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Chatham Naval Memorial Chatham Naval Memorial
First Name: George Thomas Last Name: COOMBES
Date of Death: 09/07/1917 Lived/Born In: Borough
Rank: Stoker2 Unit: HMS Vanguard
Memorial Site: 1. Southwark Cathedral 2. Chatham Naval Memorial

Current Information:

Age-40

8, Toulmin Street, Borough

 

HMS Vanguard was  St Vincent class dreadnought battleship and as part  part of the Grand Fleet had taken part in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. On the evening of 9th July, 1917, she was anchored in the northern part of Scapa Flow, the Royal Navy base in the Orkneys. At 23.20 that night there was an almighty explosion which blew the ship apart, killing all but two of the 845 men on board at the time. This was not the result of any enemy action but rather an explosion of the cordite charges stored in the magazines below the ship’s guns. Why it exploded was and still is a matter of conjecture. There is some evidence that the cordite was past its ‘safe’ date and that despite being at anchor some of the ship’s boilers were still in use which caused a general overheating resulting in the ignition of the cordite. There were nearly 200 London men aboard who lost their lives, one of them being George CoombesHis son, George Frederick Thomas Coombes was also killed in the same incident.

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