25th July 1944. The Richard Montgomery, with 120 merchant ships and 33 escorts in Convoy HX 301, left New York bound for the D-day landing beaches. Her cargo is listed as 6,862 tons of Explosives and Ammunition.
On arriving in British waters, the Richard Montgomery continued on her journey around the top of Scotland and down the east coast of England as part of convoy FS 1543, arriving in the Thames Estuary.
20th August 1944. Incorrectly positioned by the Southend Harbour Master in a crowded anchorage the Richard Montgomery dragged her anchor and irretrievably grounded, despite other close by ships sounding their horns in warning.
Three days after the Montgomery ran aground the salvage ships “Empire Nutfield and SS “Flathouse” arrived with three gangs of stevedores and began to unload her deadly cargo. The Tug “Atlantic Cock” supplied steam for the derricks.
4th September the strong winds and high waves forced the salvage operations to be abandoned. The weather had won the battle for the Montgomery.
Between the 23rd August and the 4 September 1944, 1,514 tons of bombs were removed from the Richard Montgomery.
6,862 tons of bombs were on the Montgomery when she grounded. 1,514 tons of bombs were removed in the salvage operation. 5,348 tons of bombs remain on the Richard Montgomery.
In an attempt to play down the gravity of thousands of tons of deteriorating bombs, in close proximity to populated areas, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency wrongly state that 1,400 tons of explosive material (or TNT) remain on the Montgomery. (During WW2 a typical general-purpose bomb was 50% casing weight and 50% explosive material. Therefore, the explosive material or TNT on board the Montgomery is not 1,400 tons of TNT, but almost twice that at 2,674 tons of TNT.)
SS Richard Montgomery
It should be remembered that the Richard Montgomery, like other Liberty ships played a vital role during World War Two. The Richard Montgomery was not a British Ship; it was an American Ship. It wasn’t bringing munitions for the British Army, it was transporting them to Normandy, shortly after D-Day, for the American armed forces.
Liberty ships were built cheaply and quickly to last the duration of the war. They were assembled in production line fashion, to meet a need in a time of dire emergency. They were built to replace the millions of tons of shipping which had been sunk by German U-boats in the Atlantic and to give more capacity to build up armaments and munitions approaching D-day (the Invasion of German controlled Europe by Great Britain and the Commonwealth and the United States of America.)
Liberty Ships had one failing, which at first went unrecognized. The steel used to build them was of a low grade and cold weather such as that found in the North Atlantic made the steel brittle and prone to cracking. On a ship built of steel plates riveted together, this wasn’t a problem as the crack would only travel as far as the edge of the plate. On welded ships there was nothing to stop the crack which got longer and longer. These crack would often start at weak points such as the corners of Hold openings. (Now you know why airline windows aren’t square but have rounded corners.)
The SS Richard Montgomery was named after General Richard Montgomery. Having first served in the British Army, during the American War of Independence, he joined the American Continental Army to fight against the British. He was killed on the 31st December 1775 at the siege of Quebec.
The RICHARD MONTGOMERY
American Liberty Ship.
The RICHARD MONTGOMERY, also known as the Wreck or the Bomb Ship, sits in the Thames Estuary one and a half miles from Sheerness and five miles from Southend with its masts visible at all states of the tide.
To this day, a massive 5,348 tons of bombs remain on the Richard Montgomery.
Watch this short video about the Richard Montgomery. https://youtu.be/f0Sny-3SQUI
The Richard Montgomery is a Liberty Ship and as such played an important part in World War Two by transporting large amounts of materials and war supplies to Britain and by so doing helping to win the war.
Today the wreck of the Richard Montgomery lies on the seabed, with its masts above the surface, off Sheerness, the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England.
The Richard Montgomery shortly after she sunk in the Thames Estuary.
In this BBC photograph of the Richard Montgomery sinking. It is not difficult to see why the two holds at the stern, Cargo Holds 4 and 5, were off-loaded while the munitions in holds 1, 2, and 3 at the front of the ship were abandoned.
The RICHARD MONTGOMERY.
The Richard Montgomery was built in Florida at the St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company and was launched on the 15 June 1943 and sunk on the 20 August 1944.
Liberty Ships, including the Richard Montgomery, were built to the same basic design which is as follows:
Length: 441 feet, 6 inches. Beam: 57 feet. Draft: 27 feet, 9 inches
Displacement: 14,245 tons (fully loaded) Gross: (weight) 7,176 tons. (7,176 tons is sometimes mistakenly given as the weight of the cargo and not the weight of the ship.)
Cargo Capacity: 9,140 tons, nominal (over 10,000 tons, with external deck cargo)
Propulsion: Two oil-fired boilers. One triple expansion 2,500 HP steam engine.
Speed: 11.5 knots.
Range: 17,000 Nautical Miles.
Armament: One 3-inch bow gun, one 5-inch stern gun and six to eight 20 mm guns.
Typical Crew Size: Up to 44 Merchant Mariners and 12 to 25 Naval Armed Guard.
RECORD OF MUNITIONS REMOVED FROM THE RICHARD MONTGOMERY.
When the Montgomery run aground and broke her back on the 20th August 1944, she carried in holds 6,862 tons of bombs. This is a record of the bombs which were removed during the Salvage operation.
SALVAGE OPERATIONS ON THE SS RICHARD MONTGOMERY, 23 Aug 1944 to 4 Sep 1944.
Salvage ships, Empire Nutfield and SS Flathouse,
Wednesday 23rd August
No. 3 Hold 1,020 fin assembly parts
No. 5 Hold 12 x 250-lb. bombs.
Thursday 24th August,
No.1 hold 20 x 500-lb. bombs.
20 x 250-lb. bombs.
No.3. hold 1,000 Fin Assembly parts.
No.5. hold 307 x 250-lb. bombs.
Friday 25th August.
No.1. hold 254 x 250-lb. bombs.
78 x 500lb. bombs.
No.3. hold 505 cases fuses.
No.5. hold 409 x 250-lb. bombs.
Saturday 26th August.
No.1. hold 96 x 500-lb. bombs.
25 x 250-lb. bombs.
No.3 hold 301 cases fuses.
No.5. hold 124 x 250-lb. bombs.
Sunday 27th August.
No.1 hold 268 x 250-lb. bombs. 35 x 500-lb bombs.
No.2 hold 65 cases fuses.
No.3 hold 425 cases fuses.
No.5 hold 295 x 250-lb. bombs.
Monday 28th August.
No.1. hold 219 x 500-lb. bombs.
No.2 hold 737 cases Cluster Fragmentation Bombs.
No.5 hold 282 x 500-lb. bombs.
Tuesday the 29th August.
No.1. hold 335 x 250-lb. bombs. 38 x 500-lb. bombs.
No.2 hold 519 cases Fragmentation bombs.
No.4 hold 778 cases fragmentation bombs. 99 cases of bomb assemblies. 273 Fin Assembly parts.
No.5 hold. 300 x 500-lb. bombs.
Wednesday 30th August.
No.1. hold 435 x 250-lb. bombs.
No.2 hold 803 cases Fragmentation Bombs and small arms ammunition.
No.4 hold 23 Bomb Assembly cases. 143 cases Wire Assembly parts. 196 Fin Assembly parts. 1 demolition Bomb. 10 cases Fragmentation Bombs.
Thursday 31st August.
No. 1. Hold 386 x 250-lb. bombs.
No. 2 hold 669 cases Fragmentation bombs.
No. 4 hold 1,005 cases Fragmentation Bombs.
No. 5 hold 450 x 250-lb. bombs. 80 Fin Assembly parts.
Friday 1st September.
No.1. hold 190 x 500-lb. bombs.
No.2 hold 805 cases Fragmentation Bombs and small arms components.
No. 4 hold 150 cases Fragmentation Bombs. 504 x 100-lb. Demolition Bombs.
No.5 hold 415 x 250-lb. bombs. 116 x 500-lb. bombs.
Saturday 2nd September.
No.1. hold 65 x 500-lb. bombs.
No.2 hold 201 cases Fragmentation Bombs.
No.4 hold 420 Fin Assembly Parts.
No. 5 hold 63 x 500-lb. bombs.
Sunday 3rd September.
No. 5 hold 195 x 1000 bombs.
No.4 hold 34 x 1000 bombs.
Monday 4th September.
No.4 hold 26 x 1000-lb. bombs.
No.5 hold 92 x 500-lb. bombs.
Total Munitions removed:
1296 cases of fuses. (approx.) 129,600 lbs, 57.85 tons.
631 x 1000lb bombs, 631,000 lbs, 281.69 tons.
1594 x 500 lb bombs, 797,000 lbs, 355.80 tons.
3735 X 250 lb bombs, 933,750 lbs, 416.85 tons.
505 x 100 lb bombs, 50,500 lbs, 22.54 tons.
5677 x Cases fragmentation bombs, (approx.) 567,700 lbs, 253.43 tons.
2834 cases of miscellaneous nonexplosive parts such as Fin Assembly Parts, at (approx.) 126.51 tons.
Total 1514 tons of munitions and miscellaneous nonexplosive parts were removed from the Richard Montgomery. Richard Montgomery was loaded with 6862 tons of munitions.
Their remains a MASSIVE 5,348 tons of munitions on the Richard Montgomery.