Last week I mentioned two terrible explosions in HMS Bulwark and HMS Vanguard and the loss of so much life. There was another, much bigger explosion, but it did not claim so many lives.
HMS Princess Irene was built as an ocean liner in Dumbarton for the Canadian Pacific Railway. She was requisitioned by the navy and converted to a minelayer.
On May 27, 1915, she was anchored in the Medway, Kent, being loaded with mines, when the ship exploded and disintegrated killing all but one of those on board. Three other members of the ship’s company survived as they were ashore.
Two hundred and seventy-three men plus 76 dockyardmen were killed.
Such was the force, wreckage was hurled 20 miles away and a nine-year old girl died when hit by debris on the Isle of Grain.
One of those who died was William Charles James Hoar, 19. He lived with his mother Fanny at 48, Epworth Road, North End, Portsmouth.
He was an artisan attached to the ship’s carpentry department.
Had he lived he would have been the great uncle of Mary Davis of Anchorage Park. His younger sister Florence, worked at Whale Island involved with gun measuring.
William came from a naval family as his father, William Snr (Mary’s great grandfather) served for many years, retiring as a warrant officer. When he retired he became a civilian gunnery instructor at HMS Excellent, Whale Island.
He died a year before his son of suspected peritonitis, aged 58.