Muscat Daily - - BREAK -

On Au­gust 20, 1944, an Amer­i­can cargo ship named S S Richard Mont­gomery car­ry­ing huge amount of ex­plo­sives, meant for use in the on­go­ing Sec­ond World War, ran aground on a sand­bank in the Thames Es­tu­ary, near the town of Sheer­ness, in Eng­land. A sal­vage op­er­a­tion was launched, but be­fore the ship’s cargo could be re­cov­ered in its en­tirety, the ship broke in half and sank.

To this day, the wreck of SS Richard Mont­gomery re­mains in place, ly­ing in the shal­low wa­ters of the es­tu­ary about 2.5km from Sheer­ness. The masts of the ship can still be seen above wa­ter. Buoys float near her car­ry­ing warn­ing signs that state: Dan­ger - Un­ex­ploded am­mu­ni­tion. Do not ap­proach or board this wreck.

S S Richard Mont­gomery was a Lib­erty ship, a type of low-cost, cargo ship that was mass-pro­duced in the US dur­ing World War II. A Lib­erty ship could carry troops as well as cargo, and could be con­structed in as few as 42 days.

Named af­ter an Ir­ish sol­dier who was killed dur­ing the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion, S S Richard Mont­gomery set sail from Hog Is­land, Philadel­phia, loaded with more than 6,000 tonnes of mu­ni­tions. She trav­elled from the Delaware River to the Thames Es­tu­ary, and an­chored while await­ing the for­ma­tion of a con­voy which would then travel to France.

It was while wait­ing in the Thames Es­tu­ary for the con­voy to ar­rive that S S Richard Mont­gomery started to drift to­wards the sand­bank, un­known to the ship’s cap­tain who was re­port­edly asleep at the time.

For rea­sons un­known, the ship’s chief of­fi­cer on duty failed to alert the cap­tain and the ship ran aground.

Once the tide went out, the weight of the ship’s cargo be­came too much for her hull to bear and the ship broke her back. She set­tled on the sand banks near the Isle of Shep­pey, 2.5km from the coast of Sheer­ness.

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