September 22, 2014, 11:15. 72 years after being sunk by a mine off the coast of Malt the wreck of the Polish escort destroyer ORP Kujawiak, one of the unsung heroes of WWII at sea, was discovered.
What had for so many years baffled naval historians and those interested in Polish Naval history has become a reality. After years of searching, the location of the wreck, which sunk during operation Harpoon in June 1942, has been pinpointed after eluding many individuals for years.
The news of the success of the Polish expedition spread rapidly to television, print and electronic media. History websites have covered the important find by members of the Shipwreck Expedition Association. Thanks to the great work done by the members of the Association and the selfless commitment of many people, tens of hours spent in archives, and time spent analyzing existing archival materials from collections both domestic and foreign. Such undertakings were often done at the expense of family life but their devotion turned into success.
The service of the Kujawiak and her sailors to the Polish Navy and to the allies and the tragic circumstances of her sinking in her final operation are not well known in modern day Polish society. Thus we have before us the task to inform our members and the public at large of the historical truth and glory of the ORP Kujawiak which served Poland and her allies at sea for 382 days during WWII.
On June 3, 2015 the team will return to Malta to continue its study of the wreck of the Hunt Type II escort destroyer ORP Kujawiak. The team’s visit began much earlier with a trip to the welcoming walls of the British National Archives in Kew and the British Hydrographic Office in Taunton. The team is well acquainted with the archival material stored at the Polish Institute and Museum of General Sikorsky in London. Partnering with the team during the upcoming expedition is the Department of Classics and Archaeology at the University of Malta. The University and Dr. Timmy Gambin have continually offered unwavering support and hospitality to the expedition and it’s members at every step.
The team plans to use an Edgetech sidescan sonar on it’s return in order to obtain a detailed picture of the wreck site and debris field. Detailed measurements and documentation of the wreck will be conducted with the aid of remotely operated vehicles. Plans are also in place for divers to descend to the wreck to obtain 3D images.
On June 16th a commemorative ceremony will be held at the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Malta to commemorate the 13 Polish sailors who lost their lives when the ship went down. During the ceremony a memorial plaque, provided by the members of the association, will be installed.
In December of 2015 a book will be published about the story of the ORP Kujawiak, her sinking, and subsequent discovery. The author is the well-known writer Mariusz Borowiak, maritime historian, who is currently working on the text. The book will be published by “Alma-Press” Publishing House of Warsaw. There will also be a surprise prepared by the author for English readers.
It’s obvious that a lot is going on with the L72 project and the blog and Facebook page will be continuously updated with new information to keep you up to date on our endeavors.