The Lighter X127 is one of the 200 lighters constructed for the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. Designed by Walter Pollocks & Son of Faversham in Kent, England, the X131 saw action in the Dardanelles campaign in the First World War. By 1921, the ship was in Malta and was converted into a water carrier. On the night of 21 April 1942, it received a torpedo hit in her stern and sank immediately. The ship had different names – Coralita, Coral, Carolita – and was at one point even mistaken for the wreck of an English submarine before it was identified as the X127.
In February 1915 – at about the same time that the smaller lighters of the Y class were being considered – the D.N.C. received instructions to design a larger type of lighter or barge that was self-propelled. They needed suitable for ship transporting troops, horses, field guns for landing on a shelving beach. The matter was of extreme urgency and the design was completed within four days from the receipt of instructions.
upon was of angular bilge section (pontoon shape), tapering to a ship shape form at the ends with a spoon shaped bow to better enable the vessels to land on a beach. The hull was constructed of mild steel, but in order to meet the limits of the plants at some of the smaller yards, certain small departures were permitted in order to facilitate the speedy construction of the vessels. The vessels were designated X Lighters and numbered from X1 to X200.
was placed right aft and consisted of heavy oil engines, chiefly of the Bolinder Hot Bulb type. Some of the X Lighters were propelled by twin screws but most by single screws. It was intended that the vessels should be towed, three in number together in single line, to within easy reach of their operating base so speed was not a primary consideration. The equipment was also governed by the types of engines obtainable at short notice and resulted in variations of 40 to 90 horsepower and 5 to 7 knots, according to the types fitted.
British diving instructor Dave Mallard capped off a revealing piece of research. He renamed the wreck formerly known as the Carolita, which lies 20 meters under the sea off Manoel Island.
Together with a group of experienced local divers, Mr. Mallard set off with a bottle of champagne in hand to christen the X131 Water lighter which was used in the Gallipoli landings in 1915. The X131 Water lighter was one of 200 designed by Walter Pollock and Son of Faversham in Kent for the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) campaign in 1915, one of the bloodiest battles of World War I. It stayed on in Malta as a water carrier until it was bombed in World War II while berthed in Grand Harbor and then scuttled in its current location.
For years, the wreck was thought to be an ordinary barge until Mr. Mallard, an archaeological diver from the Isle of Wight, carried out an underwater survey and confirmed the vessel’s historical significance. He alerted local diving instructor Tonio Anastasi and others who in turn informed the local authorities. Mr. Mallard sounded an appeal for the 30 meter long wreck to be protected when Manoel Island gets developed.
Any development should have taken that into account. Now it has even more meaning since troops died on it in Gallipoli (Turkey). It is a monument to the Anzac troops and has more right to be on this site than any development. The X131 Water lighter remains in almost perfect condition even though it is 100 years old and Mr. Mallard believes it can remain like that for at least another century if steps are taken to protect it. The only other known surviving example is moored on the River Thames. Mr. Anastasi said that the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage had been informed together with the Malta Tourism Authority. The superintendent said it would be looking into the wreck and the general area.
There are 200 years of history there as we often come across old bottles and clay pipes. Documentary-maker Emi Farrugia, who was also on the dive, warned that the wreck could be lost forever unless steps were taken to protect it from development.
Martin Vella, from the Malta Marine Foundation, said: This is a red-letter day for Malta. The wreck has gone from Cinderella and turned into a princess. Our aim is to protect these wrecks”.