The SS TALABOT was launched in 1935 by the Swedish shipyard A/B Götaverken of Gothenburg as Yard no 492. She was capable of carrying 12 passengers, 37 crew members and her maximum speed was 16.25 knots with 2 engines of 9,650 ihp and 7 cylinder.
TALABOT sailed under the Norwegian flag and on Tuesday 24th March 1942 she arrived in Malta’s Grand Harbour from Alexandria as part of convoy MW 10 laden with 600 tons of ammunition, 600 tons of benzine, 200 tons of paraffin, bombs and torpedoes. Part of her cargo, which was vital for the island, was unloaded for two days during which time TALABOT was constantly interrupted by aerial attacks. On Thursday 26th March, 300 Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 87 Stuka’s aircraft from Sicily attacked the Grand Harbour and turning it into an inferno destroying this convoy. TALABOT was hit by a bomb, of which examinations showed that the bomb had hit the ship on the port side of the boat deck, had gone straight through the electrician’s cabin, the shelter deck and main deck, and had exploded in the engine room where a fire had started. All the cabins had been blown to pieces by the sheer force, another bomb had hit just outside the side of the ship, and in hold No. 1 the contents had been tossed around. She was scuttled to prevent ammunition cargo exploding.
As the new Crucifix Wharf, in Valletta neared completion it was imperative to clear the central fairway of remaining wartime wreckage and unexploded ordnance…. For a while there was disagreement between the Maltese and British Governments over methods and means and the USSR sent the salvage tug AMETIST to survey the wrecks.
The dispute was eventually resolved and Royal Navy divers assisted in the recovery of the heaviest item of all – The climax of the entire operation came on Friday July 26 1985 when part of the double bottom of TALABOT weighing about 500 tons was brought to the surface. The double bottom had been identified earlier on and 20 Maltese and 5 Royal Navy divers removed excess mud and passed steel wires underneath it before lifting could commence. A number of 250 lb bombs and 4 inch gun shells were found. the lifting job was entrusted to the Durch sheerlegs TAKLIFT 1….. When the double bottom reached the surface, onlookers were disappointed – they had expected something remotely resembling a ship not what seemed like a huge platform! After the remnant was towed to the Menqa for demolition, the ghost of TALABOT was finally laid to rest and Crucifix Wharf opened to shipping.
Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com