The ‘Doomsday’ shipwreck that could explode and send a tsunami crashing into London | UK | News

The people in the little town of Sheerness in Kent are on edge.

It’s not the cost of energy bills or groceries that’s unnerving them, nor is it apprehension over an influx of tourists in the upcoming summer months that they fear.

The people in the little town of Sheerness are on edge because of the SS Richard Montgomery shipwreck, a World War 2-era boat whose remains lay less than a mile away and could blow at any moment.

The ship has lain untouched since 1944 when it was wrecked on the Nore sandbank in the Thames Estuary.

The problem is not the wreck itself but what its cargo holds: about 1,400 tonnes of explosives that no one is quite sure what to do with — or if they’ll get set off.

Medway Council, the local authority, previously described the ship as the “Doomsday wreck”.

In a Parliamentary report found by, the council went as far as to suggest that any blast from the reck “would hurl a 1,000ft wide column of water, mud, metal and munitions almost 10,000ft into the air – risking wildlife and the lives of many people.”

After 78 years underwater, the ship has become seriously corroded and there are concerns that its three masts — which can still be seen poking from beneath the waterline — could collapse and fall onto the explosives.

The experts say this might trigger a catastrophic blast that would set off a tsunami which could destroy everything in its wake.

The tsunami would send huge waves towards the Kent and Essex shorelines and even London.

In 2022, experts at Defence Research and Development Canada raised fear levels even higher when it assessed the ship’s fragile state.

“A blast on this scale would be one of the world’s biggest non-nuclear explosions, causing widespread destruction and death,” they told the New Scientist.

Plans have been drawn up by the Department for Transport (DfT), to trim the masts and lessen their potential to set off the munitions cargo, and specialists have been surveying the ship since 2022.

Works to remove the masts were delayed after a company given a contract found ordnance lying on the seabed, which it removed in the summer of 2023.

It has since identified another 18 “objects” on the sea bed which has caused the DfT to abandon the use of rigs in the area for safety reasons. Recent years have seen the rapid deterioration of the ship’s hull, which could, it is thought, increase the danger.

In a twist of fate, the SS Richard Montgomery has become something of a hit tourist attraction.

Richard Bain, from Jetstream Tours, received much interest from prospective visitors before the Government decided to section off the shipwreck.

“We get a lot of people interested in the Montgomery purely because it’s a relic of the world wars,” he told the BBC. “This year is the last year we are going to be able to see those masts.”

Lydia Hyde, a Southend Labour councillor, earlier this year noted that things had degraded to the point where it was now necessary to act as soon as possible.

“There was an assessment in the summer, and then there was a more detailed one in November, to basically go and look at the condition of the masts,” she told the Metro.

“The concern is that corrosion means they catastrophically fail, their structural integrity goes, the mast falls down and then lands on the wreck, and then that could set off an explosion.

“Following the dive, they’ve assessed it and they’ve gone ‘actually, no, we need to bring this forward because the corrosion was more than expected’,” she added.

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