Peking Plan
The Peking PlanThe "Peking" in the name is the traditional English (or 'Postal System') spelling of the former name of the city that is now the capital of China, which is now spelled in the pinyin
Pinyin is the official system to transcribe Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. It is also often used to teach Mandarin Chinese and spell Chinese names in foreign publications and used as an input method to enter Chinese characters into...

 system 'Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

'. At the time, the city was not the capital, and its name was Peiping. Before the Second World War in the Second Polish Republic
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 'Peking' was the prevalent spelling. In modern Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 the name is now written as "Pekin", which has led to the name being distorted as "Pekin Plan"; however the correct name, as used in the original orders, is Peking.
(or Operation Peking) was an operation in which three destroyers of the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
The Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - MW RP Polish Navy, is the branch of Republic of Poland Armed Forces responsible for naval operations...

, the Burza
ORP Burza
ORP Burza was a of the Polish Navy which saw action in World War II.-History:ORP Burza was ordered on 2 April 1926 from the French shipyard Chantiers Naval Francais together with her sister ship Wicher...

 ("Storm"), Błyskawica ("Lightning"), and Grom ("Thunder"), were evacuated to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 in late August and early September of 1939 prior to the outbreak of war. They were ordered to travel to British ports and assist the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 in the event of a war with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. The plan was successful and allowed the ships to avoid certain destruction in the German invasion.


The plan was created in order to remove the Destroyer Division (Dywizjon Kontrtorpedowców) of the Polish Navy from the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 operation theatre
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....

. The Kriegsmarine
German Navy
The German Navy is the navy of Germany and is part of the unified Bundeswehr .The German Navy traces its roots back to the Imperial Fleet of the revolutionary era of 1848 – 52 and more directly to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy...

 had a significant numerical advantage over the Polish Navy, and in the event of a war the Polish High Command realized that the ships which remained in the small and mostly landlocked Baltic were likely to be quickly sunk by the Germans. Also, the Danish straits
Danish straits
The Danish straits are the three channels connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea through the Kattegat and Skagerrak. They transect Denmark, and are not to be confused with the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland...

 were well within operation range of the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

, so there was little chance for the plan to succeed if implemented after hostilities began.

The British government, on 24 August 1939, through Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart
Adrian Carton de Wiart
Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO , was a British officer of Belgian and Irish descent...

, head of the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Military mission made strong representations to Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz, Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the Polish Forces, to evacuate the most modern elements of the fleet from the Baltic. Although Śmigły-Rydz resisted the idea at first, he finally agreed.

Part of Śmigły-Rydz's reason for doing so was the idea of a Romanian Bridgehead
Romanian Bridgehead
The Romanian Bridgehead was an area in southeastern Poland, now located in Ukraine. During the Polish Defensive War of 1939 , on September 14 the Polish Commander in Chief Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły ordered all Polish troops fighting east of the Vistula to withdraw towards Lwów, and...

. It was hoped the Polish forces could hold out in the southeast of the country, near the common border with Romania, until relieved by a Franco-British offensive. Munitions and arms could be delivered from the west via Romanian ports and railways. The Polish Navy would then be able to escort the ships delivering the supplies to Romanian ports.

The trip to Edinburgh

As the tensions between Poland and Germany were increasing, the Commander of the Polish Fleet, Counter Admiral
Counter Admiral
Counter admiral is a rank found in many navies of the world, but no longer used in English-speaking countries, where the equivalent rank is rear admiral...

 Józef Unrug
Józef Unrug
Józef Michał Hubert Unrug was a German-born Polish vice 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.-Biography:...

 signed the order for the operation on 26 August 1939, a day after the signing of the Polish-British Common Defence Pact
Polish-British Common Defence Pact
The Anglo-Polish military alliance refers to agreements reached between the United Kingdom and the Polish Second Republic for mutual assistance in case of military invasion by "a European Power". According to the secret protocol added to the treaty the phrase "a European Power" used in the...

; the order was delivered in sealed envelopes to the ships. On 29 August, the fleet received the signal "Peking, Peking, Peking" from the Polish Commander-in-Chief, Marshall Śmigły-Rydz: "Execute Peking". At 1255 hours, the ships received the signal via signal flags or radio from the signal tower at Oksywie
Oksywie is a neighbourhood of the city of Gdynia, Pomeranian Voivodeship, northern Poland. Formerly a separate settlement, it is actually several centuries older than the city it is a part of currently.-Etymology:...

, the respective captains of the ships opened the envelopes, and departed at 1415 under the command of Komandor porucznik Roman Stankiewicz. Błyskawica was commanded by Komandor porucznik Włodzimierz Kodrębski, Burza by Komandor
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander...

 Stanisław Nahorski and Grom by Komandor porucznik Włodzimierz Hulewicz.

The ships traveled without any problems through the Baltic, entering Øresund after midnight. In the passage they encountered the German light cruiser Königsberg
German cruiser Königsberg
Königsberg was a light cruiser of the in the German Reichsmarine and Kriegsmarine. Her sisterships were Köln and Karlsruhe.After a number of foreign visits in the 1930s, the ship operated along the Spanish coast from November 1936 to January 1937 during the Spanish Civil War...

 and a destroyer, but as the war had not started yet there was no combat. The Polish ships then passed through the Kattegat
The Kattegat , or Kattegatt is a sea area bounded by the Jutland peninsula and the Straits islands of Denmark on the west and south, and the provinces of Västergötland, Scania, Halland and Bohuslän in Sweden on the east. The Baltic Sea drains into the Kattegat through the Øresund and the Danish...

 and Skagerrak
The Skagerrak is a strait running between Norway and the southwest coast of Sweden and the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, connecting the North Sea and the Kattegat sea area, which leads to the Baltic Sea.-Name:...

. On 31 August, the ships were spotted and followed by German reconnaissance seaplane
A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are a subclass called amphibian aircraft...

s, and the group changed course towards Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 in order to shake off the pursuit during the night, when they returned to their original course towards the UK. The ships entered the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

, and at 0925 on 1 September learned about the German invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

. At 1258, they encountered the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 destroyers and and received a liaison officer
Liaison officer
A liaison officer or LNO is a person that liaises between two organizations to communicate and coordinate their activities. Generally, they are used to achieve the best utilization of resources or employment of services of one organization by another. In the military, liaison officers may...

. At 17:37, they docked in Leith
-South Leith v. North Leith:Up until the late 16th century Leith , comprised two separate towns on either side of the river....

, the port of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...



The Peking Plan generated controversy in Poland, but it proved to be a wise decision. The ships served alongside the Royal Navy for the remainder of the war, and ORP Burza and ORP Błyskawica survived the war. On the other hand, all the other surface ship
Surface ship
A surface ship is any type of naval ship that is confined to the surface of the sea. The term is primarily used to mean any modern vessel type that is not a submarine; although a "surface ship" may range in size from a cutter to an aircraft carrier, the weapons and tactics have some commonality,...

s of the Polish Navy which remained in the Baltic were engaged and sunk or captured by the Germans forces, starting with the Battle of the Gdańsk Bay
Battle of the Gdansk Bay
The Battle of the Danzig Bay took place on September 1, 1939, at the beginning of the invasion of Poland, when Polish Navy vessels were attacked by German Luftwaffe aircraft in Gdańsk Bay...

 on 1 September. The fate of the two largest remaining ships is telling: the fourth Polish destroyer, Wicher and the largest ship of the Polish navy, the heavy minelayer
Minelaying is the act of deploying explosive mines. Historically this has been carried out by ships, submarines and aircraft. Additionally, since World War I the term minelayer refers specifically to a naval ship used for deploying naval mines...

ORP Gryf
ORP Gryf was a large Polish Navy minelayer, sunk during the 1939 German invasion of Poland. She was one of two large Polish ships that were not evacuated to Great Britain during Operation Peking prior to the outbreak of the Polish Defensive War...

, were both sunk by the third day of the war, on 3 September.

As for the Germans, in the face of Plan Peking on 30 August, they recalled from the Baltic Sea the tactical unit which had been assigned to engage them — the three light cruisers Nürnberg
German cruiser Nürnberg
The Nürnberg, was a German light cruiser of the Leipzig class named after the city of Nuremberg. Some sources consider the Leipzig and Nürnberg to be of separate, single ship, classes...

, Köln
German cruiser Köln
Köln was a German light cruiser prior to and during World War II, one of three K-Class cruisers named after cities starting with the letter K. This ship was named after the city of Köln . The others in her class were the Königsberg and the Karlsruhe...

 and Leipzig
German cruiser Leipzig
The German light cruiser Leipzig was the lead ship of her class . She was the fourth German warship to carry the name of the city of Leipzig.-History:...

, under Vice-Admiral Densch.
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