Explosion aboard the Destroyer H.M.S. KEMPENFELT





Buildings Shaken

An explosion of the afterdeck of HMS Kempenfelt, a Destroyer moored at the dolphins, Kirribilli point shook buildings and seriously injured one naval rating, at about 6 p.m. yesterday.

The explosion is thought to have taken place in the compressed air chamber of the torpedo. Large buildings on the city side trembled as if an earthquake had occurred. On the Kirribilli side crockery fell form shelves in some kitchens and women who ere preparing the evening meal rushed into the streets. The Navy stated that the only official casualty was Able Seaman D. J. Pullin, (CJX 559323) who was seriously injured. It is understood that several other ratings suffered shook and light burns.

Flames Mast High

Witnesses from the shore described a blinding flash in which flames leapt mast high, followed by dense clouds of white and grey smoke which poured from the vessel. A fire broke out near the engine room and spread to the awnings. but it was controlled by the crew. The seriously injured rating was transferred to the hospital on board the British naval depot Ship HMS Tyne which was moored on the starboard side of the Kempenfelt.

The explosion was heard in the eastern suburbs and many residents iin the Bellvue Hill area congregated on the heights which overlook the harbour to try to ascertain the cause. The explosion was also heard in the western suburbs. Thousands of people gathered on the foreshores of the harbour. Some believed the noise to have been due to the firing of a large calibre naval gun.

Buildings Trembled

Houses in the north Sydney area were severely shaken and even large blocks of flats at King’s Cross and Potis Point trembled with the force of the explosion. Naval headquarters on Garden Island received numerous telephone enquires, but no information was given.

The cause of the accident was not officially disclosed, but it was announced last night that it would form the subject of a naval inquiry. It is assumed that the explosion took place in the compressed air chamber of the torpedo, which was in a tube, adjacent to others.

The body of the torpedo penetrated the radar room on the deck and the funnel of the Kempenfelt. The torpedo warhead travelled in the opposite direction, carrying away the aerial of HMS The Wager, a destroyer moored on the port side of the Kempenfelt. Fragments of the torpedo also fell on another destroyer, HMS Whirlwind, on the port side of the Wager.


No Damage to Ships

No damage was done to the hull of the Kempenfelt except for scorched paint. The adjoining ships suffered no serious damage. Members of the fire brigade, in charge of Third Officer Griffith, members of the maritime service board and water police on board the launch Osiris in charge of Sergeant Maguire, were alongside the destroyer within a few minutes. The navy thanked them for their offer of assistance, but said the crew were able to cope with the flames. Three fire floats from Goat Island – the Plivius, the Hydra and the Endeavour under Captain Luckett – also went to the destroyer’s assistance but their services also were not required.


Photo captions: TOP: A view showing portion of the torpedo which exploded and punctured four bulkheads, the radar room and the funnel, on board the destroyer HMS Kempenfelt in Sydney harbour yesterday. BELOW: The tail of the torpedo projecting from the radar room and penetrating the funnel.


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