27th April 2020

MV King Edwin

Built in 1927 by Harland and Wolff Ltd. In Belfast, she was 122m in length with a 17m beam. This cargo ship was owned by the King Line Ltd.

While unloading at the Grand Harbour in Malta on the 16th April 1943 the ship caught fire. She was declared a total loss and scuttled right in the Harbour.

Later in 1945 she was raised and towed off Grand Harbour and scuttled in the open sea.

The wreck now lies approximately 5km from Valletta at a maximum depth of 112m.

25th April 2020

HMY Aegusa

She was built by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, Greenock, Scotland and launched on 7th December 1896. The 78m long screw schooner Aegusa was built for I Florio, Palermo.

In 1898 she was purchased by Sir Thomas Lipton and renamed Erin for use as a tender for his racing yachts named Shamrock. She was reconstructed and redecorated in unbelievable luxury, including a mechanical piano in the music room, oriental art, paintings and porcelain worth a fortune, as well as a collection of wines and spirits.

When war was declared she was used by the Red Cross to Ferry doctors to France and Salonica.

On 3rd July 1915 she was commissioned as HMY Aegusa and used as a Patrol Vessel in the Mediterranean.

On 27th April 1916 she struck a mine laid my German submarine U-73 while trying to rescue survivors from HMS Nasturtium and sank in only 7 minutes with the loss of six lives.

The German Type UE I submarine U-73 was also responsible for the mines that sunk HMS Russell off Malta and HMHS Britannic off the Greek island of Kea.

The wreck now lies at a maximum depth of 76m.

23rd April 2020

HMS Russell

The Duncan-Class battleship HMS Russell was laid down by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow on 11th March 1899 and launched on 19th February 1902.

Built to counter a group of fast Russian battleships, Russell and her sister ships were capable of steaming at 19 knots (35km/h), making them the fastest battleships in the world. The Duncan-class battleships had a length of 132m with a beam of 23m and were armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (305mm) guns.

She arrived at Sheerness later the same month and went to Chatham Dockyard for steam and gun-mounting trials. Construction of the Russell was completed in February 1903

HMS Russell commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 19th February 1903 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet, in which she served until April 1904.

On 7th April 1904 she recommissioned for service in the Home Fleet . When the Home Fleet became the Channel Fleet in January 1905, she became a Channel Fleet unit.

She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in February 1907. On 16th July 1908, she collided with the cruiser HMS Venus off Quebec, but suffered only minor damage.

On 30th July 1909, Russell transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet. Under a fleet reorganization of 1st May 1912, the Mediterranean Fleet became the 4th Battle Squadron, First Fleet, Home Fleet, and changed its base from Malta to Gibraltar; Russell transferred to home waters in August 1912. In September 1913, Russell was reduced to a nucleus crew in the commissioned reserve and assigned to the 6th Battle Squadron, Second Fleet. Beginning in December 1913, she served as Flagship, 6th Battle Squadron, and Flagship, Rear Admiral, Home Fleet, at the Nore.

When World War I began in August 1914, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, requested that Russell and her four surviving sister ships of the Duncan-class (Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, and Exmouth) be assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet for patrol duties to make up for the Grand Fleet’s shortage of cruisers. Accordingly, the 6th Battle Squadron was abolished temporarily, and Russell joined the 3rd Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow on 8th August 1914. She worked with Grand Fleet cruisers on the Northern Patrol.

On 6th November 1915, Russell was detached from the Grand Fleet to reinforce the British Dardanelles Squadron in the Dardanelles Campaign at the Gallipoli Peninsula. Russell took up her duties at the Dardanelles in December 1915, based at Mudros and held back in support. Her only action in the campaign was her participation in the evacuation of Cape Helles from 7th January 1916 to 9th January 1916, and she was the last battleship of the British Dardanelles Squadron to leave the area.

After the conclusion of the Dardanelles campaign, Russell stayed on in the eastern Mediterranean.

Russell was steaming off Malta early on the morning of 27th April 1916 when she struck two sea mines that had been laid by the German submarine U-73. A fire broke out in the after part of the ship and the order to abandon ship was passed; after an explosion near the after 12-inch (305-mm) turret, she took on a dangerous list. However, she sank slowly, allowing most of her crew to escape. A total of 27 officers and 98 ratings were lost. John H. D. Cunningham served aboard her at the time and survived her sinking; he would one day become First Sea Lord.

The HMS RUSSELL lies at a depth of 115 metres and was dived upon for the first time in July 2003 by a British technical diving team “Starfish Enterprise”. She was found completely upside down, with the stern section missing. It is believed that most of the large guns maybe lying on the sea bed as these were only placed on the deck.

22nd April 2020

HMS Olympus

Built by William Beardmore and Company (Dalmuir, Scotland), launched on 11th December 1928 and commissioned on 14th June 1930, HMS Olympus (N35) was an Odin class submarine, a class originally designed for the Royal Australian Navy to cope with long distance patrolling in Pacific waters. She was 86.5m long with a 6.1m beam and was armed with 8x 530mm torpedo tubes (6 bow, 2 stern), 1x 102mm deck gun and 2x .303 inch AA machine guns.

She served 1931-1939 with the 4th Flotilla, China Station and 1939-1940 with the 8th Flotilla, Colombo. In 1940 she was redeployed to the Mediterranean.

On 7th July 1940 HMS Olympus was bombed and damaged by Italian aircraft while in dock in Malta. The repairs and refit were completed on 29th November 1940.

On 28th July 1941 HMS Olympus torpedoes and sinks the Italian merchant ship Monteponi (742 GRT) about 10 nautical miles (20 km) north of Cape Comino, Sardinia, Italy.

On 29th July 1941 HMS Olympus is damaged by a near miss from an Italian aircraft east of Isola dei Cavoli, Italy (off the south-east corner of Sardinia). She is forced to abandon her patrol and return to Gibraltar where the submarine arrived on 2nd August.

On 9th November 1941 HMS Olympus attacks the Italian merchant ship Mauro Croce (1049 GRT) with torpedoes and gunfire in the Gulf of Genoa. The target escapes without damage.

On 8th May 1942 HMS Olympus was mined and sunk off Malta. She had just left Malta on passage to Gibraltar with personnel including many of the crews of the sunken submarines HMS Pandora, HMS P36 and HMS P39. There were only 9 survivors out of 98 aboard. They had to swim 7 miles (11 km) back to Malta. 89 crew and passengers were lost with the ship.

The wreck lies 7 miles off Grand Harbour, sitting upright at a maximum depth of 115m. She was first detected in 2011 using high-frequency sonar. An ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) was deployed to photograph the site, and revealed that the ship was in extraordinary condition but with signs of serious damage on her starboard side . However, the gun is still intact, pointing upwards after failing to fire the shell that could have signalled her distress. The hatches are also open, indicating the location where the crew escaped as the submarine started gaining water. At her base is a memorial plaque placed by the diving team to honour the fallen men.

21st April 2020

ORP Kujawiak

ORP Kujawiak was built by Vickers Armstrong, Tyne and launched on 30th October 1940. A British Hunt Type II destroyer originally 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, and she was renamed ORP Kujawiak.

On 18th June 1941 Kujawiak came under attack by German aircraft whilst on passage from Tyne to Scapa Flow to work-up for operational service with ships of Home Fleet. Fire from the aircraft hit the 4-inch ready-use ammunition which exploded causing one fatal casualty.

After completing her work-up on 25th July she joined the 15th Destroyer Flotilla based at Plymouth for local convoy escort and patrol duties.

Later that year on 23th October Kujawiak deployed with fellow Polish destroyer ORP Krakowiak for escort of inward Convoy SL89 during final stage of passage in the Irish Sea from Freetown into Liverpool. On 22nd December she sailed from Scapa Flow as part of Force J to carry out landings on the Lofoten Islands as part of Operation Claymore. Two days later on 27th December the destroyer sustained slight damage from a near miss during air attacks.

In early June 1942 Kujawiak was nominated for loan service with the Home Fleet as part of the escort for the planned relief convoy to Malta (Operation Harpoon). On 6th June she joined military Convoy WS19S in the Northwest Approaches as part of Ocean Escort for passage to Gibraltar. She joined Force X at Gibraltar on 12th June whose task was to escort the Harpoon convoy through the Sicilian Narrows to Malta. On 14th June the convoy came under heavy and sustained air attacks during which the cruiser HMS Liverpool was damaged. Three ships and one escort were destroyed, but ORP Kujawiak bravely defended the convoy and succeeded in shooting down four Axis planes. The following day the air attacks continued and Kujawiak was in action with Italian warships attempting to intercept and attack the convoy.

Near midnight on 16th June, while entering the Grand Harbour, Malta, HMS Badsworth, struck a mine. ORP Kujawiak attempted a dangerous rescue mission and ended up hitting a mine herself. Kujawiak sank before a successful tow could be achieved. The Polish destroyer was lost, along with the lives of 13 brave Polish servicemen.

After extensive research, a team of the Polish Shipwreck Expedition Association with the support of the University of Malta were able to locate the wreck in September 2014, lying at a depth of 97m 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 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. The ships bell was recovered and passed to the Maritime Museum of Malta for conservation and display.

20th April 2020

SS Luciston

SS Luciston (also known as Luciston Collier) is a World War I historic shipwreck. She was built in 1910 by R. Duncan & Co. Ltd, of Glasgow, Scotland. She had an overall length of 98.4m, beam of 25m and weighed 2,948 tonnes. Her primary role was to transport coal between ports and refuel coal-burning ships.

Towards the latter part of the First World War, SS Luciston departed the port of Cardiff and made her way to Malta carrying a supply of coal. However, on the 29th November 1916 she was torpedoed on her approach to Valletta by a German submarine.

The wreckage was first discovered in the late 1990s but later surveyed in detail in 2015 off the coast of the fishing village of Marsaxlokk at a depth of 96m. The wreckage is in a fragmented condition, but many of the ship’s main features are still visible. This includes the winch, the anchor, the ladder and the gun, which is still in place. Deposits of coal are also scattered around the seabed.

18th April 2020

HMD Trusty Star

HMD Trusty Star was a naval drifter built in 1919 by Ouse Shipbuilding for British Royal Navy. The steel vessel was about 26 m in length with a beam of 5.5 m and had a triple expansion steam engine.

Her original name was HMT Groundswell; she was later renamed FV Elie Ness when used in fishing industry in Scotland. Requisitioned by Admiralty in 1939, she was renamed HMD Trusty Star and converted to a minesweeper.

On the night of the 15th-16th February, 1941 the Luftwaffe laid magnetic and acoustic mines by parachute in the Grand Habour and Marsamxett. On 9th April, the drifter ” Trusty Star “was fitted with the proper equipment for sweeping magnetic mines, the LL cable towed behind the ship and supplied with electrical pulses. She had great success during April to keep the harbour open in spite of heavy mine-laying operations by the Luftwaffe.

On April 30th 1941, HMS Abingdon was damaged when she hit an acoustic mine and the Trusty Star was mined and sunk in the Grand Habour.

In early September 1941, Trusty Star was back in service after being salvaged, and put back in the mine-sweeping force.

On the night of 12th–13th May 1942, minesweeper Beryl and Trusty Star were working outside the breakwater when they were missed by three torpedoes fired at them by the e-boats escorting mines layers.

On 10th June 1942, Trusty Star was clearing mines laid by German S-boats outside Grand Harbour when she hit a mine herself and sank about 3 km off Fort St. Elmo in Valletta. Only one Maltese seaman was injured, and the rest of the crew were rescued unhurt.

The wreck now lies at a maximum depth of 90 metres.

17th April 2020

HMS Nasturtium

When WWI broke out, the British Admiralty was faced with the problem of not having an adequate number of ships which were considered suitable for anti-submarine operations. Under the Emergency War Programme they embarked on a rapid construction of smaller anti-submarine vessels.

The Arabis class sloops were the third class of mine-sweeping sloops to be built for the Royal Navy as a part of the larger “Flower class’.

Nasturtium was one of 36 Arabis class sloops intended for mine-sweeping duties in European waters. She was laid down for the Royal Navy by A. McMillan & Sons, Ltd., Dumbarton, Scotland on 1 July 1915 and launched on 21 December of the same year. With an overall length 81.6 meters, she had a complement of 79 men.

The service period of HMS Nasturtium was a very short one; during that time she was based in Malta. In March 1916, when the Minneapolis was torpedoed by U35, the Nasturtium was among the ships which went to her assistance. Some days later the Nasturtium was sent out to escort HMS Implacable. During April 1916, the Nasturtium left Malta on patrol, but shortly she was recalled to search for a German submarines and mines in the vicinity.

On 27th of April 1916 around 7.45 pm about 5 to 6 miles from St. Elmo lighthouse The Nasturtium had struck a mine which exploded 7 feet below the waterline on her starboard side, close to the foremost funnel. The HMS Sheldrake moved in to tow the Nasturtium, but it was very difficult due to her heavy list, darkness and a heavy swell. Aid was followed by HMS Wallflower and HMY Aegusa which blew up and sank during this operation.

At 2 am on Friday, the 28 April 1916, the Captain and men who remained on the forecastle till the last moment left the The Nasturtium as her list had visibly increased. She rolled gently over on her port side with both masts well submerged; there she lay for a further 10 minutes until she reared her bow in the air and slowly sank at about 2.45 a.m.

The wreck now lies at a depth of 67 metres.

16th April 2020

Schnellboot S-31

Built by Lurssen at Vegesack Beckedorf, Germany and launched in October 1939, the S-31 had three Daimler-Benz diesel engines, 3 propellers, a maximum speed of 38 knots and a range of 800 miles.

She had an armament of two torpedo tubes, two 20mm guns and a crew of 24 men.

Intelligence from the Luftwaffe indicated that HMS Welshman was making a solo run from Alexandria to Malta.

During the late evening of the 9th May 1942, the German 3rd MTB Flotilla of seven boats left Augusta on the island of Sicily at 2200 to intercept the mine layer HMS Welshman.

By 0414 the following morning the MTB’s were laying mines in Maltese waters; afterwards they regrouped to search for the British war ship.

Suddenly the S-31 exploded, probably due to hitting one of her own mines which had cut loose from the mooring ring causing it to rise to the surface and drift into the path of the S-31.

She sank at 0438 on 10th May 1942 with the loss of half her crew.

She now lies approximately one mile from Grand Harbour entrance fully intact with torpedoes still in the tubes, at a maximum depth of 73m.

15th April 2020

HMS Southwold

This Hunt-class destroyer was built by J.S. White & Co. (Cowes, U.K.) and launched on 29th May 1941. Hunt Class destroyers had a net tonnage of 1050 tons, and were 86 meters long with a beam of 9.5 meters; these destroyers had a top speed of 25 knots and were used for convoy escorts.

She was commissioned on 9th October 1941 as HMS Southwold and had a crew of 168 men.

After completing her trials and work-up, Southwold rounded the Cape as a convoy escort calling at Mombasa on 12th December 1941 and joined the 5th Destroyer Flotilla at Alexandria during January 1942.

She was immediately in action whilst forming part of the escort for Convoy MW9B between 12th February and 16th February 1942 this convoy failed its objective, out of the three merchant ships in this convoy one was damaged and made it to Tobruk but the other two were sunk. Southwold and the other escorts turned back to Alexandria.

HMS Southwold left Alexandria again on 20th March 1942 as an escort to convoy MW10 to Malta. The convoy was under the command of Admiral Philip Vian. The 820 nautical mile journey to Malta was severely attacked both by the Italian war ships and by the Luftwaffe. Convoy code named MW10 consisted of the merchantmen Breconshire(10000 GRT), Clan Campbell (7000 GRT) Talabot (7000 GRT) & Pampas (5000 GRT). These cargo ships were escorted by the 15th Cruiser Squadron with a strong destroyer force, and another scout close escort running ahead with an the anti-aircraft cruiser Carlisle with 4 hunt class destroyers. Admiral Vian’s Cruiser Squadron followed behind with the light cruisers Dido, Cleopatra Euryalis, & Penelope plus some destroyers.

As soon as the convoy was located by the enemy it was reported to Admiral Iachino of the Italian Navy who hurried to it with his squadron composed of the battleship Littorio and 6 destroyers. At the same time he signaled to another Italian squadron made up of the cruisers Gorizia, Trento, & Giovanni delle Bande Nere accompanied by another 4 destroyers to meet him so as to join forces.

On 23rd March 1942, one of the merchant ships in this convoy Breconshire was hit by enemy bombs and stopped a few miles off St Thomas Bay, the weather was becoming rough and Breconshire was drifting helplessly towards the shore. The crew on Breconshire managed to anchor the ship 1.5 miles off Zonqor Point.

The following Tuesday morning on the 24th March 1942 Breconshire was dragging it’s anchors on the sandy bottom, Southwold was ordered to tow Breconshire but while trying to pass a line to the disabled ship, a mine exploded under her engine room. One officer and four ratings were killed. All power and electrical services were lost, but the diesel generator was started. The engine room flooded but water flooding into the gearing room was held in check by shoring up the bulkhead and by blocking leaks.

A tow was attached to Southwold by the tug ANCIENT, but the ship’s side plating abreast the engine room split right up to the upper deck on both sides. She sagged and took a list to starboard and the wounded were transferred to the destroyer Dulverton. The midship portion gradually sank lower and the ship began to work with the swell. She was then abandoned, started to settle with considerable sag and sank in two parts.

HMS Southwold now lies in two sections, the bow section is the largest piece, right up to the engine room approximately 40m in length is in a depth close to 70m completely on its starboard side.

The stern section approximately 28m long is upright some 300m away from the bow section in 72m of water.

HMS Southwold lies approximately 1.5 miles off Marsascala Bay.