Navy sent to sunken Thames warship with 1,400 tonnes of explosives – 'mass damage' fears

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The ship was sunk during World War Two in August of 1944. The SS Richard Montgomery was found wrecked on the Nore sandbank in the Thames Estuary, near Sheerness. The ship is an American Liberty ship carrying a cargo of munitions – approximately 1400 tonnes of them.

Due to concerns, the Royal Navy has been called in to dismantle the ship, as there are fears that there may be a “mass damage and loss of life” in the future.

The Ministry of Defence points to the nearby oil and gas facilities in Sheerness as being the biggest problems relating to the sunken warship.

They say that if the ship explodes, then “it would throw a 300m wide column of water and debris nearly 3,000m into the air and generate a wave 5m high”.

A no-entry exclusion zone is in place around the boat at present.

One survey by the Department for Transport found that the three masts on the ship are in a poor state and are deteriorating.

If one of these masts collapses, then it is expected that it could detonate the explosives and cause the entire boat to explode.

An MoD document seen by The Telegraph suggests in the worst case, “the masts collapse or the operation to remove them causes them to do so causing an explosion impacting the local area including the nearby oil and gas facilities in Sheerness leading to mass damage and potential loss of life”.

Bomb disposal experts from the Royal Navy and 29 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group are working with the MoD’s Salvage and Marine Operations project team to find a way of making the wreckage safe.

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Lt Gen Cave said: “The tasks we are asked to undertake are extremely varied and it stands as testament to the dedicated men and women from all three services that they’re able to adapt and respond to requests effectively and at pace.

“This Christmas period will see over 1,300 personnel on duty.

“In addition to the EOD teams on permanent stand-by, several thousand other servicemen and women remain at readiness.

“I’m extremely proud of the contribution they’ve made – and continue to make – to keep us safe, especially at this time when their service requires them to be away from home.

“They deserve our gratitude and thanks.”



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