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Wednesday 30 May 2012

Standard Discovers Liberty Ships

Today, the Evening Standard, aka the London Daily Bozza, has shared with its long suffering readers the revelatory insight that something out in the Thames estuary may be standing in the way of the new airport project so enthusiastically backed by occasional mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Yes, hack Nicholas Cecil has discovered Wikipedia and thereby the SS Richard Montgomery.

Nowt gets past this lot

Fortunately for those readers, most of whom deposit their copy of the now freesheet paper on their Tube, train or bus before alighting, they aren’t having to pay for the privilege of reading decades-old news yet again. And, outside the capital, as Zelo Street regulars will know, we’ve looked at this problem more than once, and concluded that Boris Island (tm) won’t fly until the wreck is removed.

So that’s it, is it? Well, no it isn’t: the last time such a wreck was tackled, off the Channel coast near Folkestone, the object of attention was most uncooperative, and due to sympathetic detonation – that is, as Derek “Blaster” Bates memorably observed, sympathetic to itself and “not the silly bugger driving the van” – there was a local earthquake of over magnitude 4.

An explosive bang, chaps? Cripes! Oo-er!!

The explosion caused panic in the town, but fortunately no-one was killed or injured. The event did dig a significantly sized trench near the shore, though whether this was of any use to the cross-Channel ferry operation is not known. So what might happen if the Richard Montgomery went bang? Cecil uses the characterisation “the £1 billion timebomb”, but I can be more specific.

A detonation involving most or all of the ordnance on board – up to 1,400 tonnes of TNT – was estimated back in 1970 to have the power to hurl a column of water and debris some 3,000 metres into the air. Most, if not all, windows in the town of Sheerness would be taken out. There would be significant structural damage. The subsequent tidal wave could inundate low lying areas nearby.

Surviving Liberty Ship John W Brown

And, for those believing that the wreck can just be left there, well, it can’t – not for ever. The ship’s hull is gradually deteriorating, and a decision will have to be made to take action even if Bozza’s new jolly whizzo idea gets (deservedly) kicked into the long grass. Residents of Sheerness can look forward to the dubious pleasure of evacuation, maybe over an extended period.

So it’s good to see the Standard finally waking up to the presence of the Richard Montgomery. But Cecil does not adequately explain what “neutralising” the wreck would involve. It could be destructive and deadly, and that’s a heck of a price to pay just so Bozza can claim his legacy. But at least we have the prospect of London’s paper actually telling its readers the full story.

As opposed to telling them what Bozza & Co want them to. Crikey readers!

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