14th April 2020

Le Polynesien

Le Polynesien was built for “La Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes” at La Ciotat in France like her sister ships “Australien”, “Armand Behic” and “Ville De La Ciotat”. Le Polynesien was launched on the 18th April 1890 by Marie Francois Sadi Carnot, President of the Republic of France.

Le Polynesien is 152m in length and a gross tonnage of 6659, with a maximum speed of 17.5 knots. She carried 172 passengers in first class, 71 passengers in second class, 109 passengers in third class and 234 ‘rationnaires’.

The ships were quickly recognisable by their length, low profile on the water, and by their double funnels painted black. The ships were painted white between 1895 till 1905.

In 1891 she started operating between France and Australia, through the Suez Canal.

In 1903 they changed her route and operated between France and the Far East mainly transporting passengers to the French Colonies.

In 1914 she operated towards Australia and New Caledonia, before being dispatched back to Europe. Also in 1914 Le Polynesien started its work for the French ministry as a troop transport vessel.

On 10th of August 1918, Le Polynesien arrived in convoy to Malta in the early hours of the morning.

At 10:30 am Le Polynesien was torpedoed by a German U-boat UC22 and it took only 35min for the vessel to sink, 10 people lost their lives.

The wreck is found 7 miles outside the entrance of Grand Harbour, lying on her port side on a sandy bottom at an angle of 45 degrees. The upper starboard rail is found at a depth of 45m, the maximum depth is 65m. There are two deck canons one on the bow and the other on the stern.

13th April 2020

HMS St. Angelo

HMS St Angelo, an auxiliary British tug built by Scott & Sons Co, Bowling, in April 1935, this ship was originally named HMS Egmont and was used for harbour duties.

She was 24m long by 5.5m wide and was powered by a Hughes & Lancaster Ltd, Acrefair, triple-expansion three-cylinder steam engine.

This vessel served as harbour transport for Royal Navy Officers carrying personnel from Fort St Angelo to other destinations. During the war it served other purposes, for rescue and later on as a minesweeper.

On 30th May 1942, HM Tug St. Angelo struck a mine about 3 quarters of a mile off Grand Harbour entrance with the loss of four of her crew.

The wreck lies upright at a depth of 55m off Grand Harbour. Diving on this wreck is considered hazardous due to its close proximity of Grand Harbour entrance & ship traffic in and out of Valletta harbour. First discovered by a team of divers on 23 August 1998.

11th April 2020

HM Drifter Eddy

Built in Aberdeen, Scotland by Alexander Hall Engineering Co Ltd. and launched as a dredger or drifter on 6th August 1918.

Eddy, pennant no. FY12, was quite a small vessel, she measured just 27m long by 6m wide. Her engines were “triple expansion” of 270 horse-power, producing nine knots.

Her launching was too late for any effective role in World War One, so she was attached to the squadron conducting mine clearance on the south coast of England. Once all clearance work was completed, she was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet and mostly based in Malta. On August 14, 1936, the Admiralty decided to place Eddy on the Reserve List in Malta.

Once Britain declared war on Germany, Eddy was recommissioned as a “minesweeper drifter” and joined the 403rd Minesweeping Group (Drifters) stationed in Malta. Although of a different class from other vessels, she still took part in most mine-sweeping and salvage work.

Eddy was armed with a small three-pounder gun at the bow and a Lewis gun above the wheelhouse. As a precaution against magnetic mines, she was fitted with an anti-magnetic cable all around the ship-side at water-level, due to the fact she had a metal hull.

Her duties included sweeping the approaches to Malta’s harbours so that the much needed supply ships would not be sunk by enemy mines.

On May 24th, 1942, Eddy was on “stand-by”. She left Grand Harbour under cover of darkness to sweep a channel further north which was mined by Italian E-boats the previous night.

At 4.30 pm the next day, about a mile off St. Elmo Point, while on her way back to port, she struck a mine and sank. The skipper and ten of her crew survived, but eight others were missing and presumed dead. Among them were Able Seaman Emmanuel Cremona, Petty Officer Stoker Emmanuel Pizzuto, Petty Officer Steward Joseph “San Guzepp” Spieri and Acting Petty Officer Salvatore Borg, who died of injuries the next day.

She now lies upright on a sandy seabed approximately 1.3km off St. Elmo point, at a depth of 56m. There is a large hole on the starboard side which was caused by the mine.

Diving on this wreck is considered hazardous due to its close proximity of Grand Harbour entrance & ship traffic in and out of Valletta harbour.

10th April 2020

CS Levant II

Built in 1904 by George Brown and Co., Greenock. She had a single screw and a compound engine. The cable layer CS Levant II was 42.2m in length, a 6.5m beam and a gross tonnage 283.

Levant II was purchased on the stocks while being built as a trawler, and was fitted out for cable work by the addition of twin bow sheaves and a simple cable winch mounted on the upper deck. A large hold was used for stowing cable, no cable tank being fitted.

The ship took part in the Dardanelles campaign of World War I; a number of its officers and cable staff received mentions in dispatches, and the ship’s Master, Harold Wightman, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for “the laying of the cable from Imbros to Suvla on the night of the Suvla landing, and for laying and repairing cables off the peninsula frequently under heavy fire”.

In 1929 the ship was transferred to Imperial and International Communications Limited (later Cable & Wireless) and remained in cable service until 1935, although she was laid up in Malta from 1930-35.

Levant II was sold to W.J. Parnis of Valletta (Malta) in 1935 and renamed Major William. Sold again in 1938 to Mrs H.M.B. Williams and renamed Orange, and once more in 1941 to the Soc. Marseillaise de Trav. and renamed Eissero.

The ship is reported to have been broken up in 1952, but site visitor Emi Farrugia notes that while en route to be scuttled in the spoil ground some three miles off Grand Harbour, Malta, the ship started taking on water and sank further in towards the shore, about one kilometre off Grand Harbour.

Emi found the wreck in 1999 and believes it to be the Levant II without any doubt. From measurements of the wreck the length and beam match exactly; it has the cable drum up front as in the picture, and on one of the brass fittings there was the name Brown & Co and a date of 1911.

The wreck lies in approximately 60 meters depth of water pretty much intact.

9th April 2020

HMS Stubborn

S-Class submarines were designed as a replacement for the H-Class and they proved so successful a design that production of this class was re-started on the outbreak of war and continued until end of hostilities. Continual modifications were made to the vessels during the war. Specially designed for use in the more confined waters of Europe and the Mediterranean, a total of 67 S-Class submarines were built.

HMS Stubborn was built by Cammell Laird & Company (Birkenhead, England), launched on 11th November 1942 and commissioned on 20th February 1943.

HMS Stubborn was 66m long, armed with 13 x 21 inch torpedoes. She has 6 bow torpedo tubes & 1 stern tube, 1 x 3” Gun in front of the conning tower and 1 x 20mm Oerlikon machine gun at the back. Powered by two 1900bhp diesel engines and two 1300hp electric motors, she could do almost 15 knots at the surface. She had a crew of 44-48 under the command of Lieutenant Duff and later on in 1944 under Lieutenant Davies.

On 2nd July 1943, she fired 6 torpedoes at the last submarine in line out of a group of 3 German submarines escorted by 2 destroyers. The torpedoes however missed their targets and the attack was not observed by the Germans. The submarines concerned were U-180, U-518, U-530. The two escorts were identified as ‘Narvik-class’ destroyers and this was correct as they were Z-24 and Z-32.

On 11 September 1943, HMS Stubborn departed on her 4th war patrol. She was to tow the midget submarine X 7 to the entrance of the Alten Fjord in Northern Norway. Stubborn and X 7 are part of Operation Source. An attack by six midget submarines on the German battleship Tirpitz.

On 18th September 1943, around 2015 hours HMS Stubborn placed the operational crew on board of X-7 and took off the passage crew. But on going ahead the tow parted. It took several hours before the two submarines were again connected together.

On 20th September 1943, at 0105 hours HMS Stubborn sighted a floating mine but before it could be evaded it got stuck in the towline and slowly made its way towards X-7. It then got stuck on the bow of X-7 until it was able to be ‘kicked’ off. At 2000 hours X-7 slipped and proceeded towards the Soroy Sund. Stubborn then departed the area to take up her patrol position.

On 11th February 1944, she sank the German merchant Makki Faulbaum and torpedoed and damaged the German merchant Felix D. some 25 miles north-west of Namsos, Norway.

She later made an unsuccessful attack on a German convoy of five ships off the Folda Fjord, Norway. Stubborn fired six torpedoes but none found their target. Stubborn was heavily damaged by the German escort ships and had to be towed home, with her crew acting as human “balance weights” to maintain the submarine on an even keel when her after hydroplanes were jammed “Hard Adive”.

In April 1945 HMS Stubborn sailed into Malta for the first time en route to the Suez Canal and eventually to the Far East where she took up patrolling duties with allied Navies in their struggle against the Japanese Navy. She sank the Japanese patrol vessel Patrol Boat No.2 (the former destroyer Nadakaze) in the Java Sea, the survivors were shot in the water.

It was at this phase of duty that Stubborn suffered its worst attack of the war and lost her complete tail fin which held the after hydroplanes and rudder. This loss was caused by depth charges but principally from hitting the sea bottom at 166 meters, this was a record dive for a submarine at the time. S- Class submarines are only designed to dive to a max depth of 90 meters. The boat miraculously survived the depth-charge attack which followed. The submarine survived an ordeal of having over seventy depth-charges dropped on her, and despite being badly damaged still managed to evade capture.

During the return voyage from Australia it became evident that the hull aft had suffered more distortion than was originally thought. Stubborn called back to Malta for her second and last time. As she was not fit to repair, she was stripped down from important equipment, instruments, armaments & periscopes before being sent to her watery grave on 30th April 1946 and used for ASDIC target, training naval officers listening on sonar devices to detect the presence of submarines.

Stubborn now rests 1.6 miles off Qawra Point on a sandy bottom at a maximum depth of 57m.

8th April 2020

HMS Hellespont

This robust-class deep sea rescue paddle steamer tug was built by C & W Earle’s Shipbuilding Company (Hull, England) and launched on 10thMay 1910.

She had a bollard pull of 10 tons with 1250hp and a compliment of 17 men. She was based at Haulbowline Dockyard, Queenstown in Ireland until 1922. HMS Hellespont arrived in Malta in 1922 and worked the seas around the islands for nearly 20 years.

On the 7th September 1940 she was damaged by an Italian aircraft and was never repaired but laid up at Sheer Bastion (Macina). She was sunk on the 6th April 1942 by another aircraft attack. After the war she was lifted and then towed outside Grand Harbour and scuttled three miles off Riscasoli Breakwater lighthouse.

She now rests on a rocky bottom at a maximum depth of 42m.

7th April 2020

SS Margit

This 3496 ton passenger ship, 105.5 metres in length with a 13.7 metre beam, was built in 1912 by Forges & Chantiers de la Mediteranee at La Seyne (Yard No. 1055) and named ‘Theodore Mante’ over the next twenty seven years her name was changed several times, Mustapha II, Djebel Antar and Gatun, in 1939 she was re-named Margit.

She arrived in Malta at 1700hrs on 17th April 1939 from Marseilles under a Panamanian flag. She stayed in Malta for the next two years and whilst waiting for a crew, war broke out.

During the early hours of 19th April 1941, while moored to buoy No. 14 at the entrance to Kalkara Creek, an air raid by Ju87s took place between 0310-0557hrs, she was hit, set on fire, listed to port and sank. Only her two masts remained sticking out of the water to mark her grave.

In 1943, the two masts and her funnel were removed by explosives, this was to make No. 14 berth available for use during the forthcoming invasion of Sicily.

The wreck sits at a maximum depth of 21m in Kalkara Creek.

Wreck No. 37448 Admiralty Chart HN/52.

6th April 2020

X127 Water Lighter

Designed by Walter Pollock in February 1915 and built by Goole Shipbuilding and Repairing Co, Goole, Yorkshire, these motor landing craft were built for the 1915 Dardanelles landings in the Gallipoli campaign during World War I.

The hull construction was based on the Thames river barges with 60% parallel bottom and a spoon shaped bow with a drop down ramp. They weighed 135 tons, were 35 metres in length and had accommodation for 12 men.

The X127 was converted to carry water and fitted with a Tangye water pump engine to pump the water out of the hull to reservoirs on shore.

The X127 was involved with the successful withdrawal of troops and horses after what some would say was one of the bloodiest battles in World War I.

From 1920 many of the 200 Lighters were sold to private companies, shipping agents and the governments of Greece, Egypt, France and Spain, 16 Lighters went to Malta, X127 was one of these.

At first she continued her duties as a water carrier, then she was converted to a fuel oil lighter carrying shale oil for the Tenth Submarine Flotilla, HMS Talbot, Manoel Island Marsaxmet Harbour, Malta.

On Friday 6th March 1942 the submarine base was attacked by dive bombers and during a second attack the submarines P36 and P39 were damaged by near misses and the fuel lighter X127 caught fire listed and shortly afterwards sunk.

Listed by Lloyds as Wreck No. 37379

She remains in the same position today laying upright on a 20 degree slope, the bow at 5m and the stern at 22m.

4th April 2020

HMS Maori

HMS Maori is a Tribal Class Destroyer built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Limited (Govan, Scotland). The 115m long destroyer was launched on 2nd September 1937, she had a top speed of 36 knots and had a range of 5,700 Nautical miles at 15 knots. Her armament consisted of eight 4.7 inch (4×2) guns, four 2 pounder “pompom” (1×4), eight 0.5 inch machine guns (2×4); four tubes for 21 inch Mk IX torpedoes, thirty depth charges.

HMS Maori acquired her name from the Maori people of New Zealand. She joined HMS Cossack’s division in January 1939 and was the last Tribal to go to war in the Mediterranean.

On 3rd September 1939, several days after the declaration of World War 2, Maori was lying at Alexandria, Egypt with the rest of her division. Immediately she joined her sister Tribals in convoy escort duties and contraband control before returning to the United Kingdom in October. Again, convoy duty was the main mission but Maori carried out a number of North Sea patrols.

On 25th May 1941, The 4th Destroyer Flotilla was escorting convoy WS-8B when they received an order to leave the convoy and take part in the hunt for the German battleship Bismarck.

The HMS Maori was one of the ships to recover the survivors from the German battleship.

Towards the end of 1941, the British Admiralty decided to reinforce the 14th Destroyer Flotilla (14th D.F.) in the eastern Mediterranean so HMS Sikh and HMS Maori were promptly dispatched to that area. While in support of Force ‘K’, the Malta striking force, Maori participated in the action that resulted in the sinking of the Italian cruisers Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Guiossano.

On 12th February 1942 at 0200hours, while anchored at Malta, HMS Maori was attacked from the air and a bomb found its way into her engine and gear room. The Tribal blew up and sank, still moored at the emergency destroyer buoy at the entrance to Dockyard Creek. Crews from other ships helped in the rescue work as blazing oil spread across the water. Since off-duty personnel customarily slept ashore in shelters while in Malta, only one man was killed in the attack.

At daybreak, Maori’s forepart still showed above the water and the wreck seriously interfered with shipping movements but it was decided to leave her there for the time being. Her ‘A’ and ‘B’ guns were still in good order so it was suggested that those guns be mounted on the Ricassoli Breakwater for the Army’s use. Bombs still fell on Maori during succeeding air attacks.

By the end of 1942, the Admiralty decided that her wreck should be lifted, moved out of Grand Harbour and set down off Sliema. On 5th July 1945, Maori’s hulk was scuttled finally in deep water far away from the harbour.

However the bow section lies on white sand at a maximum depth of 14m.