Waterbodies & Maritime => Chatham Dockyard => Topic started by: kyn on May 29, 2011, 16:21:09

Title: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: kyn on May 29, 2011, 16:21:09
On the 12th July 1966 a fire broke out in covered slip No. 2, the slip had been covered in the 1770’s and covered in 1837. 

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/ChatDockFigureHeadFire.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/ChatDockFigureHeadFire01.jpg)

Inside were stored including a large number of historic figureheads and other stores.  One of the most important figureheads destroyed that night was one depicting Lord Nelson which had come from the Vanguard. 

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/ChatDockFigureHeadFire02.jpg)

(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/ChatDockFigureHeadFire03.jpg)

The fires cause was never fully known although it was believed to have been started by a dockyard worker, although whether it was intentional or not, nobody knows.

Figureheads before the fire
(http://i260.photobucket.com/albums/ii34/batgirlphotos/KHF/FridayAug141959Large.jpg)

Here are mentions of the fire from parliament:

CHATHAM DOCKYARD (FIRE)
HC Deb 13 July 1966 vol 731 cc1462-3 1462

§ Mr. Burden (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement regarding the fire at Chatham Dockyard on 12th July.

§ The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)
As hon. Members will have seen in the Press, a major fire broke out in Chatham Dock-yard yesterday morning. A covered slipway containing stores was completely destroyed.
I am glad to say that there were no deaths or serious injuries, but 41 people received minor injuries in trying to put out the fire.
This slipway was of considerable historic interest. A machine shop and 16 private cars were damaged. A Board of Inquiry is being convened.

§ Mr. Burden
Is this not the slipway from which H.M.S. "Victory" was launched? Is it not regrettable that this historic link with the past has been broken? Is the Minister aware that the greatest benefit which can accrue to Chatham would be if this slipway were in some way modified or rebuilt to ensure that nuclear submarines are built there in future?

§ Mr. Mallalieu
The slipway from which the H.M.S. "Victory" was launched was close by, but I do not think that this is the one. This is a very useful site and we shall make the best possible use of it.

§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Would my hon. Friend convey both to the dockyard fire brigade and to the Kent County Council Fire Brigade our very great appreciation, particularly of hon. Members who are concerned in this constituency, of the very urgent action which they took? Could he give an assurance that the 1463 people who have lost motor cars—I believe that there are 16 of them—will be fully compensated?

§ Mr. Mallalieu
I shall be glad to convey the congratulations of the whole House on the great speed with which the fire brigade arrived, which was within two and a half minutes, and the help which the Kent County Fire Brigade gave.
The question of compensation will have to await the findings of the court of inquiry.

§ Mr. Powell
Will the Minister now review all buildings of this kind in dockyards and other places under his control which ate used for stores to ensure that as far as possible this kind of risk is avoided?

§ Mr. Mallalieu
1 think that that is a very good idea. This building happened to be an ancient monument and it was protected in that way.

Chatham Dockyard (Fire)
HC Deb 20 January 1967 vol 739 cc159-60W 159W

§ Mr. Burden
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now issue the report of the official inquiry into the fire which destroyed the No. 2 Slipway at Chatham Dockyard in July last.

§ Mr. Foley
As the hon. Member was informed on 21st July, it is not normal to publish reports of Service Boards of Inquiry, but I am now able to make a statement on the fire at Chatham Dockyard in No. 2 Slip. A large building erected in 1700, it was of unique wooden construction and of considerable historical interest. The building was used as a naval store for packed equipment, copper tubing, packaging material and some sailing gear.
The Board of Inquiry concluded that the fire started as a result of the action of an employee who has since been discharged. It spread very rapidly, partly because of the explosion of wood and other dust which has accumulated in the wood members over centuries, and partly because the open-ended structure of the building formed a natural wind tunnel which drove the fire its whole length. As a result of the fire, the building and its 160W contents were completely destroyed. As previously stated, 41 people received minor injuries. The total loss is estimated at about £80,000.
The Board of Inquiry made an exhaustive investigation into the adequacy of the fire precautions and prevention measures in the slip, and in the light of their recommendations we are undertaking a review of the fire precautions for all old buildings used as stores.

Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Bilgerat on June 10, 2011, 22:51:27
The firm I work for recently resurfaced part of the helipad/car park which stands on the site of No 2 slip. When we broke up and removed the top layer of concrete, we uncovered what was the floor of No2 slip when the fire occurred. It was still blackened.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Merry on August 08, 2011, 21:57:41
My dad tells me that the day after the fire he and a friend went to retrieve the friend's car, which had been left parked across the way from the slip.  As they approached, walking up to the back of the car, the friend was delighted to see that it was intact - until he got closer and saw that the heat had been so intense the entire front end had melted.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Merry on October 12, 2011, 23:15:19
Apologies for double-posting, but I was telling my dad about this thread and he asked if the "picture of the burning fire engine" was here.  Apparently a fire engine tried to get close to the fire but the heat was so intense the (presumably wooden) ladders and fittings ignited.  The local press had a shot of the fire engine, in flames, speeding to safety.

If anyone has the image or could tell me where it can be viewed, I'm sure my dad would love to see it.  As indeed would I.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: afsrochester on October 13, 2011, 15:32:51
Hi Merry :)

Is that the one with the figurehead of Lord Nelson on fire in the background with fire engine in front of it? If it is, it's in the book "Firefighting in Kent" by Roger C. Mardon & John A. Meakins page 47 top photograph which is copyrighted to Medway News and Standard. You should be able to borrow the book from your local library.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Merry on October 13, 2011, 20:36:13
I don't know, to be honest, but that book sounds like a treasure trove!  Thank you for the info, I'll keep an eye out for it.    :)
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: afsrochester on October 14, 2011, 11:34:42
It was fitting for a former Naval officer that it was Chief Officer Fordham's lot to take charge of his last major fire as Chief Officer of the Kent Fire Brigade on Naval premises. A spectacularfire broke out in Chatham Naval Dockyard at 10.15 hours o 12th July 1966 at the time when Commander Fordham arrived to say goodbye to the Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard, who was leaving the yard for a new post.

 On his arrival he found the dockyard blanketed in a pall of heavy smoke. The No2 Slipway with its 200 year old timber covering, a protected site of considerable historic interest on which Nelson's flagship HMS Victory was built, was well alight. Employyes from nearby offices and workshops had to be evacuated. a large number of cars parked adjacent to the building were destroyed.

Despite the very best efforts of the crews from 16 Pumps from 10 local stations, under the personal direction of the Chief Officer, the building was completely destroyed. Saving it was an impossible task due to the intense radiated heat from the fire. Many Dockyard workers assisted the brigade at the height of the operations and forty one persons, including a number of firemen received minor injuries during the fire-fighting. The figurehead of Lord Nelson, removed for preservation from the seventh HMS Vanguard, which had been launched in 1835, was badly charred. However, it was saved from further damage by fire-fighting operations and was subsequently restored by the Navy.

After the fire the Chief officer received the following letter from an employee at the Dockyard.

"I am writing on behalf of some  of the girls of Naval Stores who witnessed the fire which occurred on Tuesday, 12 July 1966 at HM Dockyard Chatham. We were so much impressed by the courage of the firemen who attended that we thought we would take the opportunity of conveying our own personal thanks"

Most of us are too young -some not even born to remember the brave deeds these men carried out during the last war, and to us the fire was the worst we have ever seen. Of course, we realise that these men possess a special quality but to see them tackle the blaze really brought home to us your men's dedication to duty. The heat was so intense that I'm sure some of these men must have sustained burns but nevertheless they carried on regardless.

Many brave deeds must be executed by these men which the public never hear about, so we as office girls would like to say "Thank You" not only to these men but to the Fire Service in general. None of us know any of the firemen, so please convey our heartfelt thanks to all the men who came from many different areas to attend the blaze, and they will always have our admiration."

signed Pamela Chuck.

24 girls in addition to Miss Chuck signed the letter.

From 50 Vigilant Years. A History of Kent Fire Brigade.

The restored figurehead was presented to Kent Fire Brigade and it now resides in Medway Fire Station.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Merry on October 14, 2011, 20:15:38
Golly, that burning figurehead must have been the most dramatic sight!

I seem to recall my dad saying the photo of the fire engine was in the local paper. Next week I have to go to a meeting at the Civic Centre as was, I think I'll try to nip into the archives afterwards (in my lunch hour of course, ahem...)
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Merry on October 17, 2011, 20:14:01
Golly, that burning figurehead must have been the most dramatic sight!

I seem to recall my dad saying the photo of the fire engine was in the local paper. Next week I have to go to a meeting at the Civic Centre as was, I think I'll try to nip into the archives afterwards (in my lunch hour of course, ahem...)

Update:  I popped into the Medway Archives today - goodness me the ladies in there are helpful and kindly - and looked at the press reports into the fire.  Sadly I found no photos of the fire engine but I was struck by how the story only featured in one edition, and then wasn't mentioned again except in a "round up of the year's news" feature in December.

(And I was amused by how the week after the fire, the Chatham News led with an article about Government cuts, lack of jobs, poor economic forceasts etc etc.  Talk about nothing new under the sun.)
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: mikeb on October 17, 2011, 20:54:20
Thank you to all who have contributed to this thread, very interesting to be reminded of events that slip from memory!  I remember it well, now you have reminded me!!

One thing that puzzles me though, if the culprit was known
Quote
The Board of Inquiry concluded that the fire started as a result of the action of an employee who has since been discharged.
was he / she ever charged with arson, and if not, why not? I recall when as apprentices (1960) we had to sign the Official Secrets Act and to stress the importance of it all we were reminded that treason and setting fire to a Royal Dockyard were, at the time, the only crimes which still carried the death penalty. Even without the ultimate sanction surely a charge of some description should have been brought?
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: afsrochester on October 19, 2011, 14:28:14
I have made some addition to my post of 14 Oct now that a technical problem has been solved.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: cliveh on October 17, 2015, 17:53:55
No.2 Slip was built in 1770 and was covered by a handsome mansard roof in 1837. It was destroyed by a devastating fire in 1966.

The site is now used as a car park

(http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg182/cliveinkent/Chatham%20Various%20Scans/HM%20Dockyard%20-%20No.2%20Slip%20c.1914_zpsmw29obnv.jpeg) (http://s248.photobucket.com/user/cliveinkent/media/Chatham%20Various%20Scans/HM%20Dockyard%20-%20No.2%20Slip%20c.1914_zpsmw29obnv.jpeg.html)

cliveh
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: helcion on October 17, 2015, 20:22:42
Interesting-looking steel-hulled hulk moored off the slip  -  does anyone have any information on it ?
A quick Google found nothing.

Thanks.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Bilgerat on October 17, 2015, 21:13:59
The hulk is the original Thunderbolt Pier, so called because the former floating battery HMS Thunderbolt was converted into a floating pontoon and moored in the River Medway off the former No.1 Dry-Dock, which was filled in during the early 1890's.

Here's a model of HMS Thunderbolt in her original configuration:

(http://i.imgur.com/ZcbKMUF.jpg)

HMS Thunderbolt was originally built for the Crimean War but was completed too late to see any service, being launched just after the war's end in 1856. She was converted to a pontoon in 1873 and sank following a collision with a tug in 1948. She was raised in 1949 and scrapped.

As far as No2 slipway is concerned, the car park was actually built over the original floor. That floor in turn was created when the slipway was filled in in 1893. I know this because when I worked at the Historic Dockyard, we had to lay some new concrete slabs in the car park. When we broke up and removed the original, we uncovered the floor of the slipway which was intact and still bears scorch marks from the 1966 fire. We also pulled up sheets of lead which had melted and poured to the floor and had set.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: helcion on October 17, 2015, 22:55:51
Bilgegrat    -

Many thanks  -  most interesting.

HMS THUNDERBOLT looks like a formidable beast, presumably she was sail-assisted with the rigging & most of the two masts being omitted from the model.   
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: Bilgerat on October 18, 2015, 08:53:18
Here's a little bit more about HMS Thunderbolt. She was indeed a steam-powered vessel, with an auxiliary sailing rig. She was a vessel of 1,954 tons and was 186ft long and 48ft wide across the beam. She was built by Samuda Bros at Millwall and her role was to defend the Thames Estuary at a time of increasing tensions with the French, which saw the British actively preparing for war. Those preparations also saw the construction of the so-called 'Palmerston Follies' and vessels such as HMS Warrior. Things were settled peacefully with the establishment of the 'Entente Cordiale'.

These might be wild assumptions, but given the technology available, I'm assuming that the vessel was powered by a 2 cylinder compound steam engine and would have carried a brigantine rig (2 masted with square sails on the fore mast and fore-and-aft sails on the main mast). I say brigantine-rigged because given her role and the fact that her hull form wouldn't have allowed it anyway, long, trans-oceanic voyages were out of the question and speed and agility didn't enter the equation, so the brigantine rig would have been ideal. She would have proceeded to the required position, been moored with anchors fore and aft and remained in position for long periods.
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: cliveh on January 07, 2018, 15:56:25
No.2 Covered Slip in 1914 with the former floating gun battery HMS Thunderbolt in the foreground. Thunderbolt had been converted into a pier-head in 1873

cliveh
Title: Re: No.2 Covered Slip
Post by: mikeb on January 07, 2018, 18:29:03
From Greenwich Maritime web site...HMS Thunderbolt as built.