Battle of Oliwa 1627 14

(A copy of the Wikipedia article, as it existed Jan 2006)


During the time of Polish-Swedish War in 1627, the Commonwealth fleet under command of Admiral Arend Dickmann achieved it most famous victory, breaking the Swedish blockade at the Battle of Oliwa.

1630s: Wladyslaw IV plans for Navy expansion

The 58th article signed and sworn by King Wladyslaw IV Waza Pacta Conventa announced creation of a war fleet "according to needs of Commonwealth". Władysław, taking the throne after his father Zygmunt III Waza died in 1632 was in favor of expanding and modernizing the Commonwealth military. One of his plans was the expansion of the Commonwealth Navy.

Despite his attempts he did not recover ships taken by Swedes in Wismar and Travemuende. Władysław decided to build a new fleet and created a "Naval Commission" with Gerard Denhoff as a chairman to fulfill this task. The choice of other members of this Commission was not random, it contained wealthy supporters, like the merchant and owner of a merchant fleet from Gdansk, Jerzy Hewel. Because the Sejm (Polish Diet) was at best reluctant to pay for new ships and royal chest was permanently empty it was due to Hawel that the new fleet was created at all. He gave to the king's disposal 10 ships; a few of them were carrying small caliber cannons. These ships had to be modernized in order to allow them to carry heavier cannons. Additionally the king wanted to build a few Galleons in Gdansk and Puck and because of long construction times, also to purchase a few ships abroad, but those plans were not realized (except of purchase of one Danish ship - requiring quite serious repair).

Thus the new Polish fleet consisted of 10 ex-merchant ships: "Czarny Orzeł" (Black Eagle - 420 tons, 32 cannons), "Prorok Samuel" (Prophet Samuel - 400 tons, 24 cannons), "Wielkie Słońce" (Great Sun - 540 tons, 24 cannons), "Nowy Czarny Orzeł" (New Black Eagle - 24 cannons). Four smaller ships "Biały Orzeł" (White Eagle), "Charitas", "Gwiazda" (Star) and "Strzelec" (Saggitarius) had 200 tons and two the smallest "Święty Piotr" (Saint Peter) or "Fortuna" (Fortune) 160 tons and "Mały Biały Orzeł" (Small White Eagle) 140 tons and 4 small caliber cannons and additionally one small galley. Command of the newly created fleet was given to rear admiral Aleksander Seton.

The King did not forget to ensure a safe base for the newly created fleet. The Harbor in Puck was too shallow for the biggest ships and the usage of Wisłoujście (a fortress near Gdansk) was constantly plagued by difficulties from the Gdansk Patriciate (afraid that a king with a strong naval arm would step upon their "liberties", control tolls, exert taxes etc.). The royal engineers Fryderyk Getkant, Jan Pleitner and Eliasz Arciszewski selected a location for two new fortifications with naval bases on the Hel peninsula. They were quite impressive and raised in record time (finished in 1634, consisting of strong wooden (oak) palisades, earthen walls, trenches and moats). These fortifications were named after the King and his brother: Władysławowo and Kazimierzowo (the small town of Władysławowo still exists on the Hel peninsula nowadays - the fort was more or less on its current edge).

Additionally about 500 Cossacks under Konstanty Kołek with their small boats (czajka) were brought. It is uncertain if they were used at all1. Their main goal was to plague Swedish communication and supply lines near Piława and on Zatoka Wiślana (Vistula Bay). There were plans to use Cossacks in their light but very fast boats against Inflanty (Livonia) and even to raid the Swedish shore (to burn, pillage, capture merchant ships etc.). Cossacks were know from their plundering raids on Black Sea (they even burned suburbs of Istanbul once or twice). Generally one has to stress that because of the overall tonnage and armament difference between Polish and Swedish naval fleets even before (in 1620-ties) the main role of the Polish fleet was to disrupt Swedish communication and supply lines, to capture merchant ships bringing supplies for the Swedes (even if they belonged to neutral powers, for example ships belonging to the Netherlands, England or German duchies/cities were captured and sequestrated).

The King's plan never had strong support from Polish nobles (szlachta): costs, dislike to strengthen the king's power were always crippling Władysław's plans. Thus not even all the king's expenses for modernization of those 10 ships were fully repaid. Unfortunate international alliances (with Danmark and Muscovy) did not allow him to mount any offensive actions and the majority of wars he participated in were defensive ones (like the Smolensk War with Muscovy in 1634). A new armistice with Sweden signed in Sztumska Wies (Stumsdorf) knocked the last argument out of the kings hand. After that the king wanted to use his ships to organize the first Polish merchant company (with help of Hewel), however Hewel's death stopped even those plans. Finally the ships were sold. The built fortifications were salt in Denmark's and the Gdansk Patriciate eyes and under their pressure were destroyed in 1640s.

The Swedes were without king after the death of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and lost battles in Germany. The Polish nobles did not want to fight a new war so when the Swedes returned most of the lands they captured in the previous war a new armistice for 35 years was signed. One has to stress that cost of Polish preparations for this war was comparable with costs of king's relief of Smolensk in 1634 and his campaign against Muscovy.

Naval Battle of Oliwa - 1627


The naval Battle of Oliwa or Battle of Gdańsk Roadstead took place on 28 November 1627 during the Polish-Swedish War outside Gdansk harbour, but it is commonly known as the Battle of Oliwa (Oliwa is now a part of Gdańsk). It was the first and the last naval battle of the Polish fleet, but it brought a victory over a Swedish squadron.

The Swedes had a strong navy, and they maintained a blockade of the Polish shore, especially Gdańsk harbour. On 28 November 1627, the Polish fleet engaged the Swedish blockading squadron. The Polish ships were more numerous, but only 4 galleons had full combat value, the rest were smaller ships. The Swedes had a longer tradition of a seamanship, while the Polish navy was new-born.

The Poles were commanded by Admiral Arend Dickmann, in the galleon Sankt Georg (Święty Jerzy). The Polish fleet of 10 ships was anchored at Gdańsk roadstead, while the Swedish squadron of 6 ships sailed from the direction of the Hel Peninsula. The Poles raised anchors and rushed towards the Swedes, who did not expect such reaction. The battle soon split into two encounters.

The Polish flagship Sankt Georg, supported by a smaller ship Meerweib (Panna Wodna), attacked the Swedish Tigern, flagship of Admiral Nils Stiernsköld. The ships stuck together and the Polish naval infantry, fighting hand-to-hand, captured Tigern. Meanwhile the Polish Vice-Admirals ship, the small galleon Meerman (Wodnik) attacked the bigger Swedish galleon Solen. As a result the Swedish captain of Solen blew his ship up rather than allow its capture. The remaining 4 Swedish ships escaped and a pursuit failed. In the battle, both Admirals were killed.

The battle was propagated widely by the Polish court. There also appeared a saying, that: "the sun set at noon that day" (for "Solen" means the sun).

Polish ships:
They were known in sources with German names (given in brackets), though now they are known for their reconstructed Polish names.

1st Squadron

Rycerz Święty Jerzy (Ritter Sankt Georg) (=Knight St George) - galleon, 31 guns, 400t (also known as Sankt Georg)

Latający Jeleń (Fliegender Hirsch) (=Flying Deer) - galleon, 20 guns, 300t

Panna Wodna (Meerweib) (=Sea Virgo) - 12 guns, 160t

Czarny Kruk (=Black Raven) - 16 guns, 260t

Żółty Lew (=Yellow Lion) - 10 guns, 120t

2nd Squadron

Wodnik (Meerman) (=Aquarius) - galleon, 17 guns, 200t

Król Dawid (König David) (=King David) - galleon, 31 guns, 400t, under Jakub Mora

Arka Noego (=Noah's Ark) - 16 guns, 180t

Biały Lew (=White Lion) - 8 guns, 200t

Płomień (Feuerblase) (=Fireblaze) - 18 guns, 240t

Swedish ships:

Tigern - galleon, 22 guns, 320t (captured)

Solen - galleon, 38 guns, 300t (sunk)

Pelikanen - galleon, 20 guns, 200t

Manem - galleon, 26 guns, 300t

Enhörningen - galleon, 18 guns, 240t

Papegojan - 16 guns, 180t


there is another evocative picture at

Battle of Lubieszow 1577

Battle of Kircholm, 1605

How the Hussars Fought - Tactics

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