HMS Bulwark explosion centenary marked in Portsmouth

HMS Bulwark 1914 Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption HMS Bulwark was anchored off the north Kent coast when the explosion happened

The 100th anniversary of a massive explosion that killed most of the 750 sailors on a Royal Navy battleship has been marked in Portsmouth.

The huge blast ripped through HMS Bulwark in the Medway Estuary shortly after dawn on 26 November 1914.

Conducting a remembrance service earlier, naval chaplain the Reverend Bernard Clarke, described it a "terrible tragedy".

Cordite charges are believed to have caused the blast.

The explosion was so cataclysmic parts of Bulwark were hurled up to six miles and the pier at Southend shook.

Personal effects were reported raining down on the town of Sheerness.

Bodies were still being washed up on the Kent coast two months after the disaster.

Image copyright Royal navy
Image caption The remembrance ceremony was held at HMS Bulwark's home port of Portsmouth

Navy investigators at the time quickly discounted theories of a U-boat attack or a Zeppelin raid and focused on ammunition stored in cross-passages.

It is thought cordite charges left next to a boiler bulkhead ignited and caused the blast.

The wrecked segments of the port and starboard bow remain on the Medway seabed.

The remembrance ceremony was held at HMS Excellent where a plaque commemorates the loss of the 15-strong HMS Excellent Royal Marines Band in the tragedy.

Mr Clarke said: "The ceremony was all about marking this terrible tragedy and reflecting on the wider sacrifices made by not only the Royal Marines Band Service but the wider naval family and the whole of humanity during the First World War."

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