Huge blast at Gosport naval depot blew the roof off Fareham mansion: RETRO

On July 14, 1950, there were two massive explosions at the Royal Naval Armament Depot, Bedenham, Gosport.

By Bob Hind
Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 11:10 am
Updated Friday, 4th October 2019, 4:31 pm
The explosion was so fierce it took the roof off Cams Hall over a mile from Bedenham. Photo: Eddy Amey collection.
The explosion was so fierce it took the roof off Cams Hall over a mile from Bedenham. Photo: Eddy Amey collection.

Whether it was sabotage or not has never been fully explained, but a year later the armament ship RFA Bedenham exploded at Gun Wharf, Gibraltar, with the loss of 13 lives.

So massive was the explosion at Bedenham, plate glass windows in Commercial Road, Landport were broken.

A wheel from one of the locomotives in the depot was blasted across Portsmouth Harbour and landed in the Landport area. Amazingly no one was killed, although several were badly injured.

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The escort carrier HMS Campania which was on station at the first British atomic bomb test in 1952

Eddy Amey was walking in Commercial Road when he heard the explosion.

He tells me: ‘I was walking along Commercial Road when there was a sound sound of a large explosion.

‘I heard several shop windows break. That evening at 6.47pm and another at 7.15 pm, two explosions occurred in RNAD Bedenham, Gosport.

‘Some 1,000 tonnes of munitions had exploded after a fire started amongst depth charge on a lighter.

‘There were no fatalities but 19 people – five admiralty and 14 civilians – were taken to hospital with minor injuries.

‘Damage was huge-ranging – nine ammunition lighters were sunk and 12 loaded railway wagons destroyed. Most of Bedenham pier and cranes with associated buildings.

‘Unexploded shells and bombs rained down over a large area.The blast crossed the water to Portchester and Fareham where. among other things, Cams Hall had its roof torn off and all the windows broken.’

The ammunition was being loaded into a ammunition lighter for transfer to an armament supply-issuing ship due to sail to the Far East a few days later.

In all 5,000 tons of explosives were destroyed.

At a sitting in the House of Commons, The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Walter Edwards, said It was thought the second explosion was caused by the lighter being set on fire from the earlier explosion.

It was at the height of the Cold War and no doubt many spies and saboteurs were involved with their devious business.

There must be many who can remember the explosions even after all this time.

Did it affect you?

Back in 1642, the English went to war, pitting brother against brother, father against son, and friend against friend which, even back then, was thought an impossibility.

It was caused by religion but the way things are going in parliament at the moment,and if the will of the people is not concurred with, could there be another English Revolution?

Perhaps not with thousands being killed in battles across the country, but certainly with riots breaking out like there was when the Poll Tax was first introduced in 1990.

I have little time for politics and care little if we are in or out of Europe.

I doubt if, either way, it will make a penny-worth of difference to my living standards, but the thought of riots on the streets is a worry.

The politicians really ought to think about this over the next few weeks and get their acts together, don’t you think?

It is just a shame the Queen cannot have a say in matters concerning her people as I am sure the whole concern would have been put to bed months in not years ago.

My recent photograph of the support carrier HMS Campania, which took part in Britain’s first atomic bomb test, was being built to a different design – Cyril Saunders tells me.

When construction started on the ship she was designed to be a refrigeration ship for importing lamb from New Zealand.

She was requisitioned while still on the stocks and converted to an escort carrier entering service in 1944.

She operated in the Arctic and Atlantic and survived the war undamaged.

As I wrote, she then took part in the Festival of Britain visiting ports around the country.

Cyril boarded the ship when she visited Southampton.

She then took part in the bomb test before being broken up in 1955.