Cowes Heritage chairman John Groves said: “We are delighted that so many people were interested in that fateful night in May 1942 when Cowes and East Cowes were massively targeted by German bombers.
“While it was tragic that so many people died that night, the damage incurred would have been immeasurably worse but for the guns of the Polish destroyer, ORP Blyskawica, the Free French chasseurs further up the River Medina and anti-aircraft guns outside the towns.”
The exhibition, which ended on Sunday (7 May), was in support of the weekend of special events programmed by the Cowes-based Friends of the ORP Blyskawica Society.
Among the visitors to the exhibition were local residents who still have vivid, sometimes painful, memories of that night 70 years ago. Also showing a keen interest in the photographs and descriptions were Polish naval personnel from the large landing craft, the ORP Torun, anchored in Cowes Roads.
A special fuss was made by exhibition staff of Henryk Jach, aged 92, of Arnold Road, Cowes, who is the sole surviving member of the Blyskawica living in Cowes. His task during the raids that night was to throw buckets of sea water over the ship’s guns to prevent them overheating. He eventually married a young woman living in Cowes at the time, Christine Matthews.
Although a former petty officer on the Blyskawica, 95-year-old Jan Napierala, was unable to travel to Cowes from, his home in Canada, he was represented by his son, Peter; he brought with him from Canada his father’s uniform which, after being displayed on a mannequin at the exhibition was to be donated to the Blyskawica, now a museum ship in Gdynia.