Military Review

Indian Hiroshima

Indian Hiroshima

Until August 1945, when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, история she knew only two explosives of comparable power, each of which cost the lives of thousands of people and caused enormous material damage. One of them occurred in 1944 in the Indian Bombay during the explosion of the Fort Steikin. Even a few decades later, when it comes to the past, in Bombay they use the expressions "when the ship exploded," "before the explosion," or "after the explosion." For the residents of this city 14 April 1944 of the year - the date from which the new countdown began. However, the world community about this explosion has long been known relatively little, since it happened in wartime, and the information was classified.

On a cold misty morning on 24 in February, 1944 from England to India left a convoy of twenty ships, including Fort Staikin. His captain, an experienced sailor, Alexander D. Naismith, on the one hand, did not feel any particular alarm, because he knew that the newly built ship was reliable, and the weather was normal for the Atlantic. Naismith, on the other hand, was disturbed by the load - extremely dangerous and at the same time responsible. What just was not on the deck and in the five holds of Fort Staikin! Disassembled fighter aircraft "Spitfire", explosives, ammunition and most importantly - gold: bars worth about a million pounds, which were intended for the Bombay Bank.

In the Atlantic convoy increased and began to number fifty transports, accompanied by two aircraft carriers, and at the very Gibraltar, it was divided in two. Most of the ships turned to West Africa, and the rest joined the new convoy, which came from the United States, and headed to the Mediterranean Sea. The Fort Staikin was with them.

One evening, when the Fort Staikin was on the traverse of Algeria, the alarm bells suddenly sounded. Four German bomber at a low altitude swept over the ships. Chipped anti-aircraft guns. When the order came to put a smoke screen, it turned out that the smoke buoys were useless: one of them lit a bright flame, and the sailors with great difficulty managed to eliminate the fire. This time everything went well. The air attack was repulsed.

Air alarms were announced more than once, but Fort Staikin was lucky. Having reached Aden, the ship replenished its reserves and, already alone, headed for Karachi. The Arabian Sea passed without incident, and Fort Staikin 30 March arrived at the port of destination. After partial unloading, Naismith was persuaded to take on additional cargo for Bombay - raw cotton in piles, barrels with machine oil, wood, scrap metal, mineral fertilizers, sulfur, pitch and cereals. Captain Naismith certainly knew that since it was military time, every ship was obliged to take full cargo. He also knew that cotton is a dangerous cargo, capable of self-igniting under certain conditions, especially when it comes into contact with oil and oils. But there was nothing to do. Before leaving, he told his assistants: “Almost all of our cargo is either flammable or explosive, but the only thing we can do is conduct additional fire drills.”

After leaving Karachi, Fort Staikin joined the convoy of tankers from the Persian Gulf. The three-day crossing was completed safely, but the crew was constantly harassed by dangerous cargo.

On April 12, the ship arrived on the Bombay raid and a few hours later it landed at berth No.1 of the Victoria dock. Nobody knew what cargo was in the holds of the arriving steamer, although according to the rules a vessel with dangerous cargo on board was obliged to raise a red flag. But ships carrying ammunition were especially often targeted by enemy aircraft, and by 1944, the captains became more cautious, so the rule was almost always broken.

When the representatives of the port authorities arrived at Fort Staikin, Captain Naismith immediately introduced them to the composition and placement of the cargo. However, the message about the presence on board of explosives made no particular impression on them. Slow unloading began only the next morning - April 13. A little more than a day remained before the disaster. April 14 unloading continued. Then the bill went already for hours, and then - for minutes.

In 12 hours 30 minutes, the crew commander of the ship “Fort Crevier”, standing in the same dock, notices a light smoke flowing from the deflector of the hold No. 2 “Fort Staikin”. An hour later, from his post, which was near the entrance to the dock, he saw the smoke and the assistant inspector of Bombay police. He did not assume that there could be a fire on one of the ships.

In 13 hours 45 minutes loaders, working on the Fort Staykine, notice in the hold smoke, rising on the port side. An alarm is raised on the ship and the fire is extinguished by water. The fire brigade on duty was connected to the fire. The Bombay fire brigade sent eight more fire engines to the ship.

By 15 hours, the Bombay Fire Department Chief arrives on the ship; the officer responsible for the explosives in the docks; General manager of the docks and deputy head of the security docks. By this time, the fire is extinguished already from 32 hoses.

We can say that Fort Fortress once again confirmed the correctness of the saying “Seven nannies have a child without an eye”. In fact: on the quay, as we see, a lot of different chiefs gathered, each of whom assessed the situation in his own way and gave his own advice. The explosives specialist believed that the situation was very dangerous and the only possible way to save the docks was to sink the ship. However, this was impossible to perform because of the shallow depth, and Captain Naismith, of course, was against it. Someone offered to batten down the hatch and fill the hold with steam, but this method had to be abandoned, as it was impossible to get to the hatch of the lower hold. The general manager of the docks believed that the vessel should be brought to an external raid. However, it could not go on its way - the car was being repaired, and it was too late to take it out with the help of tugs, since in this case it would have been necessary to disconnect all the arms of the fire engines, which sharply increased the danger of an explosion. According to another specialist, the only way out was to quickly bring water vessels to the burning vessel and thus increase the volume of water poured into the hold. The Soviets gave everything, but everyone thought they had no right to take command and give orders to others. And the fire inflamed. Further events developed as follows.

In the 15 hours of 10 minutes, paint began to bubble up on a small portion of the beadboard from the heat, and an attempt was made to cut the side of the fire, but the gas-cutting unit was faulty. By half past three in the hold №2 900 t of water was already poured. By this time, the top stacks of cotton bales are already burning.

By the 15 watch, 45 minutes were lit up with boxes of explosives. The fire subsides, then flares up even more. Five minutes later, from the hold number 2 to the height of the mast burst a tongue of flame. Firefighters and the crew flee the ship. The warehouse building on the pier caught fire.

Exactly on the 16 clock, the first explosion struck at Fort Staykin. Torn off by the explosion of the bow of the vessel sank. The fire spread to the hold number 4 with explosives. Forty minutes later, the second explosion thundered on Fort Fortin.

The few surviving eyewitnesses to the first explosion, who knew its causes, believed that Fort Staikin had exploded completely, and the only thing that had to be done was to save the wounded and abandon all forces to fight the fire at the docks. However, the situation was different. The first explosion was cut by the stern bulkhead of the second hold, the bow of the vessel, which, having flown ten meters ahead, sank. The stern part remained afloat and continued to burn. And in the hold number 4 explosives were two times more than in the hold number 2. Therefore, the second explosion was much more destructive than the first one. It occurred deep in the hold; the height of the column of fire and smoke reached a kilometer. A huge mass of metal, wood, incendiary bombs, burning cotton bales and oil barrels spread more than 2 km from the epicenter of the explosion.

Stored warehouses and warehouses. Lighters falling from the sky were torn. It's a black day for Bombay. Chaos in the aftermath of the disaster was no less than the one that reigned on Fort Staykine before the explosion. People who understood the need for leadership and took it upon themselves could not, due to the lack of a plan developed in advance for such a case, fully capture the situation and coordinate the actions of thousands of volunteers. Later, commenting on this, one Indian magazine wrote: “The symbol of how Bombay met this terrible catastrophe is a lonely man with a fire barrel in his hands, and this man does not really know what to do.”

Around the place where Fort Steikin stood, raging fire formed a hellish ring with a radius of about 900 m. The fire spread almost a mile along the railroad tracks between the warehouses and the residential part of the city and broke into the streets where crowded houses of local residents. Local ships sailing at sea fleet posed a mortal threat to the rest of the vessels that were on the outer roadstead.

A gross miscalculation in the organization of fire fighting was that the docks "Prince" and "Victoria", which became the center of a general fire, were left to fend for themselves. Without this, many valuable ships could be saved. This happened partly because many knowledgeable and experienced people died as a result of explosions.

A common misfortune rallied people stronger than any orders. All people - military and civilians, the British and Indians, worked tirelessly and fiercely. Volunteers manually dragged over 2000 tons of ammunition stored there from the neighboring dock “Alexander”. They fought with fire, saved people, pulled valuable goods from warehouses to a safe place. The difficult task faced the Bombay hospitals. The victims began to arrive within minutes after the first explosion. Volunteers came and offered their help. And although some of them could only serve tea, for the wounded it meant more than just a favor: a sip of water in a sultry April can save lives. Many pharmacists gave medicine for free.

The consequences of a catastrophe can only be called terrible. It was destroyed almost square mile of urban development, the most "saturated" values. Hundreds of people died and were injured, thousands lost their homes and jobs. In official reports, the government tried to conceal the severity of the disaster, of course, that among the inhabitants of the country went the most incredible rumors about the causes of the fire, and about its consequences. However, the reality was worse than the most fantastic speculation. According to some experts, the loss was estimated at 20 million pounds, but in reality it was impossible to evaluate it in money. The vessels with a total capacity of about 35 thousand tons died. The disaster affected 6000 companies and left thousands of people without work 50. Almost 3 thousands of people lost everything they had. The fire consumed 55000 tons of grain destined for the population, and this is in a country devastated by long crop failures.

No one will ever know how many people died in the bombing bombings. The officially announced figure - 500 man - is very understated. Comparing the various data experts, believe that these days in Bombay killed about 1400 and injured about 2500 people.

All these terrible consequences had, in essence, one root cause: the presence on one ship and even in one hold of such absolutely incompatible goods as cotton and lube, and as a result - spontaneous combustion of the cargo.

Had the Bombay disaster in peacetime, the elimination of its consequences would take more than one year. But this time, the organization of work was on top. The initiative and perseverance of many people helped to overcome very serious difficulties: after seven months, the docks re-entered service.

Innis J. Bombay Blast. L .: Shipbuilding, 1989, C.6-7, 41-60.
Muromov I.A. 100 great shipwrecks. M: Veche, 2003. C. 247-255.
Scriagin L. Secrets of marine disasters. M .: Transportation, 1986. C. 149-152.
Glebov I. Bombay tragedy // Boats and yachts. 1985. No.8. C. 101-103.
Scriagin L. Smerch over the pier. Technology - youth. 1977. No.7. C. 54-57.
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    KBACYPA 3 September 2015 07: 22 New
    Halifax was worse. And one funny episode is connected with this catastrophe: of the 900 gold bars, one plopped down in the shoemaker's yard a kilometer beyond 3 from the epicenter. He, having learned where the ingot had handed over to the port authorities. Where the rest of 899 is still unknown.
    1. Baikal
      Baikal 3 September 2015 11: 30 New
      Typical tragedy. Tragedy - yes. Typical - gold was brought from England. And suddenly something happened to the transport. Thousands of people died, gold disappeared ... Somehow little was believed in the sad eyes threw Albion.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 3 September 2015 07: 41 New
    A very interesting article was in Technique - Youth, on this occasion ... under the heading Anthology of mysterious cases .. year 1983 it seems .. the layout of ships before the explosion and after the explosion .. just from there .. Thank you .. reminded ..
  3. Vladimirets
    Vladimirets 3 September 2015 07: 43 New
    I read about this case just in "Skryagin L. Secrets of marine disasters. M: Transport, 1986. S. 149-152.".
  4. qwert
    qwert 3 September 2015 08: 57 New
    Quote: parusnik
    the arrangement of ships before the explosion and after the explosion .. just from there ..
    I also remember the scheme in TM, although at that time I was still a schoolboy and I didn’t seem to read the article recourse , but there were definitely no pictures there. The steamer is certainly ugly. And the conflagration in the photo in the text is terrible. But, the British were not particularly upset for the Indians. Their concept of "subhuman" was no less developed than in the Nazi Reich.
    1. Doctorleg
      Doctorleg 3 September 2015 10: 05 New
      You to, of course. you know whether they were upset or not. And about whom they considered Hindus, it is unlikely that they considered them to be "subhuman," because in that case they would not have been admitted to their best universities, which the entire elite of independent India graduated from
      1. timyr
        timyr 3 September 2015 15: 06 New
        But what about for example: wagons for whites and for Indians.
    2. parusnik
      parusnik 3 September 2015 10: 50 New
      There were pictures, but slightly different .. and a little .. not more than two .. And the picture at the beginning of the article is amazing ..
  5. uzer 13
    uzer 13 3 September 2015 09: 35 New
    Where there is gold, there are always fires, explosions and catastrophes. It is also desirable with maximum destruction. To cover the tracks. And then the curious will be interested in where this gold has gone.
    1. Gomunkul
      Gomunkul 3 September 2015 11: 07 New
      [quote] Where there is gold, there are always fires, explosions and disasters / quote]
      You are not quite right, explosions and fires, as well as other man-made accidents happen where safety is neglected. hi
      PS When he was serving urgent on the staffing list, he was listed in the emergency rescue team, training was regular, the actions worked out to automaticity.
    2. The comment was deleted.
  6. alstr
    alstr 3 September 2015 10: 05 New
    At one time, I read about this separately published book. There, by the way, the number of victims was indicated about 3000 (I don’t remember exactly).
    Also, everything was painted almost in minutes and the words of the participants and eyewitnesses are given.
    By the way, they praised the firefighters who, until the explosion, despite the danger, remained at their post and put out the fire.
  7. Bayonet
    Bayonet 3 September 2015 10: 33 New
    In the history there were quite a few terrible explosions, which in their consequences can be compared with nuclear ones. The Tahas catastrophe

    The fire that occurred aboard the SS Grandcamp cargo ship, docked in Texas in 1947, caused an explosion of 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate transported on it (a compound used in explosives). A blast wave in the sky blew up two flying airplanes, and the subsequent chain reaction destroyed the nearby plants, as well as a neighboring vessel carrying another 1000 tons of ammonium nitrate. In general, the explosion is considered the worst industrial accident in the United States, which killed 600 people and left 3500 injured.

    Halifax explosion

    In 1917, a French ship, fully loaded with weapons and explosives intended for use during the First World War, accidentally collided with a Belgian ship in the port of Halifax (Canada).
    The explosion occurred of tremendous power - 3 kilotons of TNT. As a result of the explosion, the city was shrouded in an enormous cloud of size, which spread to 6100 meters in height, and it also provoked a tsunami up to 18 meters high. Within a radius of 2 km from the center of the explosion, everything was destroyed, about 2000 people died, more than 9000 remained wounded. This blast remains the world's largest man-made random blast.
  8. brn521
    brn521 3 September 2015 13: 31 New
    Quote: Bayonet
    There have been quite a few terrible explosions in history

    Yes, but only in this case there could be an especially exotic sandwich: cotton (which tends to ignite spontaneously), oil (which will prevent the fire from being brought down by water) and explosives. It was as if a firewall was specially equipped, not a cargo ship. And on top of all this is a sickly amount of gold bullion.
  9. egor670
    egor670 3 September 2015 15: 06 New
    I read this article word for word, with the same drawings, 25 years ago in the magazine "Boats and Yachts"
  10. Technical engineer
    3 September 2015 17: 22 New
    Quote: Bayonet
    In the history there were quite a few terrible explosions, which in their consequences can be compared with nuclear ones. The Tahas catastrophe

    Innis J. "The Bombay Explosion". L., Shipbuilding, 1989 writes the following: "Pyrotechnics unanimously agree that before 1945, the most powerful explosion ever experienced by mankind occurred during the explosion of the ship" Mont Blanc "in the Canadian city of Halifax. The second largest explosion occurred in 1944 year But inn John wrote about bombing before the atomic bomb in Bombay in the explosion of the Fort Staikin ship. The Texas explosion on the SS Grandcamp happened, as you point out, after 1947, but I think it was more powerful. Although fewer people died. But who knows how the Americans consider their victims?
  11. UVB
    UVB 3 September 2015 17: 36 New
    Railway accident near Ufa, USSR. At the time of passing two passenger trains No. 211 Novosibirsk-Adler and No. 212 Adler-Novosibirsk, a powerful explosion of an unlimited cloud of wide fractions of light hydrocarbons occurred as a result of an accident at the nearby Siberia-Ural-Volga pipeline. 575 people died, 181 of them were children, more than 600 were injured.
    An explosion of a large volume of gas distributed in space had the character of a volume explosion. The power of the explosion was estimated at 250-300 tons of trinitrotoluene. According to other estimates, the power of a volume explosion could reach 12 kilotons of TNT, which is comparable to the power of a nuclear explosion in Hiroshima (16 kilotons) /
  12. Stoler
    Stoler 3 September 2015 18: 00 New
    Store and transport explosives with gold - CLASSSSS !!!!! good
  13. Ivan Ivanych
    Ivan Ivanych 3 September 2015 18: 53 New
    Was there gold?))
    1. Olezhek
      Olezhek 3 September 2015 19: 36 New
      Of course it was, the question is who ?? hi
      And why do not you like the Rothschilds?
  14. Technical engineer
    3 September 2015 19: 13 New
    Quote: Ivan Ivanovich
    Was there gold?))

    Now I think about it no
    1. Olezhek
      Olezhek 3 September 2015 20: 03 New
      Tada air conditioning unplug ...
  15. SlavaP
    SlavaP 3 September 2015 20: 47 New
    And another “ship bomb” is quietly waiting in the wings - the Montgomery wreck in the Thames, almost within Greater London. Xnumx tons ... banging is not sickly ...