Poles who perished aboard 1942 Kujawiak mine explosion remembered

Published in MaltaToday on 17th June, 2015

Culture minister unveils commemorative plaque for 13 sailors who died aboard destroyer escort Kujawiak

Justice minister Owen Bonnici (left) salutes the memory of the 13 sailors who died aboard the Kujawiak


The memory of 13 Polish sailors who perished off Maltese coasts in 1942 was celebrated on Wednesday evening, with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at the Upper Barakka, Valletta.

The Maltese government commemorated the death of the sailors aboard the ship ORP Kujawaik, in June 1942, after the shipwreck was discovered by an expedition comprising the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, the University of Malta, and the Shipwreck Expeditions Association.

The site where the ORP Kujawaik likes is now considered one of historical heritage.

Justice and culture minister Owen Bonnici said during the ceremony that it was no coincidence to have the commemorate plaque installed at the Upper Barrakka, overlooking the Grand Harbour which was the sailors’ last port of call.

“This is the perfect platform for closer ties between Poland and Malta on culture and heritage,” Bonnici said.

The Polish frigate Kujawiak was a destroyer escort in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 30 October, 1940 and commissioned to the Polish Navy, which became part of the Royal Navy, in June 1941.

The destroyer was sunk on 16 June, 1942 after hitting a mine off Malta during Operation Harpoon. Thirteen Polish sailors died and their bodies were never recovered. 20 were wounded.

The Kujawaik hit the mine at around 6 p.m. on 15 June, 1942 and sank at about 3 a.m. the next day.

But an approximate position given by the British Ministry of Defence gave no proper indication of any wreckage.

The search for the Kujawiak was launched by Emi Farrugia, who in 2011 said the search would have to to cover at least eight square kilometres circling the three approximate positions, at a depth of between 90 to 110 metres.