Destruction of HMS Vanguard

The eighth HMS Vanguard was the victim of an internal explosion.

Her magazine was detonated by unstable cordite and within seconds the battleship was annihilated together with all but three of her 800 crew and officers. One of her 12 inch turrets was thrown over a mile to land in Flotta. This appalling accident happened in July 1917. In some ways it resembled the explosion that the cruiser HMS Natal suffered in Cromaty Firth in 1915, and for same time sabotage was suspected.

Just before midnight on Monday, July 9, 1917, the St Vincent class battleship suddenly blew up, killing more than 800 men.

Indeed, from detailed scrutiny of naval records and war graves, it is now believed that the loss of HMS Vanguard resulted in a greater loss of life than the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow by a German submarine, U-47, some 22 years later.

Meticulous research into the World War One naval tragedy has been carried out by a number of military historians and amateur enthusiasts, including Brian Budge from Kirkwall. He and a fellow enthusiast, Jonathan Saunders from Gillingham in Kent, physically visited all the war memorials where men from HMS Vanguard were listed and counted the names and cross-checked that against the Admiralty records for the crew who should have been aboard the ship on that fateful summer night which was reported to have been “quiet”.