- Rivett, Norman C
- WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
We are unlikely ever to learn the actual text of “SANDHURST’S” signal, or of the subsequent fate of the armourer, no mention was made of either at the Court of Inquiry held into the loss of “VANGUARD”.
With such a record of magazine explosions, and the experience of an ammunition ship exploding due to collision in Halifax (N.S.) harbour in 1917 with the loss of about 1800 lives, the drastic measure taken to prevent a magazine explosion in HMS GLATTON is understandable.
HMS GLATTON, a 5700 ton monitor, caught fire in Dover harbour on the l6th September 1918. When it became apparent that the fire could not be contained the order was given to abandon ship. Before the order could be fully complied with, a decision was made to torpedo the ship in a compartment remote from the magazine in the hope of preventing an explosion.
This objective was achieved but at a cost of one officer and 19 men killed and 57 men posted missing presumed killed.
When the “GLATTON’ was raised in 1930, the bodies of an officer and 57 men were recovered and buried at Gillingham, Kent. The total casualties were therefore 78 killed.
The cost to the Royal Navy in lives as the result of these explosions is difficult to assess with accuracy, due to the war time complement of all the ships involved not being readily available.
It should be borne in mind that whilst most of these ships were fitted with oil burning equipment, they still relied mainly on coal, consequently the ship’s continuous full power duration directly depended upon the physical endurance of the stokers, hence the greatly increased war complement.
As an example the peacetime complement of HMS INVINCIBLE (1907) was 750, when sunk, her complement was in excess of 1000.
A conservative estimate of the number of lives lost is 5124, accounted for as follows:-
|HMS QUEEN MARY||1276||9|
* Some of the ships company were ashore at the time of the explosion (or Torpedo Hit). The number who actually survived the explosion is not available.
It is a sombre thought that well in excess of fifty percent of the 6097 fatal casualties suffered by the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland, resulted from the loss of three Battle Cruisers due to magazine explosions.