Following a valiant and desperate mission across the Mediterranean ORP Kujawiak struck a mine off the coast of Valletta in 1942, almost within reach of its destination. 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-class Type II destroyer built as HMS Oakley, measuring 85m in length and weighing more than 1,000 tonnes. The British Royal Navy handed her over to the Polish Navy in May 1941, where 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 Axis aircraft. The operation 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 – Operation Harpoon – left Gibraltar and was almost immediately attacked by Italian submarines and torpedo-bombers. Three ships and one escort were destroyed, but ORP Kujawiak bravely defended the convoy and succeeded in shooting down four Axis aircraft. As the convoy was entering 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 foundered, resulting in the loss of life of 13 brave Polish servicemen.

After extensive research, the team from the Polish Shipwreck Expedition Association, supported by the University of Malta, was able to locate the wreck in September 2014, lying at a depth of 97m on her port side. Diving took place over three seasons. The escort-destroyer was found to be in excellent condition, with the hull still intact 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.

ORP Kujawiak L72

Dive Site, War Grave, Unexploded Ordinance, Delicate and Protected Marine Flora

Open to Divers through Registered Dive Centres and Clubs

Maximum Depth: 98 metres


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