Waterbodies & Maritime => Wrecks & Disasters => Topic started by: colin haggart on April 19, 2010, 21:25:48

Title: Princess Irene.
Post by: colin haggart on April 19, 2010, 21:25:48
I took photos of  these in The Holy Trinity Church in Sheerness.


Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on August 22, 2010, 10:54:41
Date: 27th May 1915.
From: Admiral Superintendant.
To:  Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.
Submit the Associated Portland Cement Co., report that their barge "Silver Wedding" now at Upnor was close to "PRINCESS IRENE" when explosion took place.
The barge is seriously damaged and will be examined by Dockyard.  The Mate has been taken to R.N.Hospital, Chatham, and the Master has gone home suffering from shock (stop)  They make no claim and I have thanked them for the information and expressed sympathy with the injured man.

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: busyglen on August 22, 2010, 11:06:43
I guess they would be suffering from shock!  It was a terrible tragedy, especially for someone in the near vicinity.  I can't invisage what the sound and after effects were like....more like the noise from a torpedo or bomb going off.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on August 27, 2010, 19:30:19
Royal Naval Barracks, Chatham.
28th May, 1915.
In compliance with your Memorandum No. W.24.G. of the 27th May, 1915, we have the honour to report that, having held a careful enquiry into the circumstances attending the blowing up of H.M.S. "PRINCESS IRENE", the Court is of the opinion that the explosion was an accidental one.
The evidence shows that at the time of the accident mines were being primed on board.  The form of pistol used has been shown and explained to the Court and it appears that a premature explosion might be caused by faulty construction of a pistol if the striker projected into the primer holder so that it could penetrate the detonator when the primer was being screwed on.
A faulty pistol in which the striker projected more than one sixteenth of an inch as supplied to H.M.S. "ANGORA" was produced to the Court.
A second possible cause of explosion might be if when fitting a pistol the tumbler levers did not properly engage under the dropper ring; it has been shown that they will hold with only one under or with all three bearing against but not under the dropper ring.  In such a case, if the pistol were being fitted into the mine, any jar might release the striker and explode the detonator.
A third possible cause of explosion would be if the indiarubber washer was left out of the top of the primer leaving the detonator free to be thrown against the striker, but this could only occur if the striker projected too far as in the first case.
The Officers, Petty Officers and men who gave in written statements were all questioned as to whether they had anything to add to their statements.
Under the lamentable circumstances, the Court consider it impossible to attribute blame but is of the opinion that no plea of haste should ever allow of these pistols being fitted by other than fully qualified men and further that a slight mechanical device should be fitted to the pistols to ensure that the pistol could not fire until it is properly placed with the other safety devices in the mine.
Our report is accompanied by the minutes of evidence.  The inquiry has been hurried to permit of Commander Petre proceeding to sea, but it is not thought that any additional evidence of value is likely to be obtained.
We have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servants,
Commander.  H.M.S. "ANGORA".
Captain.  H.M.S. "CONQUEST".
Rear Admiral.  H.M.S. "PEMBROKE".
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: busyglen on August 28, 2010, 11:31:37
Well I've learnt something here today!  I don't know why, but I thought that the Princess Irene blew up because of a boiler problem (similar to the Bulwark).  It's very interesting seeing these documents Kyn, keep them coming!  :)
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on August 28, 2010, 12:31:35
Minutes of evidence of Court of Enquiry held at R.N.Barracks, Chatham, on Friday 28th May, 1915, to enquire into the blowing up of H.M.S. "PRINCESS IRENE" on Thursday 27th May.

Mr. Leonard Parsons.   Gunner.T.   H,M,S, "Angora"
Called and Cautioned.

1.   Will you explain to the Court how these mines are primed?.
A.   In the ship that I am in, the Chief Electrical Artificer and the Chief Armourer cock the pistol and examine it.  After that is done it is passed to the Torpedo Gunner's Mate - one Torpedo Gunner's Mate to each pair of mine rails.  The priming party is stationed at a table between the mine rails, these men fitting the detonators into the primers.  The fitted primer is then passed to the Torpedo Gunner's Mate who fixes it on the pistol, examining the pistol before fitting the primer.  This is the routine carried out when we have time to do it, but as a rule, the thing is done at such a rush that you have to employ other people on the work in addition to the Torpedo Gunner's Mates.
2.   What sort of people do you refer to?
A.   Leading Torpedo Men and Seamen Torpedomen.
3.   Would these men have had previous instruction?
A.   Instruction in the ship.  There is also another point I should like to mention in regard to the priming.  The priming is practically the last thing done after the mines are got on board and the men have practically worked 18 hours out of 24 and when it comes to the priming they have just about had enough of it.  Therefore unless you have got proper experienced people to do the work - Petty Officers that you can trust - you cannot guarantee that the proper amount of care is going to be taken for the work.
4.   Have you any knowledge whether the procedure was the same on board the "Princess Irene"?
A.   I could not say.
5.   Will you show the Court the procedure in priming?
A.   The procedure was shown and explained to the Court by witness, Chief Electrical Artificer and Torpedo Gunner?s Mate Munn of "ANGORA".
6.   In the pistol which has just been shown to us, the striker protrudes more than it should do.  Have you come across any similar instances in dealing with your mines?
A.   Yes.  Several.
7.   Have you found it to protrude more than that?
A.   Yes.
8.   After gauging these strikers, is the primer immediately inserted?
A.   Any defective pistols are altered before use and the pistol is tested a second time by the Torpedo Gunner's Mate before screwing on the primer.  This is to see the hydrostatic clips are properly engaging under the ring and the striker is gauged again by feeling with the thumb.
9.   What in your opinion are the possible causes, if any, of a premature explosion.

(Due to length of this document I will stop here and continue at a later date)
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on September 01, 2010, 20:27:21
Remarkably the wreck of the Princess Irene was not declared a war grave.
The wreck was lost! until 1962 when it was discovered when a tug fouled an obstruction.
25 tons of wreckage above the sea bed was removed between 1962-64.
The lower hull still remains in position, the bow pointing to the North-East.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: david brown on September 02, 2010, 22:06:10
About five years ago the wreck of a coal hulk which sank whilst alongside or close by the "Princess Irene"
was surveyed and chains were passed around the hull by divers and two tugs the "Harty" & "Warden" with a total of 10,000 horse power were tasked with an attempt to move the wreck along the seabed to shallow water
To everones surprise the wreck was moved about a mile towards Burntwick Island and is now marked by a buoy.
The wreck is possibly that of "HMS Forte" which was cut down and used as a hulk 
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on September 16, 2010, 10:57:01
A.   A defective striker - the striker being too long - and if the thing is being rushed, people not taking sufficient care in gauging or noticing this and also if the washer happened to be left off the primer tin and the pistol was subject to any rough usage, there is nothing to prevent the detonator striking the point of the striker.  If the clips on the dropping ring are not properly engaged and anyone is playing about with the pistol after it was put into the mine, it could be fired then.
10.   Where is the mine when the primer is inserted?
A.   On the sinker, on the rails.
11.   Do you have to cant the mine?
A.   In some cases, yes.
12.   Is there any chance of the whiskers being knocked in doing that?
A.   They are not put on then.  Not until the mine is upright.
13.   Supposing that the primer had been inserted with the clips only just holding but not properly underneath the holding ring and the whisker was struck and the shearing pin sheared, would the mine then explode?
A.   Yes.
14.   In your ship, how many really expert people have you that you can trust to fit these mines?
A.   The only people I care about trusting to do the work are the Chief armourer and the Chief Electrical Artificer for cocking pistols and 2 Torpedo Gunner's Mates.  The other Torpedo Gunner's Mate on board the ship I do not consider has had enough experience to be of much use.
15.   In a previous answer we understood you to say that in case of rush other people were employed.  Whom have you employed in these cases?
A.   In these cases we employ L.T.O.'s.
16.   Would you employ them in preference to the third T.G.M. to whom you refer?
A.   Yes.  I should do.  People who have done the job before.
17.   What labour is used in handling mines during priming?
A.   This is all skilled labour.  The remainder is merely shifting mines and carrying pistols.
18.   Are any cautions given to the unskilled men that handle mines?
A.   They are always cautioned about bumping mines about.  We are always very particular about that.
19.   When a working party, consisting probably largely of stokers, comes on board from the depot, what instructions are given to them?
A.   They are employed on the upper deck in working guys of the derrick and in the lighter hooking on and a few are employed on removing nuts from the tops of mines as they are placed on the rails, and shifting mines along.  No special instructions are required for this.
20.   Are no cautions given to them regarding the precautions to be taken with mines already in position with whiskers on?
A.   There are no mines with whiskers on.  They are in a perfectly safe state.
21.   On board your ship, when is the priming done?
A.   After the mines and sinkers are inboard.  Everything is got ready as the mines are coming in for priming as regards removing nuts and top plates from mines.
22.   Have you ever had occasion to prime while other work was going on on board?
A.   Yes.  We may have been adjusting the brackets of the sinkers at the same time as we have been priming.  We have done that.
23.   Do you ever have to hoist in mines at the same time as priming is going on?
A.   No.
24.   We have here a statement from the "Actaeon" that one mine which has been recovered which had a lower block tackle hooked on to it as if it had been hoisted in.  Would there be any occasion for the tackle to be hooked on except for hoisting in that you can think of?
A.   Yes.  In case of the attachment chain of the mine not being clear it may be necessary to hoist the mine to cleat the attachment chain to get it out over the edge of the sinker.  Although we always do that by means of wedges and bars.
25.   Have you any knowledge as to who was on board the "Princess Irene" at the time?
A.   No.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on September 19, 2010, 14:23:32
Able Seaman William John Pace.  H.M.S. "Princess Irene".
Called and cautioned.

26.   What time did you leave the "Princess Irene"?
A.   9.15 a.m. the trot boat left.
27.   Do you know who was on board at the time you left?  Whether Captain Cobbe was on board?
A.   Captain Cobbe was on board.
28.   Do you know any of the others - whether his Secretary was with him?
A.   They were all on board so far as I know at the time I came off from shore with papers at 8.30 and when I went in with Ward Room papers they were all at breakfast.  All his staff.
29.   What was going on on board when you left the ship?
A.   Priming mines.
30.   Were all the mines on board the ship then?
A.   Yes.
31.   Did you see priming going on?
A.   I saw them put pistols in the mines.
32.   Who was doing it?
A.   All hands, but the working party mostly.  When we got the mines on board on Tuesday, all the pistols were taken in on the upper deck and the Carpenter's crew were opening the boxes and the armourers were cocking the pistols.  On the upper deck inside were all the pistol racks.  The pistols were taking inside on Wednesday morning.  The working party who were from the Depot here were carrying the pistols down to the men who were priming the mines.
33.   Do you know who were actually priming the mines?
A.   All the seaman ratings of the ship's company were assisting in priming the mines.
34.   Have you ever been employed in priming?
A.   Yes.
35.   What part have you taken in it?
A.   Assisting the Gunner in putting detonators in the primers and also assisting the Torpedo Instructors in cocking pistols.
36.   Before cocking pistols, what precautions were taken?
A.   The precautions taken were what we were told by the Captain when cocking the pistols - to see that all the lugs were properly taken off.
37.   Were you given any instructions as to the gauging of the protrusion of the striker?
A.   The Torpedo Gunner and the Torpedo Gunner's Mates used to see to that.
38.   Do you know whether they gauged them?
A.   I cannot say.
39.   Were the pistols always handled by the Torpedo Gunner's Mate?
A.   The Torpedo Gunner's Mates used to be on top of the mine rails and the men used to carry them along and hand them up to them and then the Torpedo Gunner's Mates used to put them in the mines.
40.   Was any fitting ever done by anyone below the rating of Torpedo Gunner's Mate?
A.   Yes.  The Leading Torpedo men used to help to fit the pistols.
41.   How many Leading Torpedo men had you?
A.   I could not say for certain.
42.   Do you know what boats or barges were alongside when you left the ship?
A.   One barge lay alongside the starboard foremost gangway when I left the ship.

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 11, 2010, 13:46:46
43.   What had she in her?
A.   I could not say.
44.   Was any other work going on on the upper deck besides priming mines?
A.   Not that I am aware of.
45.   Did you see the explosion?
A.   No.
46.   Where were you?
A.   Postman ashore.
47.   Do you know whether you had any orders about sailing?
A.   No.
48.   Had you any suspicion that it was possible that there was any ill play in connection with the ship?
A.   Three things happened in the ship some time ago and the Captain cleared lower deck and said to the Ship's Company that he thought there was foul play going on in the ship.  
The first thing was the motor boat that was hoisted at the davits at night.  The falls were left turned up on the bollards of the motor and some one during the night switched on the motor but the cut out of the motor went before the falls had parted.
Second.  Some one had put a screw or nail between two electric wires in the Officers Smoking room and one of the Officers happened to see sparks flying from it.
Third.  Some one had been into the engine room and switched on some valves that let water into the oil tanks.
49.   Had the Ship's Company any suspicions about anyone?
A.   No.
50.   All Englishmen as far as you know?
A.   Yes.  As far as I know.
51.   Your Ship's Company were half Naval ratings and half entered from the shore?
A.   Yes.
52.   Did they all work well together?
A.   Yes.
53.   You stated the pistols were on the upper deck.  Were they primed on the upper deck?
A.   They put the pistols on the upper deck to cock them.
54.   What was done with them then?
A.   They were put in the racks till the following morning.
55.   What happened then?
A.   The working party were carrying them down below for the people that were priming.
56.   Where were they actually priming?
A.   They started on the lower deck.
57.   Did you actually see priming going on?
A.   I saw them priming while I was coming from my mess to catch the 9.15 boat.
58.   What was the position in the ship?
A.   Some were priming on the upper mining deck aft, some on the lower mining deck aft and some forward.
59.   Do you know if there was an Officer in charge of each party?
A.   I could not say.
60.   You are sure there were 3 priming positions?
A.   Yes.
61.   Were whiskers being put on the mines?
A.   I could not say.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 14, 2010, 09:58:17
Signalman John Geffrey Sutton.  H.M.S. "Princess Irene"
Called and cautioned.
62.   What time did you leave the ship?
A.   9.15 trot boat.
63.   What was going on on board when you left the ship?
A.   Priming mines.
64.   Did you see it yourself?
A.   Yes.
35.   Where were they priming them?
A.   Both mining decks.
66.   Who was doing it?
A.   The ship's company in general., assisted by a working party of between 80 and 90 from Depot.
67.   Were there Officers in charge of each deck?
A.   Yes.
68.   Do you know who?
A.   2 Torpedo Gunners who were putting primers in the mines assisted by 2 Torpedo Gunner's Mates.  The Torpedo Gunner's Mates and Leading Torpedo Men were putting the detonators in the primers.
69.   What were the Depot working party doing?
A.   Carrying pistols about and taking off nuts on tops of mines.
70.   Were any of the whiskers on the mines?
A.   No.
71.   Do you know what boats were alongside?
A.   Barges.
72.   What barges?
A.   Mine barges that were bringing pistols, but I would not be certain.
73.   Had you any suspicions of anybody in the ship?
A.   No.  We had some funny things in the ship.
74.   Did you see the explosion?
A.   No.
75.   Was anything being hoisted in or out of the ship at the same time as priming was going on?
A.   Not that I know of.  They had finished the mines themselves the day before.
76.   Do you know what the dockyardmen were doing on board?
A.   Working about 2 anti aircraft guns also supporting the deck below the two mining decks, beams etc.
77.   Had they any fires on board?
A.   Yes.  One between where the two anti aircraft guns were and also one aft on the poop.
78.   What sort of fires?
A.   Fires for heating rivets.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 24, 2010, 16:07:54
James Thompson.  Chief Steward.  H.M.S. "Princess Irene".
Called and Cautioned.

79.   What time did you leave the ship?
A.   9.15 a.m.
80.   Do you know what Officers were on board when you went on shore?
A.   The First Lieutenant, Captain Maurice and the Commander-in-Command.
81.   Do you know whether Captain Cobbe was on board?
A.   Yes.  I saw him and his staff myself.
82.   Did you see anything of the explosion?
A.   Yes.  I saw him and his staff myself.
82.   Did you see anything of the explosion?
A.   Yes.  I was on the town pier waiting to go off.  I saw a flash of flame and smoke.
83.   Were you looking at the ship at the time?
A.   Yes.
84.   Where did the flame first appear?
A.   It enveloped the whole ship.  I could not see the ship for flame.
85.   Could you not distinguish whether it was midships, forward of aft?
A.   It was all over the ship.  It was a very broad flame.
86.   Did you hear one explosion or two?
A.   A series of explosions.  You could not call it more than one.
87.   Had you any knowledge of the system of mining?
A.   Nothing, except what little of it I had had explained to me, and keeping my eyes open.
88.   What were they doing aft when you left?
A.   Priming mines.
89.   Where?
A.   On the lower deck.  The top deck were already primed.  About 150 mines remained to be primed when I left the ship.
90.   Did you see if Officers were on charge of the parties?
A.   On the deck where I took particular notice of the mines, Mr. Rae, Warrant Officer, was in charge.  I was speaking to him.
91.   To your knowledge was the priming being done in haste?
A.   Yes.
92.   Do you know why?
A.   I think they were anxious to see how quickly it could be done.  I heard several say so.
93.   Do you know what boats were alongside?
A.   One barge was all I saw.
94.   Had you any suspicions of anybody in the ship?
A.   No.
95.   Were they all Englishmen as far as you know?
A.   All Britishers.
96.   Are you quite certain there was no priming going on on the upper main deck?
A.   I saw the Carpenters breaking out the pistol boxes and getting them prepared.  I never saw anybody priming them.
97.   You state that the mines on the upper mining decks were finished.
A.   The pistols were in them and they were finished.  I am certain of that.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 27, 2010, 22:05:13
98.   The following ratings were called and asked if they had anything to add to their statements, and all replied that they had nothing to add.

Chief Petty Officer Thomas Cheesman.   "Angora"
Leading Seaman John L. Maw.
Able Seaman William R. Costin.
Able Seaman William J. Mann.
Able Seaman William H. Silver.
Able Seaman George F. Cope.
Able Seaman Arthur C. Hide.  R.N.V.R.
Able Seaman H. Reynolds.  R.N.V.R.
Ordinary seaman H. L. Darton.
Master at Arms John Allum.

Leading Signalman Sidney William Grimsey.  H.M.S. "ANGORA".
Called and Cautioned.

99.   Were you looking at the "Princess Irene" when she blew up?
A.   Just previous to the actual explosion I was looking past there and at the signal there answering a signal from "Actaeon".  Immediately after that I saw a flash and head a terrific explosion.
100.   Where did you see the flash?
A.   The flash seemed to come from the midship part of her., up in one flame.
101.   How many explosions?
A.   One large explosion.
102.   How much of the ship could you see.  Port side, starboard side, or both?
A.   Her stern was towards the midstream.  It showed the starboard side to me.
103.   Was anything alongside her?
A.    Barge on the starboard side and prior to that a trot boat, and another harbour launch, but I could not say whether both had left when the explosion occurred.
104.   Was anything being hoisted in or out of the barge?
A.   Observed nothing.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 28, 2010, 18:57:25
Mr. Herbert Lawrence.  Signal Boatswain.  Garrison Point Signal Station.
Called and Cautioned.

105.   Had you been looking at the "Princess Irene" before?
A.   No.  Not actually looking at her.
106.   Had you been looking over the harbour generally?
A.   Yes.
107.   Were there any aeroplanes in sight?
A.   No.
108.   Can you be certain that there was nothing of that sort above the "Princess Irene"?
A.   Quite positive.  I was looking that way specially, because a destroyer at 49 buoy had been asked for a steamboat from "Actaeon" and I was looking to see if the steamboat was on its way to "Actaeon".

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 29, 2010, 12:52:21
Stated that he had nothing to add to his statement.
Stated that he had nothing to add to his written statement.

Mr Stephen George Quint, Chargeman of Skilled Labourers.
Called and cautioned.
111.   Were you looking at the "Princess Irene" when she exploded?
A.   No.  I had my back to her.
112.   Would you state what you observed on board before you left the ship.  What you noticed being done?
A.   I noticed the naval ratings were engaged in operations on mines.  I am not versed in technical terms with regard to mines but they appeared to be working on top of the rails and top of the sphere.
113.   What work had you been doing on board?
A.   Drilling, riveting and iron caulking.
114.   Whereabouts was this in the ship?
A.   All the rivets were aft and the iron caulking upper deck etc.
115.   Had you any fires alight?
A.   Forward of the upper deck.
116.   What sort of fire?
A.   Rivet forge.
117.   Would that be a long way away from where the mines were?
A.   Yes.  A considerable distance.
118.   Do you know what was in the barge alongside?
A.   No.
119.   Were they working in connection with her?
A.   No.  Not that I saw.  I could not see that they were.
120.   Do you know nothing about mines?
A.   No.  I know nothing about mines.
121.   How were they testing the stern mine rails?
A.   The upper stern rail when I saw it.  When I leaned over the stern they had got a sinker underneath and they were just lowering it over the turn and they were lowering it down a little way and bringing it back again to see that it was alright, I take it.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on October 31, 2010, 12:42:20
EDWARD JOHN STANDEN.  Established Shipwright.
Called and Cautioned.

122.   You were sitting facing the ship, were you not?
A.   Yes.  On the starboard side of the pinnace going towards the dockyard.
123.   Was anything above the ship.  An aeroplane of anything of that sort?
A.   No.  Nothing that I could see.
124.   Was any column of water thrown up outside the ship when the explosion took place?
A.   I could not see that, but the flame seemed to run from forward to aft.
125.   Where do you think the first explosion occurred?
A.   I thought the flame came from right forward just before the funnels and went aft.
126.   What did you see taking place between the ship and the barge alongside?
A.   Taking covers or blank flanges and bringing them out and throwing them down the fore hold of the barge.
127.   Did you see what they were replacing them with?
A.   Something, but I do not know the nature of a mine.  I saw them placing some thing on the mine.
128.   The Dockyardmen had two forges on board, did they not?
A.   I do not know.  I was sent at 7 a.m. in the morning to take some slings out of the boat to take to the Yard to be tested.
Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on November 15, 2010, 17:04:49
SAMUEL CLAY.  Established skilled labourer.
Called and cautioned.
129.   Were you looking at the ship when the explosion occurred?
A.   We had just left the ship about 3 minutes.
130.   Were you looking at her?
A.   Our backs were towards her.
131.   Did you see what the people were doing when you came on board?
A.   Yes.  They were connecting the mines up, taking the charges and screwing them on and then putting them down inside.  Connecting the caps and screwing all the nuts up and putting the gear and the long bars, putting them in position.
132.   That long bar - is that a very long bar?
A.   About 2 ft 6 inches long.  Screwing them in each side.
133.   On which deck was that?
A.   The lower main deck.
134.   Did you see the state of mines on the upper deck?
A.   I had occasion to go up there once but I was only there a few minutes.
135.   Did you see the mine on which the Commander was working over the stern rails?
A.   I believe the Commander and Captain were aft at about 10.15 when we had just come up from the magazine and were waiting for the boat to come ashore.  I did not see them.
136.   You say you saw mines being J???ed and hammered to break the joint?  These were the ones before they were fitted?
A.   Yes. Blank flanges.
Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on November 22, 2010, 20:34:19
Henry Fuller.  Skilled Labourer.
Called and cautioned.
137.   What work were you doing on board?
A.   Iron caulking and cutting.
138.   Whereabouts?
A.   In the first place we cut out some holes for the bollards for the hawsers to go through.  Then we were on the lower deck caulking combings and in the magazine.
139.   What were you caulking with?
A.   Iron caulking.
140.   Did you see men of the ship's company at work on board?
A.   In the first place when they fetched the mines on board, they had a sort of flange covers on top of the mines.  They undid the ends and jarred them with a hammer to break the joints.  Then - we were close handy to them - we saw them fetch some covers with a tube in the centre and wires on it from I do not know where.  Next they lifted these on top of the mines on a bottle shaped affair about 9 by 3 screws on the end of that, and replaced these in the mine.  Next time I was passing they had bars about 2 feet or 2 ft 6 inches long with a hooked shape thing into the sides of them and they lay along the side like that.  (Demonstrated to the Court).  I passed right alongside them up an alley way.
141.   Was this on the upper mining deck or lower?
A.   Lower.
142.   Did you notice the upper one?
A.   No.  They had not started on them when we left the upper cutting out and came to the lower cutting.  They were taking blank flanges in but not putting other gear into them.
143.   Were you looking at the ship when the explosion occurred?
A.   No.  We had our backs to her.  We had just passed the "ANGORA".  We had just got the fore side of her.
Witness withdrew.

Stated he had nothing to add to his written statement.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: conan on December 18, 2010, 17:37:14
From the archive


Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: conan on December 18, 2010, 17:39:54
also I found this

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on December 18, 2010, 17:59:46
Thats a lovely picture, she was bigger than I expected!
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on January 11, 2011, 09:23:15
Called and cautioned.

145.   What party were you in charge of yesterday?
A.   Party loading up barges with mines for the "Angora"
156.   Where were you when the explosion occurred on board the "Princess Irene"?
A.   In the chart house of the Mine carrier "COVE".
147.   Will you state what occurred as far as you know?
A.   The first thing I realised was a tremendous explosion.  At first I thought it was the mast of the derrick of the carrier come down.  The whole of the fore part of the ship was covered in dark brown smoke.  I went straight out of the chart house.  When I got out of the door There was a much bigger explosion than the first one.  The smoke came right over us.  I thought it was one of the mines in the hold had gone.  When the smoke cleared I saw what had happened.
148.   You did not witness it yourself.?
A.   No.  I did not see the first explosion at all.  We were just leeward of her.
149.   How far off were you?
A.   200 yards at the most I should think.
150.   Do you know what they were doing on board the "Princess Irene"?
A.   I could not be certain.  I understood they were priming.  They had taken all the mines in.  The only party we had alongside was one for empty boxes.
151.   When did she draw her mines?
A.   The first lot were put alongside Tuesday afternoon and they started taking them in on Wednesday at 6 a.m.
152.   What sort of mines were they?
A.   Majority were guncotton ones.  I think there were about 90 lyddite and a few ammonia.  They were a mixed
 lot just as they had come out of the holds.  The lyddite ones had been sent from Woolwich about 48 hours before.
153.   Do you know the nature of the pistols they were fitting.?
A.   Heneage pistols mark III.  There were no special pistols for the lyddite ones.  When the carrier first came round she had about 100 lyddite mines and in equal number of pistols to go with them.  Cases marked lyddite pistols.
154.   You think they were all ordinary pistols.
A.   Yes.  They were all Mark III or II Star.
154.   Had you been on board "Princess Irene" at any time they were priming mines?
A.   No.  Not this time.  The first time she loaded I think I was on board but I am not quite certain.
156.   You lately have had great experience in loading mine-layers.  have you not?
A.   Yes.  Since last October.
157.   Have you any theory to account for this explosion?
A.   None at all.  They get knocked about.  Certain mines get hoisted out of
the holds but probably not more than when they are being put on board ship.  All primers and detonators were put in one barge together.  They were not spread about the ship when they first got them.
158.   Do you know anything about Captain Cobbe and his staff?
A.   No.  Nothing at all.  The Captain of the "Acteaon" told me he was on board but I have not seen him at all.

Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on January 13, 2011, 10:01:12
Lieutenant Arthur Howard Notley.  R.N.R.
H.M. Trawler.  "SCOTT".
Called and Cautioned.
159.   Were you looking at the "Princess Irene" at the time of the explosion?
A.   Yes.  The reason I was doing so was because she was one of our own boats.
160.   How far off was she?
A.   3 cables.
161.   Was there any external throwing up of water.  Any column of water?
A.   I saw none.
162.   Could you see both sides of her?
A.   No.  The starboard side only.
163.   You say the first flash occurred by her mainmast?
A.    Yes.
164.   Would that be just abaft her funnels?
A.   Well abaft her funnels.
165.   Did you notice whether there were any aeroplanes overhead?
A.   I did not look for one.
166.   Is there anything you wish to add to your statement?
A.   No.
167.   Did you hear the second explosion distinct from the first?
A.   Without a doubt.
Witness withdrew.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on March 11, 2011, 13:40:03
COPIES OF SIGNALS OF 27th MAY 1915 relative to loss of H.M.S. “PRINCESS IRENE”
FROM: “Actaeon II” to Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.
“PRINCESS IRENE” blown up at 11.8 a.m.  (1114)

FROM  “Actaeon” to Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.
One mine has been recovered which had the lower block of a Tackle hooked on to it as if it was being hoisted in.  (1250)

FROM Rear  Admiral & Superintendant, Sheerness.
To  Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.

Submit following telegram has been sent to Admiralty:-  Confidential.  “Princess Irene” blew up about 11.15 this morning, lying at No.28 buoy.  Of the vessel nothing remains visible.
“Angora” lying at No.27 buoy suffered minor damage to cabins, glass etc. by force of explosion.
Oil Fuel Depot, Port Victoria, has been severely damaged by portions of vessel being blown through Tanks & Pumping Station.
Four Full Tanks perforated and oil escaping to about half way down.
Pumping Station and main pump line damaged and out of action, caused by large fragments of ship’s side falling on them.
Oiling Pier also damaged.
As far as can be ascertained only one Survivor – Stoker David Wills picked up alive but burnt.
Several men belonging to vessels lying close to were wounded by falling splinters.  (1440)

From  Commander-in-Chief, The Nore  To  Admiralty.  No.225.

The following were on board in addition to Ship’s Company:-  Captain-in-Charge of Minelayers, Engineer Lieutenant R.N.R. Reed, Assistant Paymaster Stallard and a few ratings who accompanied C.C.M.L. from “Princess Margaret” particulars of whom will be reported as soon as possible.
The following were also on board:-  78 Dockyard Workmen from Sheerness and Acting Mate W.B. Sinclair with a working party of 88 Petty Officers and men from Chatham Depot.
Steam Launch 263 alongside ship at the time is reported lost with Acting Mate T. Newbigging and crew 2 Petty Officers and 3 men.
No boats were away from the Ship and only one survivor of those on board is Stoker David Wills of Depot’s Working Party, now on board “Angora” suffering from burns.
3 men were in Sheerness Sub-Depot.
No other information yet received as to men on leave.
Particulars of all persons referred to above being sent to Admiralty in writing tonight.

FROM  Commander-in-Chief, The Nore.
To  “Angora”
Subject to Medical Officer’s approval a statement should be obtained from the survivor from “Princess Irene” this afternoon for production at Enquiry to-morrow, particularly with reference to any work which was being done in connection with mines of magazines at the moment.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: Alastair on March 11, 2011, 15:54:42
This sounds very familiar to the loss of HMS Dasher, an escort carrier which exploded without warning in Scapa Flow.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on March 12, 2011, 13:26:49
From  The Commanding Officer.
His Majesty’s  Ship “Angora”.
Dated  28th May 1915.


David Wills.  Stoker.  (Depot working party)

The following information was obtained from the above named man, who is a survivor from H.M.S. “Princess Irene”:-
He was working on board from the Barracks.
Was just going to have dinner, and he was cook of the mess.  Going to the galley which was forward.
Finished hoisting in mines last night, 26th inst.
He saw them taking top plates off and adjusting strikers.  putting something into the mines.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on March 14, 2011, 12:23:44
The first and third possible causes of this deplorable accident as suggested by the Court are considered improbable in themselves and still further so as in either case the explosion would almost certainly have occurred away from a mine and no further result than the detonation of the primer and not of adjacent mines should have necessarily happened.
The second suggested cause is considered as far the most probable.
A danger from this cause has always been in view with the Heneage pistol and the consequent necessity for the greatest possible care has been repeatedly pointed out by D.N.O.
It is largely in consequence of this possibility (which however should never eventuate given great care) that the new pistol known as Mark IV has recently been proposed and approved for adoption on G.01872 of 17-5-15.
In this pistol the firing spring is not under compression till the proper moment of firing and the danger when priming is therefore reduced to a minimum.
Manufacture has commenced and it is hoped in the near future to replace all pistols of the Heneage type.
From the design of the Heneage pistol it is not thought possible to introduce a safety arrangement such as is proposed by the Court but it is for consideration whether any more Service mines should be primed with this type.
It is pointed out that once primed the mines are very safe indeed and the only moments of real danger are between screwing the primer on to the pistol and introducing it into the mine.
During these moments there are numerous possibilities of danger but all from one form or another of lack of the necessary precautions in dealing with an instrument which from its very nature and design must be dangerous.
As regards the evidence of Mr Leonard Parsons it is deplorable that seemingly irresponsible people should ever handle the pistol after being primed.  Still more deplorable is it to read that this business is done with a rush or in the light of an evolution and it is proposed to submit a further Torpedo Order regarding the necessity of deliberate care in the work.
The answer to question 13 is incorrect.  Once the pistol and primer are in the mine the pistol is prevented from firing by the safety ring of the mooring rope safety gear.  The shearing pin being sheared had no effect beyond allowing the hydrostatic valve to be pushed in.  The valve operates three clutches holding up the dropping ring and requires a pressure equivalent to a head of water of 5-feet.
Evidence of W.J. Pace, A.B.  “Princess Irene”.

Question 36.  Answer not understood, it is presumed that what is meant is – to see the three clutches properly engaged under dropping ring.

Philip Dunes
For D.N.O.
1 June, 1915

If proper precautions are taken such as those in T.O. G.2214/15 of last March 1915 it is considered that an explosion from the accidental firing of a pistol during the operation of priming could not happen.  The Officers of the Minelayers were all aware of the necessity for such precautions.
2.   It is considered very improbable that the explosion was caused by a faulty pistol in which the striker projected too far, as, if this was the case, the primer would explode while it was being screwed on the pistol and it could not then have been n the mine, which it is considered must be the case to cause the explosion of a mine.
3.   The second cause suggested by the Court is the most probable one, in which case, it is much regretted that carelessness in seeing the Pistol properly cocked before placing it in the mine would be the primary cause of the accident.
4.   It has been clearly proved that with a well made Pistol properly assembled and cocked, it is impossible, even when it is severely handled and bumped about, to release the striker.
5.   The third possible cause given by the Court is not concurred in, except as to the striker protruding too far, which is a similar cause to the first one suggested and is dealt with in para 2 of this Minute.
6.   The Mining Committee, D.N.O. and the late Captain Cobbe have all been aware of the great undesirability of retaining a Pistol such as the Heneage type with a compressed spring, and have directed their attention towards obtaining a more satisfactory one.  The Heneage Pistol has been superseded by the Mark IV Pistol, which will shortly be issued as pointed out by D.N.O.
7.   The question of fitting a safety device to the Heneage Pistol such as proposed by the Court, has been carefully considered and is not thought practicable.
8.   With regard to D.N.O.s suggestion whether any more mines should be primed with Heneage Pistols; proposal to issue directions again calling attention to T.O. G.2214/15 of 1st March 1915 has been forwarded to the Secretary of the Admiralty, adding to it other precautions that are considered necessary; as it is beyond doubt that the Pistol will not fire if properly assembled, it is considered this Pistol should be used until the Mark IV is supplied.  There may be a small risk, but it is considered not to be beyond the risks that should be taken at the present time.  If these Pistols were not used, the “Orvieto”, the “Angora”, and the Trawler Minelayers would all be useless until the Mark IV is supplied in such numbers necessary to fit them out.  Further, about 14000 mines of this description have been primed and laid since the War commenced and this is the first accident that has occurred.  It may now be presumed that even greater care will be exercised than before, so that the chance of further accident is very small.
(8)   With reference to the evidence of Mr. Leonard Parsons, the defects of the ship were to be completed on 25th May.  On 20th May the late C.C.M.L. reported in reply to a telegram “that if the Mine rails were completed by date promised and were satisfactory, “Princess Irene” should be ready to proceed to sea to lay mines A.M. 29th May”, giving three days to take in and prime.  This does not give an idea of any intention to rush matters; the old Minelayers with the assistance of working parties used to take 6 to 8 hours to get in and prime 100 mines; in February they frequently went out to lay mines one day and were ready to go again the next day.  In his evidence, Question 151, Lieut. Wragge states the mines “Were put alongside on Tuesday afternoon and they started taking them in on Wednesday morning at 6 a.m.”  The mines were all got in on the 26th, leaving two days for priming, say 17 working hours which is plenty of time in which to do it easily.  This does not look like rushing.
(9)   There have been occasions on which the operation has been hurried and for the exigencies of War it may be necessary to do so again; it has been ascertained that on these occasions, owing to the lack of P.C.O.s, those whose duty it is to prime the mines have to supervise the men while getting in mines, this may be to what Mr. Parsons referred when in A. 3 he said “When it comes to priming they have just about had enough of it” – but it is pointed out that on this occasion there is no evidence that it was intended to work day and night, nor was it necessary to do so to complete in the three days given for the work.
(10)   When the P.O.s and Leading Seamen required for Quarter Master Coxswain of boats &c are allowed for, the P.O.s available for duty with parts of the ship is very small, so that the Torpedo Gunners’ Mates and other skilled ratings employed specially for priming work must be employed during the period of hoisting in mines.
(11)   After carefully considering the complements of these ships it is considered that additional P.O.s are required and it is recommended the following additions be made to these complements:
“Princess Margaret”   2 P.O.s
“Angora”                   4 P.O.s
“Biarritz”                   2 P.O.s
“Paris”                       2 P.O.s

3rd, June 1915.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on March 19, 2011, 21:08:06
From these reports it seemed clear that the cause of the explosion must have been due to an accident due to the non-engagement of the tumbler levers under the dropper ring when fitting the pistol.  The D.N.O. and P.C.M. both concur in rejecting the alternative causes of the explosion put forward by the Court of Enquiry.
If anyone is to blame for this, it must be one of the unfortunate persons who lost their lives in the explosion.
The suggestion that the accident was caused by rushing the work is discounted by the remarks of the P.C.M. who whoever suggests an addition of P.O’s to the complements of the Minelayers.  It will be necessary to communicate with the Coroner who will expect to know the cause of the explosion.  It is therefore suggested that he should be informed as above.

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on March 19, 2011, 22:21:16


Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: busyglen on March 20, 2011, 09:26:24
Yes, those photos certainly add to the story Kyn.  It was a real tragedy!
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: Riding With The Angels on April 07, 2011, 20:46:03
Great pics - I had a peruse through a book in a well known bookstore the other day, which I didn't purchase, think it was called Kent Disasters or something but it had an article about supposed espionage due to a person last known on The Bulwark I think had been known to have been on 3 others including the Irene just before they blew up. Is this widely known?
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on April 08, 2011, 08:58:13
There were runours after the incidents but after an investigation it was decided that they were just accidents.  I have not seen any paperwork about this rumour yet though.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on April 08, 2011, 16:03:22
Great pics - I had a peruse through a book in a well known bookstore the other day, which I didn't purchase, think it was called Kent Disasters or something but it had an article about supposed espionage due to a person last known on The Bulwark I think had been known to have been on 3 others including the Irene just before they blew up. Is this widely known?
Sabotage, what a coincidence.  http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=27735 (http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=27735)
also. Stoker David Wills, only survivor. http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=25797 (http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=25797)
Discovery of wreckage 1962. http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=33540 (http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=33540)
Apologies to management for 3 links to the same site, but only members can use search and there are 207 pages re ships and navies!
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: Riding With The Angels on April 08, 2011, 16:59:35
Thanks Herb Collector the book I perused is this one

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kent-Disasters-Roy-Ingleton/dp/1845631161/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302278300&sr=1-1 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kent-Disasters-Roy-Ingleton/dp/1845631161/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302278300&sr=1-1)

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on April 11, 2011, 19:55:05
From Lieutenant-Commander W. Highfield                                To Rear Admiral & Superintendant
His Majesty’s Dockyard
At Sheerness
Dated 28 May 1915

The following report is forwarded in connection with the diving operations on H.M.S. “PRINCESS IRENE”.
Divers have examined the fore part close to No.28 buoy and report that what appears to be the upper deck is intact for a distance of bout 40 feet, the bollards and capstan are also attached to the deck; abaft this the deck had partly collapsed.
A large piece of the stem is showing at low water with the port bow plating attached, but the starboard plating had been blown off.
The ship’s side below this deck had been blown outwards apparently as the diver can only feel jagged plating.
One body was recovered forward found lying on the deck held down by some handrails.
Several more bodies are also there held down by wreckage, also pieces of bodies.
The chain cable can be recovered.
The mast has been examined and it has a piece of derrick attached to it and is held down by twisted iron and beams; this is apparently the mainmast.
Two of the obstructions well away from the ship were found to be flat pieces of plating lying on the bottom and of no danger to navigation.
The three pieces of wreckage between No. 12 buoy and the wreck marking buoy have been examined and they stand about five feet off the bottom; this allows a draught of 27 feet at low water – the buoys have been left on those pieces.
Between No. 28 buoy and the mast there is only a depth of about three fathoms at low water and near 28 buoy where the deck is still intact only about six inches of water which gradually increases to about 10 feet.
A few small pieces of the wreck lie close round the Northern part of No.28 buoy but they have 30 feet over them at low water.
A rough sketch of the position of the wreck is attached.

W. Highfield
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on April 15, 2011, 13:38:05
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on August 30, 2011, 21:43:41
Princess Irene, auxiliary minelayer, destroyed by internal explosion at Sheerness, Thursday, 27th May 1915.
List of dead, including the 75 local Dockyard workers,(Admiralty civilian). In Granville road alone, there were ten bereaved familes.
http://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1915-05May.htm (http://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1915-05May.htm)
You will need to scroll down to 27th May.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: kyn on March 23, 2012, 19:35:33
29th May 1915

Sheerness Disaster

Explosion oil 6,000-ton mine layer VESSEL LITERALLY BLOWN TO BITS

One survivor out of 200

A disaster which recalls that which befell the battle-ship Bulwark in November, when, however, the loss of life was nearly four times as great, occurred at Sheerness, at the confluence of the Thames and Medway, 52 miles from London, at 11 o’clock on Thursday morning.
The auxiliary cruiser Princess Irene (6,000-ton), which was engaged as a mine-layer, was blown up, and of the 200 on board, including 77 dockyard workers, all perished except one.
It is stated that the cause of the disaster was accidental.
The people ashore suddenly saw a vast sheet of flame shoot upwards from the vessel, with a deafening roar when the smoke had cleared away, only fragments of wreckage and a few floating corpses were left.
The Princess Irene was largely manned at Chatham, and only left the dockyard 24 hours previously.  She was moored to a buoy 350 yards in from shore.
A stoker named David Willis, who is the sole survivor, was badly burned, and is unable to give an account of the accident.  He is understood to have said that he was working in the middle of the vessel when the explosion took place.  He thinks that he must have been blown into the water with part of the ship in which he was working.
Three other men belonging to the Princess Irene had just gone ashore, otherwise the whole crew would have been blown to pieces.
Nothing except a portion of a mast marks the place where the Princess Irene was berthed.  The Medway is blocked with pieces of wreckage, and little bits of human bodies.
The explosion was more severe than that which sunk the Bulwark.  Houses near the quay seemed to reel under the shock, which was actually felt at Maidstone, 22 miles away.
Two little girls, playing on a verandah at Port Victoria, the starting place of Continental steamer,2? Miles west of Sheerness were struck by falling wreckage and killed, and places ten miles to the south west were covered with falling fragments.
Houses at Sittingbourne, nine miles away, were shaken, and the windows broken.  The ground trembled like an earthwork, and women rushed into the street with their children, fearing a Zeppelin raid.  Several persons were injured.
A boot, a collar and tie, and a pound of butter fell in a garden at Rainham, four miles distant.
Two dockers, who were returning to the Princess Irene in a Government pinnace, state that they were obliged to take refuge in the cabin from the run of burning debris.  When able to emerge, no sign of the vessel, on which they had been working an hour earlier, could be seen.  She had been blown into the minutest fragments.  There was little disturbance of the water, which was as black as ink.
The wreckage about them resembled matchwood.
One man was seen swimming, with a life belt on.  It was believed that he was a survivor but was found to belong to another ship having jumped overboard, believing that his own vessel was doomed.
A seaman on the deck of a neighbouring ship narrates that he saw a huge flame spring from the deck of Princess Irene, followed by smoke.  Then came a series of crackling explosions, followed by the main explosion.  A great volume of smoke and coal dust rose into the air, and the Princess Irene simply melted away.  The explosion seemed to stun everyone on his ship for a few moments.  Then the boats crews were ordered to pick up survivors.
Only two men of a number of working in neighbouring barges were saved.
Several men were killed elsewhere, including the crew of five belonging to a harbour launch which was alongside the Princess Irene.
There was pathetic scenes outside the gates of the Shipyard, where a notice was posted stating that 77 workers had lost their lives in the execution of their duty in Sheerness shipyard.
An officer aboard another vessel stated that the Princess Irene was hurled into the air a mile high in ten thousand fragments.  He could distinctly make out the forms of men amidst the firing wreckage.  The first he saw of the explosion was two pillars of flame, at intervals of a few seconds, shooting about 300ft. in the ait.
The Princess Irene was a 6,000-ton steel twin screw steamer, owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and was built by W. Denny and Bros, at Dumbarton, only last year she was fitted for oil fuel, and was intended to trade between British Columbia and Eastern Canadian Ports.
HMS Bulwark, a battleship of 15,000 tons, built in 1893, was blown up at Sheerness on November 27, only 1 of a compliment of nearly 800 men being picked up alive.  As the outcome of the inquiry it was reported that the explosion was due to the accidental ignition of ammunition on board the vessel there was no evidence that the disaster was due either to treachery on board the warship or to the act of the enemy.  It was clear from the statements of eye-witnesses and divers that no torpedoes or mines could have been used, there was no such upheaval of water as would accompany the explosion of a mine or torpedo, and an examination proved that there not been any external damage to the hull experts were of opinion that the exact cause of the accidental ignition of the ammunition would never be known.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: martinrogers on April 07, 2012, 17:55:16
Mr. Dubery,
As we hang in the middle of Estimate I have only had time to have a cursory look at this.
My first impression is that if the wreckage does indeed cause damage to Shipping it would no doubt be economical to let the Admiralty salvage vessel, which is in the area, carry out the necessary investigations.
I certainly take your point about any future substantial expenditure falling a Navy votes but providing the present work is carried out subject to the provisions of 9 of the Admiralty’s letter, this can perhaps be discussed later if necessary.

Mr. Dubery
The discussion whether to go about with this is of course a policy one.  But one of the points to consider is where, if anywhere, legal liability lies.  If it does lie anywhere, or if the need to cleat the wreck clearly rests on certain concerns, eg BP Jenkins Ltd., against when a claim could and should be made, then a decision as to c claim would mean a claim abandoned.  Otherwise it can be located as ordinary expenditure.
R. Lockar

1915 Wreck at Chatham
If the wreck has not in fact shifted upwards it would appear that there is no more danger now than there has been for 48 years.  The danger appears to have come into being because what might be said by now to be the local natural conditions do not suit the larger ships which the firms using the sire (at Admiralty pleasure) have decided to use.  In the absence of a wreck there would presumably be no moral obligation on the Admiralty to dredge to the depth required by a change in commercial ships simply because the Admiralty has the prior right to the use of the waters.  It would be interesting to know what would be the position if, having cut down permanencies, after the further passage of years even larger vessels with to enter.  The commercial users might argue that the greater costs of dredging due to the presence of buries wreckage is an Admiralty obligation.  It would also be interesting to know whether there was any technical or legal difference between wrecks actually on the bottom hitherto leaving adequate clearance and those entirely buried in the bottom where a deeper bottom is needed.
V. R. Dubery
16th January, 1963
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: martinrogers on April 11, 2012, 18:45:09
16th January, 1963

Dear Botton,

Please refer to your letter of 7th January, 1963 about the wreckage of H.M.S. PRINCESS IRENE at Chatham.

We are not at all sure about the presence of any moral obligation for the Admiralty to facilitate the movements of commercial shipping where the advent of deeper draft ships has made what was hitherto a satisfactory clearance now unsatisfactory.  However, the presence of the naval salvage vessel and the fact that the investigations and possible work which you propose are of negligible cost makes it entirely sensible that it should be done.

In the absence of any legal liability, however, we would not be prepared to agree to any substantive expenditure for the benefit of commercial shipping, other than on full repayment.

I convey Treasury sanction to the work proposed in paragraph 6 of your letter.

Yours sincerely
V.R. Dubery

Old Admiralty Building, Whitehall, LONDON S.W.1
2 September, 1964

Dear Truman,

1.   Please refer to Dubery’s reply to Botton on 16th January, 1963 about the wreckage of HMS PRINCESS IRENE.
2.   I am writing to let you know that the work on this wreck at carious periods amounted in all to about seven weeks and, largely because of the fuel consumption (about £2,000), the expenditure assessed on an extra cost basis amounts to £2,825 including £792 on the work which Botton mentioned in paragraph 2 of his letter of 7th January 1963 to Dubery.  This total expenditure is clearly more than Botton envisaged at the time.
3.   Divers found the wreckage in an area approximately 150 feet by 60 feet and the main obstruction. Which consists of heavily distorted ship’s main frame and shell plating, is 20 feet in diameter at ground level and rises to a pinnacle 10 feet above ground.  In the surround numerous pieces of wreckage are projecting above ground level.  Wire strops were secured to the main obstruction and part of the wreckage was torn away.  The pinnacle was reduced by some 4 feet and this produced clearance of 27 feet.  Divers reported complete lack of visibility underwater and, due to the strong tidal currents, diving time was restricted to 3 hours each day.
4.   The BP Refinery (Kent) Limited and the Harbour Master, Medway Conservancy are not satisfied with what has been achieved and it is possible they may seek to being political pressure on the Government to do more.  We, on the other hand, whilst not too happy about our position morally, have been re-assured by Treasury Solicitor that, by virtue of Section 3 of the Medway Conservancy Act 1881 and Section 741 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, the Ministry of Defence is not liable for either the removal or for payment for the removal of the wreck and out answer to BP and Medway would be that, whilst we might undertake to do more work on this wreck when RFA SWIN can be spared, this would be only on a full repayment basis.  From the experience gained it is reckoned the task of producing thirty feet clear below chart datum might take 6 months or more, so the operation could be most expensive.
5.   Botton mentioned in the first paragraph of his letter of 7th January 1963 arrangements under repayment terms for the authorities at Chatham to help the Medway Board investigate the cause of the parted towing wires.  The agreement was that we supplied a diver and supporting unit to identify the obstruction.  The account on a repayment basis amounted to £38 11s 0d but unfortunately, in the difficult circumstances surrounding the whole business, this was not presented locally and the claim is now a very stale one.  We should like your authority to write this small item off.  As it transpired that the cause of the trouble was one of our wrecks, which perhaps ought to have been appreciated in the first instance, and, as we are refusing to do anything more about it hereafter except on full repayment terms, there is some risk that substantial public controversy might be touched off if we present this bill belatedly to the Conservancy Board.  We therefore consider that it would be reasonable to avoid the risk b writing off the £38 11s 0d.  I hope that against the policy background you will feel able to agree to this.
Yours Sincerely
D. R. Taylor

323 September, 1964

Dear Taylor,

We spoke on the telephone about your letter of 3rd September, 1964 concerning the wreckage of H.M.S. Princess Irene.

We were sorry to learn that the cost of work on this wreck to date has amounted to considerably more than was originally envisaged.  However, we observe that it is not the intention of your Department to carry on any more work of this nature save on a full repayment basis.

You stated that in view of the lapse of time, you think that it would be reasonable to write off £38 11s 0d which was the cost of supplying a diver and supporting unit to identify the obstruction.  Whilst, of course, this sum is within your delegated authority, we assume that you have considered whether such a write-off could possibly be used but the Medway conservancy Board as a further lever in their endeavours to make your Department remove some more of this wreck free of charge.  From what you say about the Treasury Solicitor’s advice, we presume that your legal position is sufficiently strong to resist any further pressure from the Conservancy Board or indeed BP.

Yours sincerely,
D. A. Truman
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: sheppey_bottles on April 19, 2012, 22:34:51
We visited Halfway Cemetery recently to take pictures of the Primroses there, whilst having a walk around we came across a couple of burials of Mineral water company owners. Whilst looking at Thomas Grout of Sheerness' memorial stone I noticed that a son was killed in the Princess Irene explosion. Here is his memorial inscription...

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: scoop on February 24, 2014, 18:57:49
One of a few if not the only victim of the disaster interred on the island of Sheerness.  Sidney Lionel Flinn Cole (b 14 Jul 1888 Sheerness) an Assistant Paymaster Royal Naval Reserve died as a result of the Princess Irene explosion having been aboard at the time.  The only child of William George Cole (b 1859 Pembroke) and Emma Elizabeth Flinn (b 1866 Sheerness),  Sidney had joined the service after the outbreak of war.  As well as losing his only son,  William George Cole was in charge of the naval department at Sheerness that some 76 dockyard workers that perished on the Princess Irene were members of. 

William George Cole was awarded an OBE 1 Jan 1918 whilst Chief Constructor at the Sheerness Dockyard.  William and his wife Emma were interred in the same grave as their son in Halfway cemetery following their deaths at Wallington, Surrey in 1949 and 1950 respectively.

This picture of the headstone is from 2011 when it had fallen over and was partially obscured by undergrowth.  I do not know if it has since been re-erected or removed.

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: mikegunnill on March 10, 2015, 21:44:03
Thank you for the latest information, as always I am grateful for the time and trouble members go in helping.  I have recently spoken to relations of two from the vessel Messenger.  I think it was a sailing barge.  One step forward in research then two backwards.  It's a funny game.

Thank you again
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: grandarog on March 11, 2015, 06:35:29
Messenger was certainly a Thames sailing barge.
A 67 Tonner  Registry No 94348   London.   She was built at Limehouse in 1888.
Last recorded as being owned by Arthur Sales of Arsenal Wharf, Woolwich.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: conan on March 11, 2015, 11:35:14
I thought I'd repost this photo as it has disappeared from my post of Dec.2010


Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on March 13, 2015, 20:30:39
In the interests of accuracy I should point out that, despite the caption, the ship in the photo is the Princess Margaret, sister ship of the Princess Irene. The photo was probably taken during her trials in the Firth of Clyde.

From the start, my efforts at unearthing material concerning a ship which served for only the briefest of periods proved difficult and in spite of contacting all possible likely photographic sources in Britain and Canada, the Princess Irene appears to have been a ship that was remarkably camera-shy. Even contemporary reports relating to the explosion which ended her tragically short career used photographs of her sister ship. In the circumstances, I too have had to resort to using views of the Princess Margaret although three rare pictures of the 'Irene' were fortunately located.

From Blown to Eternity! the Princess Irene story. John Hendy. IBSN 1-871947-61-8. Ferry Publications 2001.

A most informative little book, well worth getting. All three photos of the Princess Irene are in the book.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: conan on March 14, 2015, 07:51:02
Thanks for the correction Herb Collector. Were they fairly identical ''twins'' or were there major differences?
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: HERB COLLECTOR on March 14, 2015, 22:15:03
The two ships were virtually identical. The Princess Margaret was the first to be launched, with all due ceremony, on the 24 June 1914. The Princess Irene was launched on the 20 October 1914. With the war underway there was much less pomp and ceremony and it seems that no photos exist of the launch or subsequent trials. The two ships were requisitioned by the Admiralty on the 26 December 1914 (Margaret) and the 20 January 1915 (Irene).
Nice photo whichever ship it is.
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: Lyn L on May 27, 2015, 07:06:30
From Kent Online today . The 100th anniversary of the loss of HMS Princess Irene .

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: grandarog on May 27, 2015, 16:50:24
Excellent 2 page spread article in the Sittingbourne News Extra, May 27th. Lot more detail than the on line version. :)
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: conan on August 12, 2015, 14:09:07
Another part of the story

Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: Trikeman on January 14, 2016, 21:47:12
I found some original WW1 newspaper cuttings in a scrapbook that my Wife's Great Uncle kept as a child.
Interestingly there were reports and fairly graphic eyewitness reports of the terrible Princess Irene explosion.
The cuttings are brown and creased but so much more personal and horribly real when discovered for the first time
Title: Re: Princess Irene.
Post by: conan on January 15, 2016, 00:28:02
The coal hulk  HMS Bulwark