Shadow Technical are honoured to have been asked to provide logistical and dive support to the Heart of L72 Expedition, to locate and possibly retrieve the ships bell.
In 2015, team members positively identified ORP Kujawiak after extensive research and an initial diving expedition. They were, unfortunately, unable to locate the ships bell but did mange to place a commemorative plaque on the wreck.
Built in 1939 and officially launched October 1940, ORP Kujawiak started life with the Royal Navy as HMS Oakley and is a sister ship to another famous wreck in Maltese waters, HMS Southwold. In June 1941 she was commissioned to the Polish Navy and began active service patrolling the Mediterranean. June 1942 she was tasked as part of Force X and took part in Operation Harpoon to resupply Malta.
Her final days were hard, under constant attack from Axis forces, she was damaged many times but continued to support the convoy. A transcript of her final reports are as follows:
15th June 1942
06:15 noted fourteen silhouettes of Italian ships tracking the convoy
06:30 exchange of fire, attack on the convoy support aircraft involving two Italian cruisers. WS19 lost two ships.
07:30 H.M.S Bedouin and H.M.S. Partridge are damaged
09:00 Part of the escort withdraws to Gibraltar. Kujawiak continues support of the convoy heading to Malta
11.30 assault by twenty-seven JU 88
14:15 H.M.S. Bedouin (at the rear of the convoy is sunk.
14:30 another raid, No loss to the convoy
18:30 Six JU 88 attack aerial escort by two planes.
19:30 Six JU 88 attack
20:30 12 JU 88 attack, aerial escort loses two aircraft.
22:00 Convoy begins to enter the channel to Valletta
22:50 Battle alarm sounded
In the early hours of June 16th the convoy is almost safe..
But at 00:41 H.M.S. Badsworth unwittingly enters an enemy minefield, a huge explosion draws the attention of Kujawiak who immediately sends a signal asking if they need help. Badsworth replies: "yes. Got 120 survivorsâ€, without hesitation the Captain orders the crew to turn the ship and assist the survivors....
00:53 ORP Kujawiak strikes a mine on her port side. Two watertight bulkheads are damaged, combustible tanks, starboard side torn. The fire damaged areas are extinguished.
01:08 tilt 35 degrees to port. The captain orders the crew to leave...
Just 12 minutes later and with a loss of 13 lives O.R.P. Kujawiak lies at her final resting place 98metres below the surface.
Returning to the wrecks location the Expedition team are disappointed to discover that the marker buoys that they had left last year under the surface have been destroyed. The Shadow team descend to the wreck and replace the shot line but due to strong currents other team members are unable to reach the wreck so plan to return the next day.
As the week progresses the teams are hampered by strong currents but the mission is a success, not only do they find the ships bell but they get film footage too. Unfortunately a retrieval permit is not issued in time for the bell to be raised this time but the team plans to return and complete this and other tasks in May 2017.
2016 Expedition Team:
Dr Timmy Gambin, Peter Wytykowski, Mark Alexander, Mark Jones, Edd Stockdale, Gianmichele Iaria, Arthur Castillo, John Wood, Scott DellaPeruta, Roman Zajder, Mariusz Borowiak, Daniel Barber, Robert Forace, Robert Piasta and Steve Wilkinson
2017 Expedition - Raising the Heart
The teams return in 2017, this time with the required permit to retrieve the ships bell and to complete the 3D photogrammetry of the wreck.
Once again the team discovers that the wreck markers left under the surface have been destroyed, possibly by passing tankers. Dave & Steve replace the shotline which allows the rest of the team to reach the wreck.
As the week progresses, Kari & Chris (3D Team) capture thousands of images of the wreck, slowly building a detailed model using specialist software. Peter, Sharkey & Jonesy (Survey team) inspect the wreck looking for structural changes from the previous years. Dave, Steve, Timmy (Project leader) and John (Retrieval team) locate and retrieve the ships bell. Retrieval is painfully slow due to the bells location and that the cutting must be done manually by hacksaws.
The bell is currently undergoing desalination and will be refurbished and displayed in Poland before returning to Malta for permanent display in the Maritime Museum, Valletta.
2017 Expedition Team:
Dr Timmy Gambin, Peter Wytykowski, Mark Alexander, Gianmichele Iaria, John Wood, Kevin J Vella, Mark Jones, Roman Zajder, Robert Forace, Paul Toomer, Kari Hyttinen, Chris Rowland, Dave Gration and Steve Wilkinson.