orp kujawiak (L72)
Hunt class Polish escort destroyer
Like HMS Olympus, ORP Kujawiak was struck by a mine off the coast of Valletta in 1942. The crew, who were part of the Polish Navy, were conducting a rescue mission while escorting allied convoys carrying supplies to Malta.
ORP Kujawiak was originally a British Hunt Type II destroyer built as HMS Oakley, measuring 85 m in length and weighing more than 1,000 tonnes. The British Royal Navy handed her over to the Polish Navy in May 1941, and she was renamed ORP Kujawiak. A year later, she was sent to the Mediterranean to escort a series of tankers and freighters who were defenceless against the aerial bombings of the Axis warplanes. This was a perilous task for all involved as the Maltese islands were one of the most heavily bombed regions in the world between 1940 and 1942.
On 14 June 1942, the armed convoy, known as Operation Harpoon, left Gibraltar and were almost immediately attacked by Italian submarines and torpedo planes. Three ships and one escort were destroyed, but ORP Kujawiak bravely defended the convoy and succeeded in shooting down four Axis planes. As the convoy were entering the port of Valletta the next day, another ship, HMS Badsworth, struck a mine. ORP Kujawiak attempted a dangerous rescue mission and ended up hitting a mine herself. The Polish destroyer was lost, along with the lives of 13 brave Polish servicemen.
After extensive research, the team of Polish Shipwreck Expedition Association with the support of University of Malta were able to locate the wreck in September 2014, lying at a depth of 97 m on her port side with her stern pointing north. Diving took place over three seasons. The ship was found to be in excellent condition, with the hull still in tact and the bow in near perfect condition including the twin 102 millimetre guns. Only the ship’s stern is in a bad state, as it buckled when she first hit the ground.
- Delicate and protected marine flora
- War Grave
- Unexploded Ordnance