TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.8.08

Discussion in 'History' started by function, Aug 26, 2008.

Welcome to the Navy Net aka Rum Ration

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial RN website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. "Documenting seven shipwrecks that are being salvaged from the river Thames in one of the biggest marine archaeological operations in the country. Frank Pope and Tessa Dunlop unlock the stories behind these remarkable ships, from a 17th century warship to small boats that secured the Thames during World War Two."

    Not a bad programme, good to see the RN patrol service getting coverage......but why do these so called experts insist on calling a warship "THE HMS...." !!
  2. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    Good point well put. But still a very interesting programme, especially as I live on the Thames Estuary.


  3. (granny)

    (granny) Book Reviewer

    Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    These sort of mistakes often happen on TV programmes. I find myself shouting at the screen. Who are these so called advisors to the production companies? Maybe they ought to come on RR and ask us for clarification.
  4. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    And could hardly have been 'HMS' under the Commonwealth, surely? After 1660 fair enough.
  5. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Spot on, function. For me, when 'experts' use wrong terminology it leaves me doubting everything else that they are saying. However it was fair dos to give the RN patrol service a chuck up; I had no idea its numbers were so big - nor its LOSSES. Those people helped us 1939-45 make a huge navy out of a rather small regular one.

    It will be interesting to see whether that sunken ammunition ship is part of this.
  6. If you mean the Richard Montgomery, I doubt the BBC would have been allowed anywhere near it. The ammo is supposed to be in such a state of decay that only Navy divers are, or were, authorised to dive on the wreck.
    But I suppose that there are always some who will ignore this.
  7. The ship was built in 1943 by the St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company in its second year of operations, and was the seventh of the 82 such ships built by that yard. The ship was completed in July 1943, given the official ship number 243756, and named after General Richard Montgomery, an Irish-American soldier who was killed during the American Revolutionary War.

    In August 1944, on what was to be its final voyage, the ship left Hog Island, Philadelphia, where it had been loaded with 6,127 tons of munitions[1].

    13,064 general purpose 250 lb (113 kg) bombs filled with TNT
    9,022 cases of fragmentation bombs
    7,739 semi-armour-piercing bombs
    1,522 cases of fuses
    1,429 cases of phosphorus bombs
    1,427 cases of 100 lb (45 kg) demolition bombs
    817 cases of small arms ammunition
    240 mustard gas bombs
    It travelled from the Delaware river to the Thames Estuary, then anchored while awaiting the formation of a convoy to travel to Cherbourg, France, which had already fallen to the Allies (on July 27, 1944) during the Battle of Normandy.

    When it arrived off Southend, it came under the authority of the Thames naval control at HMS Leigh, located at the end of the Southend Pier. The harbour master, responsible for all shipping movements in the estuary, ordered the Montgomery to a berth off the north edge of Sheerness middle sands, where it ran aground in a depth of 24 ft. (7.3 m) of water at low tide.

    The general dry cargo liberty ship had an average draught of 28 ft (8.5 m), the Montgomery was trimmed to a draught of 31 ft (9.4 m) however, and at low water, at the height of a spring tide with a northerly wind it was inevitable the ship would run aground at its shallow mooring.

    When it ran aground on August 20, 1944, the Montgomery broke its back on sand banks near the Isle of Sheppey, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from Sheerness and 5 miles (8 km) from Southend.

    A Rochester-based Stevedore Company was given the job of removing the cargo, which began on August 23, 1944 using the ship's own cargo handling equipment. By the next day, the ship's hull had cracked open, causing several cargo holds at the bow end to flood. The salvage operation continued until September 25, when the ship was finally abandoned. Subsequently, the ship broke into two separate parts, roughly at the mid-section.

    During the enquiry that followed, it was revealed that several ships moored nearby had noticed the Montgomery drifting toward the sandbank. They had attempted to signal an alert by sounding their sirens without avail, since throughout this Captain Wilkie of the Montgomery was asleep. The ship's chief officer was unable to explain why he had not alerted the captain.

    [edit] Current status
    Due to the presence of the large quantity of unexploded ordnance, the ship is monitored by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. In 1973 it became the first wreck designated as dangerous under section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and there is an exclusion zone around it monitored visually and by radar.[1] The Maritime and Coastguard Agency nevertheless believe that the risk of a major explosion is remote.[2] The UK government's Receiver of Wreck commissioned a risk assessment in 1999, but this risk assessment has not been published (as reported in the New Scientist, 21 August 2004). The Maritime and Coastguard Agency convened with local and port authorities to discuss the report in 2001 and concluded that "doing nothing was not an option for much longer."

    3,173 tons of munitions containing 1,400 tons of TNT remain on the wreck. One of the reasons why the explosives have not been removed was the unfortunate outcome of a similar operation in July 1967 to neutralize the contents of the Kielce, a ship of Polish origin, sunk in 1946 off Folkestone in the English Channel. During preliminary work the Kielce, containing a comparable amount of ordnance, exploded with force equivalent to an earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, digging a 20-foot (6 m) deep crater in the seabed and bringing "panic and chaos" to Folkestone, although no injuries.

    According to a BBC news report,[3] in 1970 it was determined that if the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery exploded, it would throw a 1000-foot (300 m) wide column of water and debris nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in the air and generate a wave 16 feet (5 m) high. Almost every window in Sheerness (pop. c20,000) would be broken and buildings would be damaged by the blast.

    Critics of government assurances that the likelihood of a major explosion is remote argue that there is a possibility that over time a partially flooded fuze in at least one of the 2600 fuzed fragmentation devices will become less stable owing to its lead azide constituent reacting with water vapour (rather than liquid seawater) to form hydrazoic acid. This will react with copper in the detonating cap, to form extremely sensitive copper azide.[4] A knock, such as caused by the ship breaking up further, or a collision on the busy shipping lane, could cause the copper azide to explode, triggering an explosive chain reaction resulting in the detonation of the bulk of the munitions.

    Similarly, when the condition of the munitions was originally assessed there was concern that copper azide would be produced through reaction between the lead azide and copper from brass fuse components. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency argue that the fuses will probably have been flooded for many years and consequently the hazard is insignificant since these chemicals are water soluble[5] and will have been washed away.

    The wreck site has been surveyed regularly since 1965 to determine the stability of the structure, with the most recent diver survey being completed in 2003.[6] There have been subsequent high-resolution multi-beam sonar surveys in 2005 and September 2006 which have confirmed that no significant movement of the wreck has taken place recently. The Department for Transport has stated that it also needs to commission a survey of the munitions still on board; this survey has not been done yet.
  8. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    A good read chockhead, thanx. :thumright:
  9. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Yup, that's the one. Thanks for all the details - I dimly rememebr the report that said 'doing nothing is not an option' so wondered if the current operation meant that something would now happen. However, reminded of where the wreck is, perhaps it's a fair way from the channel being cleared for the container ships.

    As to Sheernasty - one-night stop in 1955 - never met anyone in the Andrew who thought it deserved preservation! However there have been whole towns devastated by ammunition ships going up, Halifax in 1918 & Bari in 1944 for instance.
  10. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    That's a good point, I'd never really thought about it. Just had a google but can't find any info. Does anyone know?
  11. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    This might help but I've not read it:

    Cromwell's Navy: The Fleet and the English Revolution, 1648-60 by Bernard Capp
  12. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    Read it for me and report back, there's a good chap.
  13. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    Buy it for me then :tongue:
  14. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    Must be a library 'within the sound of Naval gunfire'.

    Just don't get it on audio tape.

    Don't you worry yourself - I'll do the work and report back.

    :pc: :worship:
  15. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    Would you like me to obtain a braille version for you? :glasses3:
  16. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    'within the sound of Naval gunfire'.

    Just don't get it on audio tape.

    Wasn't being personal - just referring to the above.

    And no, I've got my Waterstone's reading specs.

    Answer will be discovered by Saturday.
  17. Re: TV programme -Thames shipwrecks.a race against time 26.

    FAO Ballistic mainly, but anyone else interested...

    There was a ship called The Swan went down off Mull in 1653. Not HMS. Still can't get a definitive answer though.

    I'm pretty sure they were HMS prior to the civil war - I reckon from later part of 16th century, but still can't pinpoint if that was suspended during the 'republic'.

Share This Page