THE LOSS OF H.M.S. BULWARK
TFRRIRLK FORCK OF THE EXPLOSION. The 'New York Times' published, on November 2/", in a message from a correspondent of' the 'Daily Chronicle ' at Sjheerness, the folL-iving account of the destruction of H.M.£. Bulwark :--- Lvimr at nn.-hor in Sheerness ono'ot the biggest naval bases in Englaud, His Majesty's man-o'-var J'-ulwark. a battleship of 15.C00 tons displacement, was blown to pieces- bv a mysterious explosion this morning. Wrapped in dense clouds of smoke and steam, the vessel sank in five minutes, carrying to their deaths all but 14 men of the crew, numbering between 700 and 800 officers and men. Officially, the distinction .if the vessel is regarded as having been due to a.n accidental explosion in her magazines and.; from causes as vet. unknown. It is believed" here that the explosion was caused bv the fall and bursting of a 12m lyddite'shell in the chip's magazine. Many eye-witnesses have described to me the* terrible moment in which the niagriificeut shin met her doom. Workmen ashore, who* were waiting U> be relieved after the ii:c;h!-sh: ft say they were looking casuallv at" the shipping ill the harbor, and not observing anything in particular, when <i terrific flash shot up into the sky, followed immediately by clouds of smoke. For a Sew brief minutes this drifted .•seaward, and to the men's amazement not a vestige of the great batkshtip remained. •.So utterly staggering was the blew that the workmen, who hud been dazed by the severity of. the explosion, for a few moments 'even discredited their own senses. and debated among themselves as to how many ships they had counted before the explosion. At 'once the harbor was in commotion. Ihi board al! the ships the officers and crews rushed on deck, some of them half-stunned by the terrible explosion. 1 am told, indeed, that on some of the vessels near there was not a piece of glass or crockery left whole, even the J,;nVlate-gl;.:-s in ih'e p.,H hr»!es bring shattered, and men on dock hurled <vwrx&yards and thrown down. —Rush to Rescue.— In a very few moments the. boats w«: t being lowered from the various warship*, and rescue boats steamed up from all directions. They came, however, on an almost fruliless errand. A warship cleared for action is so closely stripped of woodwork that there, is iiothinu; left, to float, and the of motaflhat had been a fine battiesnip a minute before had vanished almost a.s completely as though she never had figured on the Navy List. Here .and there were floating a few still living men. although most, of these were terribly injured. These, with a number of mutilated ..dead bodies, were the only signs of the di.sa.sier. As .speedily as possible the living and dead were picked up and taken to other warships. A little later they were re-moved in boats to the Sheerness pier, where motor boat ambulances from Chatham were, ready to take them to tlio Naval Hospital, 'the living are said to number only 14. Overnight leave had been given a limited number of men from the Bulwarl-c, and these were returning down the. Med way aboard Cutter Boat No. 147 to rejoin the. .Bulwark, when the disaster occurred. Another three minutesi and they, too, would have been engulfed, as the. liberty boat, was actually steaming up to go alongside the Bulwark when the explosion occurred. The liberty boat landed tho survivors at Shoerness dockyard just before noon. Four motor ambulances bearing tho Red Cross arrived at the new dockyard in response to a summons for assistance. Into these the survivors landed here were- placed and stmt by road to the Royal Naval Hospital at Chat-ham. —Crew at Breakfast.— At the time oF the disaster most of the. men were below at breakfast, and only the, few on deck had the .slightest chance of life. A well-known shipbuilder, who was in hi« house at Sheerness pier at the time, told me that the whole house reeled under the force of tho explosion, and everything seemed to rattle. The whole of Sheerness was shaken, and the people ran into the streets to inquire what- was the matter, as the roar and shock of the explosion was far more severe than the occasional gun-fire to which people in naval ports are accustomed. No evil significance was attached to the explosion at first, accustomed as tho people are to heavy gun-fire. Not until a couple of hours later was. tho truth known, but even then the full extent of the. disaster wau not realised. Fve-wituesses of the terrible occurrence .say that the cloud that rose above the pillar of flame was white, such as comes from an explosion of cordite. It was such a complete disaster that nothing definite, is known as to its immediate cause. Tlktc ;wms to be no reason to doubt, however, that the ship's forward magazine, blew up. Anything beyond this can only be left to surmise for the present. Perhaps some- of the. survivors may he able to throw some light upon the mystery later on. —Many Rumors Afloat.— The impossibility of any official statement being made as vet as, to the cause of i fho e3:je.o,=ion ha? let't t!ic Jiol<] rlcar for \ every kind of rumor and theory. The | generally accepted theory is that tho magai ziue of the Bulwark blew up through some ! accident or defect- other than an explosion |of mine." or a torpedo. It must, be rei niembercl that every man who was. below I at tho time and anywhere near the magai zine has been lost, so that all rumors and theories as to what actually took place are in vain. A member of the erew of a. collier which was iying near the Bulwark gives the following story of the disaster : "I was on deck, when suddenly 1 heard a tremendous explosion, and at the same time saw a -sheet of red flame shoot up. Then there was a. dense volume of black smoke, and as that cleared away there simply was nothing—just a gap between tho other warships. I rubbed my eves and wondered for a moment whether thore really had been a ship there or not. It must have been all over in one minute.'' The explosion was heard far and wide. In Sittingbourne many people not only heard the explosion, but saw a groat-sheet of flame. ''lt was just like a wonderful sunset, at that time, and in that direction," said one man to me. In peace time the complement of the Bulwark was rated at 750 officers and men, but in war the personnel of our eViips has proved to be higher rather than below the figure usually given in the reference books. —Boat Hurled in Air.— When tho explosion occurred aboard the Bulwark (a correspondent of the 'Morning Post' says) few craft were moving in the Aledway. Two men had an astounding experience. They were protected from the direct effect of the concussion by the river bank and a headland, but, despite this, their boat was lifted out of tho water and thrown back again. They hastened to the scene of the disaster, and found one man, wounded in the head and leg, swimming strongly, who asked them to save his shipmates. They picked up several - men and came back for him. The boat afterwards picked up the 6wimmer, and he apparently is the only one of the crew that has acknowledge of the disaster, and ho has little to tell. He was sitting on a grating when the explosion occurred, and was thrown in the air, turning a somersault. He struck the water, and continued swim.minjj UU h.e W3g_ nicked, up.
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THE LOSS OF H.M.S. BULWARK, Evening Star, Issue 15694, 7 January 1915