29 Jul 2019
A large protective peninsula shielding Gdańsk's Nowy Port to its south, Westerplatte first sprang to fame as a health resort in the mid-19th century, before achieving infamy as the military zone where the opening salvos of WWII were exchanged.

On March 14, 1924 Poland was awarded Westerplatte as a location for bringing in military equipment and ammunition from abroad (Polish Military Transit Depot). Inaugurated on November 11, 1925 over the next 14 years Westerplatte grew from a depot with an 88-man attachment into a huge defensive fort and was considered so strategically important to Hitler that his invasion of Poland effectively started here.

The Polish troops on Westerplatte were in effect a crack unit, by now numbering around 200 troops, whose orders were to hold for 24 hours in the event of an attack to give air, ground and sea forces the opportunity to support them from mainland Poland. The speed and strength of the German attack put paid to that plan almost immediately with the Polish navy caught out in the Bay of Gdańsk and the bulk of the air support from Puck destroyed on the ground. Yet the troops on Westerplatte continued to hold out despite coming under intense bombardment by air, sea and 3,500 troops on the ground. The hope was that France and Great Britain, who joined the war on September 3, would provide support but this never materialised. Eventually, on September 7, lack of water, ammunition and medical supplies convinced the commanding officer, Major Henryk Sucharski, to surrender the Poles’ heavily damaged stronghold. He and his troops left Westerplatte to salutes from their captors in recognition of their bravery in a battle that had cost just 15 Polish lives.

The battle, while of little strategic importance to the outcome of the battle for the city, still represents a source of immense pride for many Poles who recognise the bravery of their countrymen in their resistance to one of the country's traditional foes.

Today, Westerplatte is a historical park and memorial site featuring a scattering of shelled bunkers, burnt-out ruins, snack bars, souvenir stalls and a small seasonal museum in the pivotal Guardhouse Number 1. There is also a permanent outdoor exhibition entitled 'Westerplatte: Spa-Bastion-Symbol' on display.

To get to Westerplatte on public transport from the main train station in Gdańsk, catch bus 106 from outside of the station. During the summer months, the easiest way to get out there is to take the Water Tram F5 which stops outside the Hilton Hotel at Targ Rybny and goes directly to Westerplatte and back.
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Places to See on Westerplatte


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