The first Polish-Swedish conflict
took place between 1600 and 1611. While Poland was preoccupied in the South with the Turks and Tartars, Gustavus Adolphus renewed the dynastic
conflict with Zygmunt III Vasa (himself a Swede). In 1617, in Livonia, he had taken Dynemunt (Dunamunde)
and Parnawa (Pernau). In 1621 he took Riga and the following year forced the
Lithuanians to sign a truce. Gustavus Adolphus had desire for
further aggression and in July 1625 he completed his conquest of
Livonia. The following year he targeted Poland directly. He landed in
East Prussia, with the support of the Elector of Brandenburg, surprising
the Poles and taking all the coastal towns, bar Gdansk.
It is during that conflict that the battle of Oliwa took place on 27 Novmeber 1627. I will not go into further details of the second Polish-Swedish conflict here and will concentrate on the battle of Oliwa.
The Swedish fleet has barred entrance to the Bay of Gdansk all throughout the summer of 1627. The beginning of autumn has signalled most of the Swedish battleships to sail back to Sweden. The 12 remaining units were divided into two groups of 6. One of them was moored in Pilawa and the other 6 under the command of Admiral Stjernskjöld were blocking access to Gdansk. That fleet consisted of Galleons and a Brignatine which had a combined firepower of approx. 140 guns. Even though the Polish fleet stationed by the Wisloujscie fortress amounted to 10 ships, only 4 galleons were comparable with the Swedish boats. Of the 170 guns available to the Poles most were of a smaller caliber. It can therefore be assumed that the forces were quite comparable in their totality.
On November 23rd the Royal Navy Committee decided that the Polish armada will move out and engage the Swedes to force a breach of the blockade. The Dutch merchant sailor Capt. Arend Dickman was nominated as the fleet commander. The "Swiety
Jerzy" ("Saint George") was made flagship. Capt. Herman Witte was nominated vice-admiral on the galleon "Wodnik" ("Aquarius"). The third in command was Capt. Jakub Murrej on the "Krol
Dawid" ("King David"). The general infantry commander was Jan Storch.
On November 26th the Polish ships tried to sail into the Bay of Gdansk. Exiting the harbour they were stopped in their tracks by a barrage of Swedish artillery fire. Furthermore the "Saint George" has ran aground. The Polish fleet truned around and the Swedes sailed towards the Hel Peninsula. Next day the Polish fleet towed by rowboats due to the opposing winds sailed just outside the harbour.
On Novmeber 28th the Swedish squadron sailed back towards the harbour not expecting to encounter the Polish units. Up till now the Poles attempted to avoid a direct battle, therefore the sight of Polish ships readying for battle has surprised the Swedes. The Polish fleet was divided into two squadrons led by the "Saint George" and "Aquarius".
Admiral Stjernskjöld not being ready to engage decided to turn around. According to the rules of engagement the "Saint George" moved out to the front of the Polish fleet and attacked the Swedish flagship "Tigern". After a short broadside exchange the two ships joined and an infantry battle ensued. This was supported by musketfire from gun nests. The battle has cost Admiral Stjernskjöld his life and badly injured Capt. Stewart of the "Tigern". The "Panna Wodna" ("Lady of the Water") sped to the aid of the Polish flagship and the Poles started gaining the upperhand. The "Tigern" has soon surrendered. Admiral Dickman did not survive the final phase of boarding. While the two flagships boarded and the resulting skirmish ensued Viceadmiral Witte has turned the "Aquarius" towards the Swedish "Solen". Before boarding, the Polish ship fired two or three broadsides. However because the "Solen" was a much larger ship and was much better armed it managed to cause a lot of damage with all manner of incendiary missiles and hand thrown missiles. Capt. Wedeman of the "Aquarius" has hailed the "King David" to the rescue, unfortunately the captain of that ship delayed the execution of the order. The captain of another Polish ship "Bialy
Lew" ("White Lion") has decided to help without waiting for an order. Before the "White Lion" managed to approach the "Solen" and board it a huge explosion occured. One of the Swedish officers realized that the ship is trapped and ordered the munitions depot to be set alight. This was the final and decisive phase of the battle, the remaining units gave chase after the Swedes, without result hoewever.
The Swedes lost two ships and approximately 350 troops, a further 67 troops were captured. The Poles lost approximately 47 troops. The victory had more of a PR effect as opposed to a strategic one. It proved that the Polish navy could easily match the skill of the Swedish navy. The victory was not significant enough however to seriously influence the course of the conflict.