Richard M Montgomery

#1
Early Chatham days this D.Day ammo ship hit a mine at harbour entrance loaded to the limit with ammo,shells, mines and dangerous equipment including a few CPO Gi's!
Anyway a few divers were on the Dunc Head[as was I] and said the ammo had chrystalised and may cause a spark so it was too dangerous to offload and these divers would not do it.
I had just joined up['56] and I wondered what happened to it as they said if it blew it would take half of Chatham with it.
A few years ago I spoke to a ret.sea Captain who said it was still there.
I know there was questions in Parliament re. this ship it so what happened?
Can't surely be still there?
 
#2
You must have missed this episode of Coast on BBC TV last December.

BBC TV website said:
Sheerness - The SS Richard Montgomery

[align=center]

The masts of the SS Montgomery
sticking out of the water
[/align]

During the Second World War, German aircraft would fly up the River Thames to attack the London docks. In eleven months 40,000 explosives were dropped and it is estimated that one in ten failed to explode. Now with more people diving and fishing the Royal Navy divers get called out three times a week to deal with unexploded bombs on this coast.

Neil Oliver joins Jason White [then OIC of Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2] from the Royal Navy, to observe a controlled explosion and investigate a ticking time bomb that could rock the entire Thames Estuary.
[align=center]

CGI showing the SS Richard Montgomery
split in half
[/align]

The SS Richard Montgomery is an American cargo ship fully laden with explosives. It safely crossed the Atlantic but when it entered Sheerness a storm was starting and the ship drifted onto a sand bank. When the tide fell the weight of its 4,000 tonnes of bombs broke the vessel in half. It is now lying in two pieces, full of its eroding cargo.

The Montgomery is not in an ideal spot. It ran aground in the middle of a busy waterway and is a sinister sight -the ship is partially visible with its mast still sticking out of the water.
[align=center]

CGI illustrating the explosion of
the SS Richard Montgomery
[/align]

Because of the difficulty in clearing the wreck it has been left where it sank. It is regularly checked by the Department of Transport but surveys suggest that it may break up in the next nine years. But if the Montgomery did explode, Government experts estimate that it would blow up with the force of a small atomic bomb, throwing debris 3,000 metres into the air.
 
#3
We used to dive and survey the wreck about twice a year, the hull itself has sunk into the mud and it's this mud that is protecting the vessel from falling apart. Theorectically, the amount of explosives on board, if detonated could cause problems, however, the chances of that happening are so ferkin slim it ain't worth considering, unless you apply the Hysterical Daily Mail principle to all things.

The main problem with recovering the explosives is the tide, the op would have to be conducted by divers and not remote submersibles, and the tidal windows in that area are about 1-2 hours per day, given that the vis underwater, ranges from nil to crap, it would be a very difficult op.

The problem with "difficult" is not that it's impossible...more that it's expensive...very very expensive and as such no one is willing to fund the clearance.

Several options have been put forward by various EOD companies to facilitate the de ammunitioning of the ship, and some of us ( :wink: )are just waiting for the day they allow the Goose to start laying the golden egg, cos it will keep a lot of us in local work well past our retiring age. 8) 8)
 
#4
An ex-diver oppo of mine, once told me there had been an idea to put a coffer dam round it, pump it dry then remove thw ammo. It was considered far to dangerous with the ammo drying out.
 
#5
That was one of the ideas, mainly to stop any of the ammo drifting off with the tide. The drying out aspect could be covered by misty hoses, but it was the sheer cost that stopped that idea.
 
#6
2 articles of interest - SUBACQUA SCENE May 1984, and THE TIMES September 18th 1989.
Load was as follows (2nd figure is tonnage remaining on board after salvage operations abandoned).

Loose GP bombs - 3045 - 1667
Loose SAP bombs - 2564 - 1435
Cased cluster frag bombs 629 - 173
Cased WP bombs 107 - 107
Cased other explosives 253 - 36
Cased non explosives 264 - 134
So there's enough explosives on board to make a considerable bang, and I believe that explosives become more volatile with age, so it would seem that any sort of salvage would be risky. Any major detonation would be capable of creating a tidal wave which, given the convergence of the Thames and Medway, could cause untold damage, reaching all the way into the centre of London and beyond.
 
#7
Spidiver said:
We used to dive and survey the wreck about twice a year, the hull itself has sunk into the mud and it's this mud that is protecting the vessel from falling apart. Theorectically, the amount of explosives on board, if detonated could cause problems, however, the chances of that happening are so ferkin slim it ain't worth considering, unless you apply the Hysterical Daily Mail principle to all things.

The main problem with recovering the explosives is the tide, the op would have to be conducted by divers and not remote submersibles, and the tidal windows in that area are about 1-2 hours per day, given that the vis underwater, ranges from nil to crap, it would be a very difficult op.

The problem with "difficult" is not that it's impossible...more that it's expensive...very very expensive and as such no one is willing to fund the clearance.

Several options have been put forward by various EOD companies to facilitate the de ammunitioning of the ship, and some of us ( :wink: )are just waiting for the day they allow the Goose to start laying the golden egg, cos it will keep a lot of us in local work well past our retiring age. 8) 8)
So you reckon you'd make a bomb out of it spid do you :) 8O :wink:
 
#8
lsadirty said:
2 articles of interest - SUBACQUA SCENE May 1984, and THE TIMES September 18th 1989.
Load was as follows (2nd figure is tonnage remaining on board after salvage operations abandoned).

Loose GP bombs - 3045 - 1667
Loose SAP bombs - 2564 - 1435
Cased cluster frag bombs 629 - 173
Cased WP bombs 107 - 107
Cased other explosives 253 - 36
Cased non explosives 264 - 134
So there's enough explosives on board to make a considerable bang, and I believe that explosives become more volatile with age, so it would seem that any sort of salvage would be risky. Any major detonation would be capable of creating a tidal wave which, given the convergence of the Thames and Medway, could cause untold damage, reaching all the way into the centre of London and beyond.

Although these figures do seem impressive, the actual Net Explosive Content (NEC) is some where in the region of 30-50% of these figures, ie a 1000lb bomb doesn't contain 1000lb of HE.
HE can deteriorate with age and become more sensitive (Don't we all), however, these explosives have been kept at a pretty constant temperature for the last 60 odd years and should be in a stable condition.

The tidal wave theory is not valid, given the depth of water and the likely crater size, there would not be enough mass of water to cause any snags to London or beyond, although it would be nice to think that Canvey Island could be washed over to Holland. ( Better put a smiley there to placate the Swamp Monsters of Canvey... :lol: )

The Daily Mail School of hysteria concerning a full order detonation of the ship is ludicious, anyone who has any demolition of explosive stores experience will know just how hard it is to sustain a sympathetic detonation wave through service stores on land, let alone ones underwater encased and protected by, mud bulkheads and water. I loved the "single spark" could set it off hysteria....WTF are you gonna get a single spark to remain alight 30 foot under the cocking water...Iriots !!!
 
#9
Thanks for the replies,no I don't watch Coast although it seems good[I watch The Wire,Prison Break and the great Deadwood now being repeated,why do the Yanks make such great TV programmes and we get Spooks! PC rubbish]anyway I digress.
I could have Googled it but I wanted to see if any divers replied with info.Done that so thanks again.
 
#10
seafarer1939 said:
Early Chatham days this D.Day ammo ship hit a mine at harbour entrance loaded to the limit with ammo,shells, mines and dangerous equipment including a few CPO Gi's!
Anyway a few divers were on the Dunc Head[as was I] and said the ammo had chrystalised and may cause a spark so it was too dangerous to offload and these divers would not do it.
I had just joined up['56] and I wondered what happened to it as they said if it blew it would take half of Chatham with it.
A few years ago I spoke to a ret.sea Captain who said it was still there.
I know there was questions in Parliament re. this ship it so what happened?
Can't surely be still there?
Did not hit mine otherwise would be no wreck....
have a look at
http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com

for more info and links about the wreck
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads

New Posts

Top