NEWS

SS Richard Montgomery Packed With Explosives Could Create Tsunami In Thames Estuary

1,400 tons of live explosives remain on the wreck.

12/06/2017 12:41 | Updated 12 June 2017

A Second World War American warship that lies at the bottom of the Thames Estuary is packed with high-grade explosive that could go off at any moment.

That’s the grave warning from Action Plus Media, the team making a documentary about the “time-bomb”, voiced by Lovejoy actor Ian McShane.

The American Liberty Ship the SS Richard Montgomery sank over 70 years ago, running aground on its final voyage just a mile off the coast of Sheerness in August 1944.

PA Archive/PA Images
The masts of the SS Richard Montgomery, a cargo ship used during the World War II effort 

Of the 3,000 tons of bombs and ammunition on board, 1,400 tons of live explosives remain. The masts of the ship can still be seen above water and are emblazoned with warning signs and buoys that state: “Danger – Unexploded ammunition. Do not approach or board this wreck.”

Five years in the making, the documentary, which sees interviews with Merchant Marine veterans and ship builders, is crowdfunding to market and finalise the production.

“Is this a disaster waiting to happen?” it asks, as broadcaster David Riley points out: “The ammunition and explosives have been on board since 1944 as the wreck continues to disintegrate and the bombs move around, the more dangerous it becomes.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says the wreck is showing signs of deterioration 

Experts have calculated the potential explosive velocity of the bombs remaining on the wreck equates to half of the bombs that obliterated Dresden.

Any attempts to offload the bombs would not only cause logistical problems, it will also be highly dangerous.

Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey said: “The problem is this: You would have to evacuate the whole of Sheppey, pretty well, if you were going to start messing around with that ship and in the real world, for a government to evacuate from their homes 40,000 people and all the businesses associated with the generation of the economy on Sheppey and expect months later everything to return to normal is simply fanciful. It’s not going to happen.

Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, believes an explosion could create a 'tsunami' 

“If that ship was to go up now, the worst that would happen would be there would be a tsunami.”  

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency does annual surveys of the wreck, with the most recent describing the risk of a major explosion as “remote”, but acknowledging that the hull of the ship is showing signs of gradual deterioration.

To contribute to the documentary, click here.

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