Portsmouth and Portchester firemen who made the final attack on the last pocket of fire aboard supertanker Pacific Glory were almost trapped in her as huge seas suddenly swept across the decks.
In the hazardous abandonment of the ship that followed, three men were knocked off their feet and all fire-fighting equipment was abandoned. But the job had been done.
When Portsmouth’s Chief Fire Officer George Brunner inspected her soon afterwards, he sent the message: ‘Fire extinguished.’
Three days previously, Pacific Glory had burst into flames five miles south of the Isle of Wight. The 42,000-ton vessel was sailing from Nigeria to The Netherlands when she collided with Allegro, a tanker transporting 100,000 tonnes of crude oil.
The blast that followed killed 13 Chinese seamen on board Pacific Glory. Twenty-four survivors, some critically injured,were taken to the RN Hospital Haslar, Gosport, later that night after being treated by doctors on the shoreline. Others were flown to Thorney Island, near Emsworth.
Although Allegro managed to complete her journey to Fawley, Pacific Glory grounded five miles from dry land.
The first man aboard the blazing tanker Pacific Glory, Assistant Divisional Officer, Jack Brown, of Portsmouth Fire Brigade told of 80ft flames and crashing waves.
ADO Brown arrived back at Clarence Pier with the Portsmouth and Hampshire firemen who had been in action since the operation began.
He said the first Portsmouth crews aboard the fire tug Boxer found the sea around the tanker ablaze and the aft section and superstructure involved in fire.
‘Flames were shooting 80ft high and burning oil was spilling from the ship’s tanks, ruptured in the collision,’ said ADO Brown.
‘I must praise the men from both Hampshire and Portsmouth who worked excellently under punishing, hazardous conditions.’
Despite attempts to salvage her, Pacific Glory was eventually sold for scrap in 1981.