The SS Richard Montgomery

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The Liberty Ships One of 2710 ships built under the lend lease act for Britain by the USA during World War II. These ships were primary built to assist with the supply of food & war material supplies to Britain during the Second World War. The Richard Montgomery The SS Richard Montgomery was named after an Irish soldier born in Dublin who fought in the war against the British in Canada. He died during an attack on Quebec on 31st December 1775. Built at St Johns River Shipbuilding Company, Jacksonville, Florida she was the seventh of eighty-two ship produced at the yard. Registered as ship number 243756 she was launched during July 1943. Powered by a direct acting condescending three-cylinder triple expansion engine that gave 2500hp at 76rpm. The Liberty Ship carried a crew of eighty-one, this included Cargo masters, deck crews and gun crews. The Deadly Cargo The Richard Montgomery was to leave US shores for the last time in August 1944, as she set sail from Hog Island on the Delaware River, Philadelphia, at that time she held in her belly 6127 tons of explosives. Hold 1 3223 250lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 2148 500lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 850 1000lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 1429 Cases of White Phosphorous Bombs 895 Cases of Signal Cartridges Hold 2 521 250lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 588 1000lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 286 2000lbs General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 574 500lbs Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 1008 1000lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 5279 off cases of Cluster Fragmentation Bombs 817 off cases of Small Arms Ammunition Hold 3 442 100lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 1351 500lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 1170 1000lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 1522 cases of fuses 28 cases of Bursters 13,630 cases of Fin Assemblies (inert) Hold 4 442 1000lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 1257 Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 3473 cases of Cluster Fragmentation Bombs 1427 cases of Demolition Charges 594 cases of Fin Wire Arming Assemblies 3297 cases of Fin Assemblies (inert) Hold 5 2492 250lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 2108 500lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 2361 500lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 4220 cases of Fin Assemblies (inert) 23 cases of Signal Cartridges were also carried on deck in the No: 3 Mast Locker The Last Voyage The initial stage of the voyage was up the coast of the USA to join up with Scotia, where she joined convoy HXM-301 (HX Halifax—M Mersey). On the 25th July 1944 she left US waters for the perilous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, she was joined by 94 Merchant ships 12 LST’s (Landing Ship Tanks), six warships (3 corvettes a Canadian minesweeper & two US Navy escorts). Twenty three of the Merchant ships were tankers with no fewer that 44 Liberty Ships making up the numbers, three other Liberty were forced to drop out the convoy through mechanical problems. Crossing the Pond at a steady speed of 8.5 knots it made Loch Ewe, Scotland on the 8th August 1944. The Convoy then spilt up with the tankers heading for Milford Haven & the rest heading for the Mersey, once again the convoy spit with eight of the Liberty’s being ordered to the Thames Estuary this order was the death knell for the Richard Montgomery. The Richard Montgomery was followed by seven other liberty ships up the Thames these were the SS Henry M Roberts, SS Henry B Brown, SS John Stevenson, SS George Popham, SS Harry A. Gaefield, SS John gibbon & the SS Clyde L. Seavey. Once in the Estuary they came under the control of Thames Naval Control at HMS Leigh (Southend Pier). Each was instructed to moor off Sheerness middle sands From here they were to await for the rest of the ships to join the convoy that was bound for Cherbourg, France. The Grounding The Richard Montgomery had a draft of 31ft (the usual was 28ft) Sheerness Middle Sands had a clearance level at low tide of 24ft, the draft of the mooring given to the Richard Montgomery was just 33ft a margin of a mere 2ft! It was recommended that the Richard Montgomery change births with a smaller frigate with a draft of just 24ft, this was not done. Just before dawn on Sunday 20th August 1944 the winds changed to a Northern direction which resulted in the Richard Montgomery swinging round on her mooring, the stern rid up on the Sheerness Middle Sands, and sank in to the soft sand at the height of the spring tide. She became so stuck that only by removing the cargo would it become possible to re-float her this would not be possible however until 5th September 1944 when the next tide high enough to float the ship free would happen. As the tides receded the welded plates of the hull cracked and buckled the British Motor launch "British Queen" saw that the crew of the ship had started an emergency evacuation of the ship by escaping in lifeboats, the crew were picked up and taken to Southend where sleeping arrangements were set up. Emergency Action The explosives on board were ordered to be removed from the stricken ship and work to off load it was started on Wednesday 23rd August 1944. The Empire Nutfield pulled along side and passed a steam hose over to the salvage crew on the Richard Montgomery this enabled the Montgomery's own steam powers cranes to be used. The Empire Nutfield was chosen, as it was an old vessel that was “expendable” in the event of a blast, but what of the crew? A second vessel the tug Atlantic Cock also drew along side to help with the unloading. During the process of discharging the deadly cargo a Board of Enquiry was set up, strangely the board decided to meet on the stricken vessel! The Enquiry found that the Crews of the Richard Montgomery followed the orders given to the letter and that there was no fault to be found with them, they did however find that the orders given to the ship were wrong with the two Naval officers who ordered the Liberty ship to the shallow birth to be negligent they were both removed from their posts. However, on Thursday 24th August 1944 the welded steel plates of the ship cracked open fore end of No3 hold this resulted in holds 1+2 being flooded and part of the cargo being washed in to the surrounding sands. Then on Friday 8th September 1944 the SS Richard Montgomery broke her back making it impossible to salvage her, the mission to salvage the cargo continued up until it was decided to abandon the wreck on Monday 25th September 1944. Over the period of a month Wednesday 25th August 1944 through to Monday 25th September 1944 an undisclosed amount of various explosives were removed from the wreck with: Hold 1 1500 250lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 2148 500lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 850 1000lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 1429 Cases of White Phosphorous Bombs 639 Cases of Signal Cartridges Hold 2 521 250lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 588 1000lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 286 2000lbs General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 574 500lbs Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 1008 1000lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 2362 off cases of Cluster Fragmentation Bombs Hold 3 406 100lb General Purpose Bombs (packed loose) 1351 500lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 1170 1000lb Semi Armour Piercing Bombs (packed loose) 226 cases of fuses 11,618 cases of Fin Assemblies (inert) Being left on board the ship. It is known that Holds 4, 5 & the No: 3-mast locker being completely emptied of cargo As Time Goes By As there was a war on people forgot about the deadly ship just off shore, until… On 2nd January 1969 a phone call to Sheerness police saw a massive security operation swing into action after an anonymous caller said that the wreck was going to be blown up as a protest against the Government at the time not spending enough on Schools, Colleges & University’s it was later discovered that the threat was a Students Rag Week prank. There was also the significant threat that the IRA might plant Percussion or Limpet Mines on the wreck or that terrorist splinter groups might try to salvage some of the weapons in and around the wreck. Nightmare Becomes Reality The true catastrophe of what could happen was brought to life on 22nd July 1967 when a clearance operation on the Polish munitions carrier Kielce, sunk a few miles off Folkestone all wrecks on or near shipping lanes had to be reduced in height to allow ships with a draft of 45ft in low water top pass safely. The Kielce was only 32ft down and lying on its side, most of the munitions were removed with small detonators used to fragment the hull to a safe height. However, it was found that some were trapped under a bulkhead it was decided to fragment this enabling to recovery of the bombs. It was on this date that the mines were set in place and the detonator readied, the launch went to a distance of 400 yards whilst the rubber dingy with the divers on board remained close to the wreck. Upon detonating the mine the 100tons of explosives under the bulkhead also detonated a plume of water, it was reported to have reached at least 500ft into the air, Richter scale equipment on the Western Coast of America recorded the blast as a 4.5 or a –0.5 earthquake the blast was heard over 7 miles away with many houses being damaged luckily both boats survived. Investigations after the incident found a creator measuring 153ft x 63ft & 20ft deep on the seabed with very little of the wreck left. The Kielce was at least 3 or 4 miles from land where as the Richard Montgomery in 1 mile. The Kielce was in 32ft of water the Richard Montgomery can be seen ABOVE the water at low tide. The Kielce had just a fraction of what the Richard Montgomery has on board. Protecting The Wreck In 1973 the government set up the “Protection Of Wrecks Act” this was designed to protect all the wrecks in UK waters no matter what their nationality. The Richard Montgomery was the only wreck listed as an out-of-bounds deadly wreck. Near Disaster On the 22nd May 1980 the small Danish Fuel Tanker “Mare Altum” was slowly making its way up river, on board was a full load of Toluene, a highly inflammable low flash point liquid. Medway Approach were tracking the ship on radar, the weather at the time was very poor just less than 100 yards. As the radar operator watched the screen it became obvious the tanker was off course, it was outside the designated inbound channel, an Immediate Action Order was transmitted to the ship to swing hard starboard this sent the ship on to a northerly course safely into Sea reach as the manure was carried out the wreck of the Richard Montgomery passed by just 600yards away, the Daily Mail reported the story 7 days later under the heading Blast Fear Over Thames Near Miss the captain of the tanker was find £200,000 for Careless Navigation. However, this was not the closest call, for just the day before the British M. V. Fletching brushed against the No7 Medway Buoy missing the Richard Montgomery by 50feet! Recent Times During 2000 the heavy lift topping blocks were removed to help take some of the weight off the mast’s, despite the fact that the ship had sunk 55 years earlier and has been subjected to the full force of the weather in the estuary the shears were still in good condition. The removal should prevent the top-heavy masts collapsing onto the deck & into the hold. The Maritime Agency/Royal Navy have both carried out regular inspections of the wreck, checking on the stability of its structure. This survey is carried out by Sonar Technology, which is used to map out the two parts of the hull to see if and/or how they have shifted. It is known that the wreck is stable and has not shifted fir some time, however, the sand around the wreck has been shifting a scour hole has begun forming either side of the wreck, in time the wreck may break-up and fall into the hole with out exploding slowly being covered by silt, but the break-up may cause the munitions still remaining to detonate as they shift. Decay of Munitions During the late 1990’s the regularity of fishermen dragging up mines, bombs & aerial torpedo’s increased, bomb disposal crews were called to deal with the “nasties” before they were detonated in controlled detonations checks were made into the stability of the TNT encased in the shells. Other tests have proven that TNT can take several decades to begin to turn inert; it has been found that mines dropped in the Thames Estuary during the Second World War were sill as active as the day they were dropped. However, before they become inert they go through a period where they are in a highly volatile state & could explode if knocked. The Cluster Bombs were shipped already fitted with their fuses, these were brass filled with lead compound this would enhance the detonator shock. However, when the fuses exposed to salt water it takes them many many years before they start to corrode, once they do the brass reacts with the lead forming a very highly explosive & unstable compound that is highly likely to explode at the slightest disturbance. Worst Case Scenario There is a very real danger that this deadly volatile cargo will one day erupt, it may be in the highly unlikely planned demolition, or a spontaneous uncontrolled sudden devastating blast coming with out warning at any time of the day or night. It is known that the cluster in a worst case scenario of the ship exploding the result would be catastrophic. The blast would produce a shock wave that would exceed that of the 1917 Halifax, USA disaster in which a munitions ship exploded whilst in port more than 3,000 people were killed. This ship was in port the Richard Montgomery is under water the resulting shock wave would produce a tidal wave that would devastate what remained on the Isle of Sheppey, the wave would continue on, preceded by the shock wave created by the blast this wave would sweep down the River Medway taking many of the towns and people with it. In the other direction the wave would rush up the Thames, Canvey would disappear under the massive wave. As the shock wave dissipates it would hit the oil refinery at Coryton with the risk of yet another massive blast, the tidal wave would continue its path up river growing in strength as it is funnelled down the narrowing river until it reaches a bend in the river at which point it would obliterate what ever stood in its way. Back near the epicentre, Southend would face the wave head on, with nothing in its path the sea front would be slammed into by tens of thousands of tons of water but not before the blast wave from the explosion had decimated the buildings fronting the sea first. The US Government still own the wreck & the munitions on board, the Coast Guard on the River Medway watches it over, it was checked by the Royal Navy, it is checked by the Maritime Agency. But if doomsday did come the US Government would claim “Sovereign Rights” meaning that no matter how much damage or loss of life had occurred not a penny of compensation would be forthcoming. In spite of the ship's potential for harm, its existence isn't even known by the general public, this may be intentional the fewer people who know of its existence the better, the less chance of a “rouge” nation or terrorist group attempting to salvage the explosives or deliberately setting off the blast that every one is trying to avoid.
The Ticking Time Bomb
Tick tock tick tock tick....
Liberty Ships
Why build The Liberty ship was born out of the crippling losses upon on the merchant fleet of the allies by German air & sea attacks. These losses meant that convoys suffered from delays, slow turnarounds, roundabout routing, and crew shortages and once at sea a long and hazardous voyage was made worse by the Wolf-pack. The German Wolf-pack was an elite unit of Submarine commanders who during the 1940/43 period had what they called "The Happy Time" where they were able to roam the Atlantic with very little worry of Allied attack. Back in late 1939, just after the start of hostilities in September 1939, the US Maritime Commission had sold a significant number of its obsolete World War I reserve fleet to the Royal Navy. This gave the US a much needed boost & also let the US navy dispose of its unwanted ships, more importantly it gave the UK the number of ships it needed, up to the required level to fight a war against an enemy who clearly had far greater fire power in its arsenal, the deal was struck at a time when the survival of the UK was much in doubt. In the months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Merchant Fleet had already increased its aid to the Allied forces, the Lend-Lease Act signed in 1941 saw another increase in shipping to the UK, the US also sent supplies to British troops on the front line in the Middle East, Africa, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean, during the last seven months of 1941, US tonnage supplied British campaigns with 48,958 vehicles, 302,698 tons of dry goods, and 814 air-planes. Birth of a Legend Despite general wide held belief of being an all American ship, the Liberty Ship was in fact adopted from a British design for an emergency vessel capable of eleven knots with a dead weight of some 10,800 tons dry cargo ship powered by reciprocation oil fuelled steam engines, it had been designed for rapid mass production with welded steel construction. The design so impressed the US Maritime Commission it decided to put the ship into full production. Because of its slow speed the Liberty Ship was proven not to be commercially viable, they hoped for turbine propulsion but could not be fitted as this was reserved for fighting ships & not cargo ships. Through out the war the Liberty's would have to slowly plod their way across the pond with the aid of escort frigates and their ship board guns as the only protection against the marauding German surface air and sub fleets. The US originally ordered 260 Liberty's of which 60 were for the UK Merchant Navy. On the eve of Pearl Harbor the original order of 500,000 of shipping had increased to 5.000.000 tons, by 1943 this had gone to 7.000.000 tons, this figure was to double by the end of the war.
Both the UK & US governments decided that to give the merchant navy the best possible chance of recovering the huge losses it had accrued, was to concentrate the vast majority of the ship building program in the US far from the air attacks wreaking death and destruction over the UK. Prime Minister Winston Churchill & President Roosevelt agreed that all the Merchant ships would be constructed in the US whilst the UK would concentrate what resources it had on constructing fighting ships for the Royal Navy. This deal saw the US construct 85% of all the Merchant shipping used in the conflict. During World War One the US was capable of producing one ship every 13 days whilst in the Second World War this had been cut to one ship every 3.5 days. With the production of Liberty Ships spread through-out the States it was not un-heard of to have five ships launched on a single day, this growth through 1943 saw 19,210,000 tons of shipping being launched, more than the entire period between 1914 to 1938. Most of the Liberty Ships built were on the West Coast, with San Francisco Bay & the Henry J. Kaiser yard on the Columbus River producing the most. The Kaiser yard was better known as the constructors of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Grand Coulee, Bonneville, and the Hoover Dams. The company had little problem converting to mass production of ships, by the end of construction they had turned out 1,552 ships between 1941 and 1945. Kaiser was responsible for developing prefabricated construction sites across the States. This enabled the transportation of whole sections & components for assembly in the huge new shipyards whose multiple Slipway's lined the hitherto virgin banks of numerous American rivers. Kaiser launched its first Liberty Ship on 7th September 1941 from the Bethlehem Fairfield Yard in Baltimore, Maryland. Named the USS Patrick Henry it was pressed in to service three weeks after launch, this named after an American Movement for Independence fighter who proclaimed, "Give me liberty or give me death." The Atlantic coast of the US saw eight new giant ship yards built consisting of 62 slipway's; four on the Gulf of Mexico with 35, and six on the Pacific coast with 62 building ways, the entire yard building project costing $300 million. New shipyards were also built on the Gulf & Atlantic coasts including the Delaware River and at Chesapeake Bay. Despite being officially at war the US awarded the Liberty Ship building contracts to a number of privately owned US firms that were dotted around the country. Naming the ships The US flagged Liberty Ships were all named after people in its history, the British flagged ships were all prefixed "Sam.....," despite many US based historians claiming that this was in tribute to "Uncle Sam" it was in-fact because all British Liberty's were oil fired with mid-ship accommodation the name "Sam" came from the design Superstructure Aft of Mid-ships, Canadian flagged had "Split" accommodation & various other modifications differing to the US Liberty's to confuse attacking German U-boats, most were named after parks & were crewed by Canadians. British manned but Canadian built Liberty's were named after forts, whilst standard merchant shipping built in the UK were known as Empire. Construction During the early days of construction it took between 225 & 230 days to construct a Liberty Ship costing $1.78 million, by the end of hostilities construction times were down to as little as 42 days but more commonly it took around the 60 day mark, the record for the fastest construction was the Robert G. Peary which was launched from No. 2 slipway of the Permanente Metals Corporation of Richmond, California on 12th November 1942, some four days fifteen hours and thirty minutes after the keel was laid, it took just another three days to completely fit the ship out before it set sail. The mass-production & pre-fabrication of the welded steel ships was to prove a success with a rate of 3 Liberty's being completed every day. Once the Royal Navy captured an intact Enigma coding device & code books, the code breakers at Bletchley Park UK were able to decipher the German messages and re-route convoys round the waiting subs, (A very fictional story of the capture is told in the film U597 this claims that it was an American Sub that captured enigma when in fact it was a Royal Navy Ship!) Armament For protection the Liberty Ships carried a 4-inch low angle surface defence gun, and an anti aircraft defence system comprising a 12 ponder, 40 mm Bofors and 20 mm Oerlikon guns together with PAC rockets. Performance Before the introduction of the Liberty Ships the most common cruising speed of the convoys was 5 knots. The Liberty's had a top speed of 11 knots but would cruse at 10 knots, in the private sector this would have proved far too un-economic, but this was out- weighed by the fact that there was a war on and the fact that the Liberty's could carry a large amount of much needed supplies to the hard pressed allied forces. The Victory Ships During 1944 it was becoming clear that the war in the Far East would go on longer than that in Europe, it was decided to build a new type of Liberty Ship to help the forces fighting on the front. The Victory Ship was a highly modified Liberty Ship, it was slightly longer, had further range and had a greatly increased speed of 16.5 knots it also benefited from the more commercially viable turbine drive. Many of the Victory's built were taken on by the Armed Services for troop transport or hospital ships, a small number were used as destroyers, mine hunters or submarine tenders. A secondary program saw 700 large flat ocean tankers built, along with 700 other vessels all using a basic Victory Ship design.
The Port Chicago Disaster During the night of 17th July 1944 the Liberty Ship E. A. Bryan and the SS Quinault Victory (a new Victory Ship) were birthed at the Port Chicago (California) naval base on the Sacramento River. The Bryan had been in port for four days being loaded with explosives for transportation to the front lines in Europe, some 4600 tons had been loaded. The Quinault had arrived at 6pm that evening and was positioned at the same pier, a coast guard fire-fighting vessel was also moored up on the pier. The Bryan had 98 Black enlisted men assigned to it along with the 31 US Merchant Marine and 13 Naval Armed Guards, the Quinault had 100 Black enlisted men, 36 Crew & 17 Armed Guards, a 12 ton diesel locomotive based on the 1200ft wooden pier had a civilian crew of three and a single marine sentry. There was 430 tons of bombs waiting on the pier to be loaded 10:18pm a massive blast rocked the area. The Bryan was obliterated by the blast with no identifiable bits remaining, the Quinault was lifted clear of the water before being turned up-side down and falling back to sea 500ft from its original location, all 67 crew and 30 armed guard then on board died instantly, in total including the deaths on the pier & railway 320 were killed. The largest section of the Quinault that remained was just a 65 foot long section of keel which still had its propeller attached. The Miahelo a Coast Guard patrol boat 1500ft from the pier had its wheelhouse wrecked, the pilot suffered serious injuries, a 30ft tall wall of water almost capsized the boat, an unexploded shell smashed into the engine room of the SS Redline, a small tanker passing near by. The blast was heard 200 miles away, half a mile away a number of small boats were flipped over by a 30ft wave of water. The Naval base had been wrecked with the town of Port Chicago 1.5 miles from the blast heavily damaged. Windows over 20 miles away were shattered by the blast, with the glare from the blast visible in San Francisco some 35 miles away. The cost of the disaster ran in to multi-millions of dollars. After the War After the end of hostilities in Europe and the Far East many Liberty's were sold into private hands whilst others went into the Fleet Reserve. As time wore on the remaining Liberty's became more and more expensive to run and maintain. The US Navy, however, did have a further use for the Liberty Ships. A number were pressed into service in the late 1940s early 1950s in "Operation Chase." Operation Chase saw a number of Liberty's loaded up with large amounts of surplus munitions and chemical weapons, these ships were then towed out to sea and large holes cut in the side, hence the name Operation Chase (Cut Holes And Sink Em'). The victors of the Second World War were left to deal with 307,875 tons of German chemical weapons containing 14 different types of toxic agents. It is thought that the Soviet forces destroyed over 35000 tons of artillery gas shells, these were loaded onto two ships that were then sunk in the Baltic Sea. The Allied forces sunk up to six Liberty's in the Kattegat & Skagerrak Straights, a further 27 were sunk 20 miles off the western Swedish port of Lysekil, a small number were also sunk off the Southern Norwegian port of Arendal, the full details of what these ships were carrying has and may never be released. In 1964 the John F. Shafroth was scuttled 50 miles West of the Golden Gate Bridge with 10,000 tons of munitions on board, she settled in just over 8000ft of water. On 10th August 1967 the Robert Louis Stevenson was loaded up with 5000 tons of munitions and taken 50 miles out of Amchitka, pressure mines were fitted to detonate at 4000ft and she was sent to the bottom. August 1970 it was the turn of Le Baron Russell Briggs 300 miles off Cape Kennedy she went down to 2700 fathoms it took 5 minutes to hit the seabed at which point the ship broke up, any of the deadly gas on board that might have escaped would have been instantly hydrolysed. Also in the same month the David F. Hughes was sent down to 5000ft 100 miles off New Jersey but the munitions on board detonated before reaching bottom obliterating the ship. Back on the civilian scene many Liberty Ships were converted for varying other uses these included, the Thomas Nelson which saw a 25ft long section added, new engines fitted, new deck cranes and sliding hatch covers fitted this enabled the ships dead-weight to be increased, she was scrapped in 1981. The Janet Lord Roper was shortened by 30ft into a self-unloading collar whilst the Charles H. Cugle was converted into a floating nuclear power plant, John Lawson became a Liquefied Gas carrier. Other conversions included a passenger conversion, floating crane platforms and floating warehouses, most were kept as war time specification with only the armaments removed. Throughout this time the Liberty's where the most common cargo ships of the post- war shipping fleets, during the 1960s they still made up 40% of the worlds fleet. They were still carrying loads up to 10,000 tons but age was beginning to catch up with the ships, insurance was going up and maintenance costs were high. For some still trading with the last remaining Liberty Ship it was too enticing to load them up with cargo and "accidentally" run aground causing the ship be written off as a total constructive loss. Other uses for the redundant Liberty have been to create artificial reefs off the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coasts. This saw 12 Liberty Ships drained of all pollutants, these were then cut to the tween-decks before being towed out and sunk by explosive charge. Back to War With the out break of the Korean War a number of Liberty Ships held by the fleet reserve were pressed back into service, these included the George Eastman who later went on to become a radio controlled fall-out vessel and was scrapped in 1977, Bert McDowell was also sent to Korea and was scrapped in 1970, the Samuel Bowes one of the few war veteran Liberty's that went to Korea after service there, went back to the fleet reserve where she was sold for scrap in 1974, other Liberty Ships that saw action in the Korean War were George Vancouver, William "Big Foot" Wallace and the British Samjack. The American flagged Liberty's saw further action in the ill-fated war in Vietnam with 726 Liberty's still in the fleet reserve only 150 were "possible" of re-activation, eventually only 28 were pressed into service they were among 956 in the US Navy. The Harry L. Gluckman was taken to Vietnam as a mine sweeper and deemed to be unsinkable, she had been filled with plastic foam and had been fitted with deck mounted engines that enabled the ship to be pushed sideways in the narrow twisting rivers, she was scrapped in 1976. The last "war" damage thought to be sustained by a Liberty was on the Robert M. La Follette in December 1971, when she was hit by shellfire during the Indian-Pakistan war she was scrapped in 1972. The Last Liberty Lost Henry W. Corbet was the worlds last sea-going working Liberty, built at Oregon she was damaged in a storm when hull plates cracked on 24th December 1943 in the area of No2 hold, she was laid up and repaired at which point she was transferred to the Soviet Forces, re-named Alexander Nevsky after the war she carried on sailing mostly out of Vladivostok. On the 26th September 1973 she was retired from sea-going service for technical reasons and towed up the First River ay Amur Bay Vladivostok, here she became a training ship, in use until 1997 when she was towed out to the Republic of South Korea and sadly scrapped. Last of the Liberty Ships The seabed around the world it littered with the remains of Liberty Ships, probably the most famous is the ticking time bomb in the Thames Estuary, the USS Richard Montgomery is just 1 mile from land with over 3000 tons of explosives on board, in shallow water even with the highest tides her masts can bee seen above water. More Liberty Ship parts that are thought to exist are the superstructure of the William H. Alien, which was held by the University of Texas in use as a teaching aid in fighter fires on board ships. The Albert M. Boe became that last Liberty to be built, she finished on 30th October 1945 and was renamed "Star of Kodiak," she can be found at an in-filled area at Kodiak Alaska no longer afloat she is used as a fish cannery, holes have been cut in the hull to allow access some of the superstructure has also been removed. Two Liberty's have been preserved in full sea going condition, these are the John W. Brown based out of Baltimore and the Jeremiah O’ Brian based out of San Francisco. With the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in 1994 the US government arranged the sale of a number of ships held in reserve, the money raised was to be given to the operators of the two Liberty Ships and another ex merchant vessel to make the trip across the Atlantic the commemorate the turning point of the Second World War. Shortly before the voyage the John W. Brown was taken into dry-dock for a pre-crossing check sadly it was found the hull needed to be completely re-worked, re-welded and re-riveted, the work needed was far to great to be completed in time and on budget so she dropped out of the crossing. As the other merchant vessel was preparing to depart its engines fail leaving the Jeremiah O’ Brian the sole ship to cross the Atlantic. She visited Portsmouth, Southampton and Normandy, before returning to the States she made her way up the River Thames to the Pool of London, as she passed the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery the O’ Brian let out a long solitary blast on her whistle as a mark of respect to her lost sister. This was probably the very last crossing of the Atlantic by a Liberty Ship, a ship that saved the country and won a war. Liberty Ship Statistics Displacement (Max.): 14,245 tones Length: 441 ft 6 in (129.81 m) Beam: 57 ft (16.76 m) Draft: 27 ft 8 7/8 in (8.16m) Block Coefficient: 0.745 Weights: Hull: 3,425 tons Plate: 2,727 tons Shapes: 700 50,000 castings. Propulsion: 2500 hp (1.86 MW) Speed: 11 kts Cargo Holds: 5 Three forward of the engine spaces and two aft Deadweight: 10,856 tonnes Gross tones: 7,176 tones Max Load: 9,140 tons (with a full fuel load) Cargo volume: 562,608 ft3 grain (14,297 m3) Cargo Loads possible 300 Railroad freight cars 2,840 Jeeps. 440 light tanks 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition 3,440,000 C-rations Armament Varies but comprised of:-four inch Bofors (fitted on Stern) Three inch guns, (Bow) 20mm and 37mm cannon, (fitted either side of Bofors) (fore mast) 0.3 and 0.5 inch machine-guns. (Four on Superstructure or a mix with the 20mm cannon) On some Liberty's the single 3inch Bow gun was replaced by two 27mm cannons Crew Compliment: 81
Masts of the SS Richard Montgomery
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