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Tony P

Sabotage what a coincidence

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Tony P   
Tony P

As some of you may know, I'm looking into the loss of the Princess Irene, a minelayer destroyed in 1915 at Sheerness and my wife's grandfather who was the sole survivor. My father-in-law has always said he thought it was sabotage. Finally a defective arming pistol was blamed, as one had previously been found on another minelayer. The explosion onboard HMS Princess Irene Raised fears of saboteurs, these were always refuted. Two other ships the HMS Natal and the HMS Vanguard also blew up in a similar fashion. HMS Bulwark on the 26th November, 1914 also destroyed. This may seem a bit of a coincidence, but an ordinance fitter employed at Chatham Dockyard, (John Harston) had worked on the HMS Natal, HMS Vanguard, HMS Princess Irene and HMS Bulwark, immediately prior to all four explosions. As he had no connection to any foreign power, he was not charged.

If you have any information on this man I'd like to know, or would just like to give your opinion, I'll be more than happy to here from you.

Tony P

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Tom Morgan   
Tom Morgan

Tony, I'm a bit puzzled when you say that this man wasn't charged because they couldn't find any link to a foreign power.

Seems to me that if they didn't charge the man, it was possibly because there was no evidence that he had done anything wrong.

If there was cast-iron evidence that he had been up to no good, then what more would they need? The "foreign power" link would be irrelevant.

Maybe I've missed something here.

Tom

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Tony P   
Tony P

Dear Tom

My information comes from a book, all the book said was, suspicion was to fall on one particular individual, (However subsequently he was found to have no political leanings, or connection to any foreign power, so was not charged.) Then gives his name, and the fact he had worked on all four ships prior to all the explosions.

Tony P

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Jonathan Saunders   
Jonathan Saunders

Tony - the VANGUARD blew up due to unstable cordite stored against a bulkhead, which attracted a pocket of intense hot air, thus igniting the cordite and resulting in a tremendos explosion (actually two explosions about 90 seconds or so apart I think). Harston and another Chatham dockyard worker whose name I forget had been working on the VANGUARD (although on Scapa Flow Station a CHATHAM ship) and left it about 6 hours before the explosion - by coincidence they had also been working on the PRINCESS IRENE (as had many other Chatham and Sheerness dockyard workers) and the BULWARK (at anchor a mile or so from Chatham) shortly before those ships also blew up at anchor in 1915 and 1914 respectively (I dont remember either of these men involved with the NATAL although if my memory serves me correctly she was also a CHATHAM ship).

Following the loss of the VANGUARD, Harston and the other dockyard worker were interviewed by the authorities and followed and remained under the scrutiny of MI5 or whatever the Home Security was known as in those days, for a considerable period and absolutely no evidence could be bought against them apart from one of them was quite dense and his presence in a dockyard was probably a danger in itself (I joke not). Despite this, certainly one of them completed his 40 odd years at Chatham dockyard some very many years later and was probably paid a handsome pension.

Was your reference Hampshire who possibly had his own agenda - I have not read his book so cannot comment on his publication from informed opinion.

The VANGUARD was the fourth British warship to blow up, seemingly from an internal explosion, during WW1 - also France, Japan, Italy and probably other countries had lost warships from internal explosions during the same period (I would need to refer to my notes from years ago on this) - and so it was certainly convenient for the Admiralty and the British Gvmt to allow the VANGUARD sabotage story to gain momentum but as far as Hartson and his mate were concerned - the only story is that there is no story ... which is undoubtedly worth a few pages of explanation itself!

I understand we are due to meet up and discuss these ships in the near future. I will try and dig out my notes on Harston and his colleague for then.

All the best,

Jon

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Tony P   
Tony P

Thanks Jon

Try to get yourself a copy of Sheppey and the Royal Navy, It's a publication on behalf of The Sheppey Heritage Trust, price £4.99.

Publicity Matters, PO Box 61, Sheerness, Kent. ME12 3AF.

Tel:01795 871199

E/Mail: maximum.publicity@btinternet.com

I look forward to our meeting, all the best for now.

Tony P

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Tony P   
Tony P

Hello terry

I've seen the link you sent, many many thanks.

Tony P

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