German minesweeper. No Polish submarines were lost to enemy action, but they suffered progressive wear and tear, and technical problems, forcing the submarine commanders to break off their actions, effectively ending the operation by the middle of September 1939.


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