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On this day in history….23rd September 1976

On this day in history : 23rd September 1976 – Eight men are killed in a blaze onboard HMS Glasgow whilst she is being fitted out at a shipyard near to Newcastle-upon-Tyne….

Image : US Navy – Public domain

HMS Glasgow had been launched on the 14th of April 1976 by Lady Kirstie Treacher, the wife of Admiral Sir John Treacher…. The £23m Type 42 destroyer was being worked on at Swan Hunter’s Neptune yard and was soon due to be starting sea trials….

Survivors of the blaze reported hearing an explosion and a fire rapidly took hold, spreading to three decks of the 3,500 ton destroyer…. Over 500 men were working onboard, the smoke was so thick it was impossible to see – there was only one gangplank on and off the ship…. It took 70 firemen two hours to bring the fire under control; eight shipyard workers were killed and six others were injured….

An investigation confirmed that the fire had been started by a welder’s torch when oxygen ignited that had been leaking from a supply line all night…. The blame was put on Swan Hunter Shipbuilders for not ensuring the oxygen pipes had been turned off the previous evening…. The report also recommended escape routes from ships under construction be reviewed….

HMS Glasgow was commissioned into the Royal Navy on the 25th of May 1977 and saw active service in the Falklands War…. She was de-commissioned on the 1st of February 2005 – and on the 7th of January 2009 began her final journey as she was towed from Portsmouth bound for Turkey, to be broken up….

HMS Glasgow being towed to the breakers – Image credit : Brian Burnell CC BY-SA 3.0

On this day in history….22nd September 1999

On this day in history : 22nd September 1999 – A two-minute “SCREAM!” is held at a pub in Ashburton, Devon by Lord Sutch’s Official Monster Raving Loony Party ~ to honour his memory….

Image credit : Joe Mabel CC BY-SA 3.0

Born in 1940 David Edward Sutch had no known connection to nobility but changed his name to Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow on account of his musical career…. His band, becoming known as ‘Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages’, were influenced by American singer-songwriter Screamin’ Jay Hawkins…. In 1968 Sutch officially changed his name by deed poll….

Lord Sutch began his political career in the 1960s, as a representative of the National Teenage Party…. His first parliamentary election was in 1963 when he contested the Stratford-upon-Avon by-election after the resignation of John Profumo…. He received 208 votes….

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party was formed on the 16th of June 1982 at the Golden Lion public house in Ashburton, Devon – which then became its headquarters…. The first time the party stood under this name was in 1983, in Finchley – against Margaret Thatcher…. Lord Sutch and his party contested more than 40 by-elections…. His most successful was at Rotherham in 1994 with 1,114 votes….4.2% of the share….

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Lord Sutch carried on making his music – using the money from concerts to fund his political campaigns….with the Party renowned for its bizarre policies making a deliberate satire of British politics…. Lord Sutch was instantly recognisable in his wacky, flamboyant attire – usually sporting a top hat…. He often appeared on television – and was even in the first episode of the popular ITV comedy ‘The New Statesman’, as himself…. The advertising industry liked him; Heineken had him appear as ‘PM’ outside No.10 Downing Street in one of their advertisements – and in 1999 he appeared in a Coco Pops ad….

On the 16th of June 1999 Lord Sutch was discovered dead by his fiancée at his home in Harrow, north-west London; he had hanged himself…. He had a history of manic depression…. He was to be sadly missed in the political world which he so extrovertly livened up…. A two-minute “SCREAM!” was an appropriate memorial…. The Golden Lion at Ashburton is, incidentally, no more – it has since been converted into flats….

On this day in history….21st September 1979

On this day in history : 21st September 1979 – An RAF Harrier crashes onto houses in the Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech; two men and a young boy are killed….

Image credit : Andrew P Clarke CC BY-SA 4.0

It was 9.55am, on a Friday morning…. Two Harrier jump jets from a nearby Air Force base at Wittering were on a training exercise when they collided by clipping wings at around 8,000ft…. Both pilots managed to eject safely; one plane broke up and fell into a field…. However, the other plummeted towards Wisbech and landed on two houses and a bungalow in Ramnoth Road, narrowly missing two schools and a college…. The impact left a crater 15ft wide and 50ft deep….

Several people were injured, including a mother and her baby…. The two dead men were Bill Trumpess, a former Mayor of Wisbech and Bob Bowers – along with his two-year-old son, Jonathan….

As a result of the crash the RAF raised the minimum training height from 5,000ft to 8,000ft…. The incident at Wisbech had been the third Harrier jump jet crash of that year….

On this day in history….20th September 1906

On this day in history : 20th September 1906 – The launch of the Cunard Line’s RMS Maurentania – at the time she was the largest and fastest ship in the world…

Official launch party – Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Maurentania was built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson and was sister ship to the Lusitania, which was sunk by a German U Boat in 1915…. The two ships held between them the Blue Riband (Atlantic speed record) for over twenty years…. Less than a century before it had taken a month to cross the Atlantic, Maurentania could do it in five days….

Weighing over 30,000 tons and with a crew of 812 Maurentania could carry 560 first class passengers in luxurious accommodation amidships on five decks…. She could also carry 475 second class and 1,300 in third class….

RMS Maurentania after her launch – Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

The grand interior of the ship was fitted out in French and Italian Renaissance styles, with a magnificent 15th century Italian staircase…. The two dining saloons were in the style of Francis I and the 80ft lounge Louis XVI style…. The smoking room was Italian Renaissance with a spectacular marble chimney surrounded by carved wood…. There was even a children’s room with a giant rocking horse…. The first class cabins were decorated and furnished to give maximum comfort…. It really was a floating palace…. Even the second and third class accommodation was a vast marked-improvement on what had been before….

RMS Maurentania Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

However, Maurentania’s reign was relatively short-lived…. In 1929 her speed record was lost to the new German liner Bremen…. In 1935 she was scrapped at Rosyth….

Maurentania 17 September 1907 – Image credit : Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

On this day in history….19th September 1997

On this day in history : 19th September 1997 – An Intercity 125 passenger train collides with a freight train at Southall – 7 people are killed and a further 139 are injured….

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The accident happened with no warning at around 1.20pm near to Southall Station….

The 10.32am Great Western Train’s Intercity 125 high speed eight carriage passenger train was returning from Swansea to Paddington…. The driver, Larry Harrison, had joined the train at Cardiff – relieving the first driver, who said he had found a fault with the Automatic Warning System (AWS)…. As a precaution he had disabled the system…. A trial version of a more advanced Automatic Train Protection (ATP) was also installed on the train – but this was switched off…. The ATP was designed to prevent a train from passing through a red light…. Neither driver alerted Signal Control or Railtrack – had they of done so extra precautionary signalling could have been undertaken….

Approaching Southall at 125mph Harrison passed two warning signals – a double yellow and then a single yellow – without slowing the train down…. He only reacted when he saw the red signal – by immediately applying the emergency brakes…. He then saw about a mile ahead the Hanson Class 59 locomotive 59101 – noticing it was at an odd angle he suddenly realised it was crossing his path….

Hanson Class 59 Locomotive 59101 in Southampton 1999 – Image credit : Murgatroyd49 – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

The freight train, which was towing 20 empty wagons, had been instructed to move on to the main line at Southall East Junction so it could finish its journey into the yard on the south side…. The approaching passenger train was still travelling at 80mph at the time of impact with the freight train….the driver of which, Alan Bricker, attempted to accelerate out of the way…. But the front end of the Intercity Express hit one of the 22 ton hopper wagons; two seconds later a passenger carriage collided with another wagon…. The now severed brake pipes of the freight train caused the rear hoppers to stop – the passenger train was still travelling at 60mph…. The passenger carriage turned over – two people were killed after falling through the windows…. As another hopper wagon was struck it lifted into the air and another passenger carriage slid beneath it, flattening it…. The rest of the still moving train behind then collided with it, bending the structure…. There were five more casualties in this carriage – in all seven people died, six at the scene and one later in hospital….

View of aftermath from a passing train – Image credit : Ben Brooksbank CC BY-SA 2.0

It transpired that the driver of the passenger train had not seen the yellow warning signs – as he had been busy putting his stuff away in his bag at the time…. Had the AWS of been working he would have received an audible warning…. Manslaughter charges were brought against him but were dropped in July 1999…. The accident inquiry found the primary cause was his failure to respond to the first two warning signals alerting him to the freight train ahead…. Out of the two safety systems onboard, one was faulty and Harrison had not been trained how to use the ATM….