View Full Version : H.M.S. Princess Irene and the sole survivor.

Tony P
02-17-05, 12:47
In 1915 the ship H.M.S. Princess Irene was destroyed by an internal explosion.

My story starts some eighteen years go, my wife would tell me about her grandfather, He was the sole survivor of the disaster that struck the Princess Irene. At first I took little notice but as time went by, my interest grew.

My father-in-law (Ron Wills) was only about five years of age when his father died, so he knew very little about him. Sometimes he would tell the story of the Princess Irene and his father but most of what he said was passed down from his mother. It was then I decided to look into the Princess Irene and (David Percy Wills).

It was on the morning of the 27th may 1915, The Princess Irene was lying peacefully at anchor In the river Medway at Sheerness, after several trips she was back in the Medway for a refit. A ship of the Canadian Pacific Line, a 1,500-passenger liner built at Dumbarton in 1914, before she could leave Britain she was commandeered for war and became H.M.S.Princess Irene.

At 11:15 hours The (Irene) blew up killing 278 men including 78 workers from nearby towns and villages. There was a great mushroom cloud and the ship had gone. Only one man survived (David Percy Wills).

I would like to find anybody who has an interest in H.M.S Princess Irene and also from anyone that may have lost a relative on board the ship, any one with any pictures of the crew would be most welcome.

Best Wishes
Tony P

02-17-05, 12:57
Blown to Eternity! -- the PRINCESS IRENE story
Author: John Hendy,
Publication Number: 8319 ISBN: 1-871947-61-8, Publication Date: 2001

Have you read this book Tony ?


Tony P
02-17-05, 13:04
Hello Sir
Yes I'm well aware of John Hendy and his Book, I've spoken to John on the phone a couple of times, It's good little read.
Many thanks all information helps.
Best wishes
Tony P

02-17-05, 13:08
Found the text below on the following web site


02-17-05, 13:12
Also found the following on this web site


Goodger Harry Writer 1st 347124 H.M.S Princess Irene, Royal Navy Born at Roseville, Wolverhampton. Died - 27 May, 1915. Aged - 30. Memorial - Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetery, - Kent, United Kingdom Naval.20. 1028.

02-17-05, 13:17
Some more info :roll:


The Ship series

This is an ever expanding series of publications giving crew details of those who lost their lives in conflict on the seas. As well as the crew list, there is often a description of the vessel and of the last battle in which it took part. Available now are:

At 4.50: SS Titanic and Men who fought with Nelson at Trafalgar.

At 4 each: HMS Queen Mary, HMS Invincible, HMS Indefatigable, HMS Bulwark, HMS Hood, HMS Black Prince, HMS Good Hope, HMS Monmouth, HMS Defence, HMS Glorious, HMS Clan MacNaughton, Battle of Jutland Destroyers, HMS Neptune and Flower Class Corvettes.

At 3 each: HMS Barham, HMS Aboukir, HMS Hampshire, HMS Affray, HMS Viknor, HMS Vanguard, HMS Stanley, HMS Princess Irene, HMS Goliath and HMS Amphion.

Tony P
02-17-05, 13:27
Once again, I'm in your debt.
Many Thanks
Tony P

Tony P
02-17-05, 13:31
On your last post, it mentioned the H.M.S.Hood, I can remember my grandmother telling me her brother was the chief petty officer on board the hood, but I don't know his name.

Tony P

06-28-06, 05:14
My Great-Uncle's son (Stoker 2nd Class George Horne) was one of the casualties. No other details available.

06-28-06, 06:35
My Great-Uncle's son (Stoker 2nd Class George Horne) was one of the casualties. No other details available.

Thats a shame mate, it would have been interesting to hear about him camo;

John A Silkstone
06-28-06, 14:24
Taken from BBC archives

Making History
HMS Bulwark and HMS Princess Irene

Two mighty explosions in which more than a thousand people died shook Sheerness in Kent in the early months of the First World War. Sheerness, at the mouth of the river Medway, was an important and busy naval dockyard.

The first explosion occurred on 26 November 1914. HMS Bulwark, a 15,000-ton battleship, was moored at Kethole Reach on the Medway. It was while the men on board were having breakfast that the ship suddenly exploded into smithereens. When the smoke cleared the ship had gone. The explosion was heard as far away as Whitstable to the south and Southend in Essex, where it shook the pier. There was considerable damage in Sheerness. More than 700 men on the ship were killed. Winston Churchill reported the disaster to the House of Commons later that day, reporting that only 12 had survived. There were rumours of sabotage, but Bulwark was almost certainly destroyed while ammunition was being loaded: there may have been some mishandling of the powder charges.

Less than six months later there was a second explosion. This time it was the Princess Irene. She was a 1,500-passenger liner built at Dumbarton in 1914 for Canadian Pacific. Before she could leave Britain she was commandeered for war service and became HMS Princess Irene, used for laying mines. After several trips she was back in the Medway for a refit. On the morning of 27 May 1915 a huge explosion tore through the vessel, shaking the ground for miles around and showering the surrounding villages with remains of bodies and debris. There was a great mushroom cloud and the ship was gone. This time 278 died, including 78 workers from nearby towns and villages. In one Sheerness street there were ten who died. Once again sabotage was suspected, but it would seem that the mine charges were unstable and they were awaiting replacement. It was another internal explosion.


07-29-09, 07:46
My grandfather was on the crew of the Princess Irene and had just left the ship to post a letter when the ship was blown up. His name was James Thomson. I have an original cutting from the newspaper at that time although his name is not mentioned.
Veronica D.

07-29-09, 23:24
is it possible to scan or photo graph the news cutting?

04-02-10, 06:20
Hello Tony
My grandfather Joseph Brady was one of the men who died on Princess Irene. He was 27 and left a wife with one daughter and expecting another. The other baby was born 22nd June 1915 and was named after the ship. That baby was my mother Irene Bridgette Brady.

02-01-11, 19:38
My Grandfather's older brother Albert Willingham died when the Princess Irene exploded. He never spoke of it but family research has provided this important information for the family.

04-12-14, 21:53
Family legend is my grandfather was decorated for towing burning mineship out to sea before it exploded he was badly injured in the explosion and wore a leather sling on his burned arm for the rest of his life .During WW1 he was a captain RN Ordinence. on the river medway. My father kept a newspaper article of his action and named my sister irene after the ship I read David Willis was saved by the tug Bruno ,Possibly my grandfather was captain of this tug? His name was Cecil Kingdon I have e mailed J Hendy and hope to get to the truth of the story KeithwKingdom

Carolyn Little
11-10-14, 02:28
My grandfather had been discharged off this ship at 9 am on the day it blew up. He was aged 19 years. I saw an article saying J T Sutton was a survivor that is - not on board. He was J J Sutton. He named his first child Marie Irene. Will there be a memorial in 2015 - if so any details would be appreciated. I am hoping to travel from Australia.