HMS Illustrious (1940) documents donated to Heritage Malta

Officers from HMS Illustrious (R06) donated to Heritage Malta a copy of the damage assessment report sustained by HMS Illustrious (R87) during enemy bombing before reaching Malta and whilst moored at Malta in January 1941.

Members of the 1200 servicemen aboard HMS Illustrious visited the Malta Maritime Museum to present this donation. Following a guided tour, the documents were presented to Heritage Malta’s Chairman Joseph Said.

The now declassified documents offers insights on the damages sustained by the ship and the ingenious way of how Maltese Dockyard workers and British Naval personnel patched up the Illustrious as best as they could, getting it ready to steam out under cover of darkness on 23 January 1941. The Axis powers believed that the Illustrious had foundered at her berth as a consequence of their incessant raid. Little did they know that it was already on the way to Alexandria with Maltese dockyard workers still on board working on the badly damaged ship.

Among the artifacts that the officers and men viewed at the museum was Bighi’s Royal Navy Hospital section, where a life size bronze bust of Admiral Lord Nelson is presently displayed. It was Nelson’s desire to have a Naval Hospital in Malta and he had personally chosen the 17th century Villa Bichi to host this hospital. His wish was fulfilled twenty-five years after his death by the Royal Navy. Nelson’s bust was sculpted and donated to the National Collection in 2010 by artist Robert Hornyold-Strickland and a number of Maltese corporate sponsors, who explained briefly how he was able to re-create a true likeness of Nelson having worked from Nelson’s life mask, originals of which are in Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.