Thursday, January 20, 2005


Bomb ship a potential danger


Kent Online
by Barnaby Chesterman
January 19, 2005

The remains of the SS Richard Montgomery, pictured in the 1970s.

A SHIPWRECK laden with explosives and lying off the Kent coast may have to be detonated at sea.

The SS Richard Montgomery, which went down off Sheppey during the Second World War, contains about 13,700 bombs and explosives, including mercury fuses and phosphorus munitions, all of which could be harmful to the surrounding environment.

The ship sank in 1944 and has been left, but monitored, ever since. However, a new Government document has confirmed fears that the wreck cannot be left indefinitely and drastic action, such as blowing it up, may have to be taken.

MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey Derek Wyatt, is pushing Transport Secretary David Jamieson over the issue. He said: "Just surveying the wreck is no longer a long-term option and that is what is in the report.

"There are two and a half options. One is to put a steel bund around it, the second is to blow it up and the third is to move it and blow it up.

"Putting a steel bund around the wreck is the least likely option and the one Mr Wyatt describes as a half as that bund would not prevent an explosion and could even exacerbate the situation if it was fired into the air by multiple explosions within it.

The MP added: "The second two are the only real options and both of those involve high risk. That is why the public need to know now because it is a big change and it needs to sink in.

"There will be a critical moment whenever we do it and all that will require huge amounts of intelligence to be shared with the public.

"Mr Wyatt said the Government decided to release the previously secret document because they were afraid of information being leaked and sparking a press witch-hunt.

Report from Sheerness Times Guardian

The SS Richard Montgomery is a time-bomb waiting for a terrorist to give Britain its first real tsunami and, maybe, worse. This film shows what can happen when a government conceals something very dangerous from its own people.

Fact: The US explosives carrier Richard Montgomery sank in the Thames Estuary in August 1944. It was loaded with 1500 tons of explosive munitions. The Admiralty decided to leave the wreck and its dangerous cargo undisturbed. The wreck lies just a few hundred yards offshore between an oil refinery and the several towns. Southend on Sea is just a couple of miles away on the other side of the Thames estuary. Rumours about the ship and its cargo have circulated in these towns ever since. Denials have been issued by ministers in the House of Commons in response to MPs questions about the presence on board of biological, chemical and gas warheads. Nevertheless, rumours persist that the real reason the wreck was not made safe was because of the existence of ‘dirty weapons’ on board.
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