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Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #39 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.

Offline HERB COLLECTOR

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #38 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
You will need to scroll down to 27th May.

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #37 on: April 15, 2011, 13:38:05 »

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #36 on: April 11, 2011, 19:55:05 »
REFERENCE SHEET
From Lieutenant-Commander W. Highfield                                To Rear Admiral & Superintendant
His Majesty’s Dockyard
At Sheerness
Dated 28 May 1915

Submitted.
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
Lieutenant-Commander

Offline Riding With The Angels

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #35 on: April 08, 2011, 16:59:35 »

Offline HERB COLLECTOR

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #34 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
also. Stoker David Wills, only survivor. http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=25797
Discovery of wreckage 1962. 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!

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #33 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.

Offline Riding With The Angels

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #32 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?

Offline busyglen

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #31 on: March 20, 2011, 09:26:24 »
Yes, those photos certainly add to the story Kyn.  It was a real tragedy!
A smile is a curve that straightens things out.

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #30 on: March 19, 2011, 22:21:16 »





Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #29 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.

M.Evans?
4/6/15

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #28 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



Submitted.
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

???
P.C.M.
3rd, June 1915.

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2011, 13:26:49 »
From  The Commanding Officer.
His Majesty’s  Ship “Angora”.
Dated  28th May 1915.

SECRET.

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.

Offline Alastair

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #26 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.

Offline kyn

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Re: Princess Irene.
« Reply #25 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.
(1626)

 

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