View Full Version : Shelling of B.I ship
25th August 2006, 17:20
I can as a schoolboy remember a story in the press about the near miss from a Spanish coastal fort on a B.I ship ( may have been s.s.Kenya) some time in the late 60s. can anyone expand on this? I'll bet Tom Kelso has some knowledge of this incident.
27th August 2006, 09:40
Ive found a website dedicated to these Spanish shore batteries .some are still in existance ,6 forts armed with 4 Vickers made 15"(381mm) .guns
which were installed in the early 1930s
29th August 2006, 08:49
The ship in question was "Uganda", I was on board at the time. It was Trafalgar Day, and we had gone close inshore to let the passengers get a look at Cape Trafalgar.
29th August 2006, 10:11
Hi peter thanks for your reply. what year would that have been? was the charts for the area shown as restricted? and did it spark an international incident?
29th August 2006, 13:03
Will check on the year. I think I may have a newspaper cutting somewhere. That may have some information about what was on the charts. I believe the Foreign Office got involved, and it made the t.v. news in U.K. I was down below at the time, and remember the ship heeling as the helm was put hard over, and the telegraph ringing for Full Ahead. When we got a phone call from the bridge to say we were being fired on by shore batteries, we thought it was a wind-up!
tom e kelso
1st September 2006, 06:58
Ronnie & Peter (to whom Salaams)
There follows Captain Eric Plowman's description of the incident, as published in the book "UGANDA - The story of a Very Special Ship" (reproduction with permission of the s.s.Uganda Trust:-
"Perhaps the nearest I came to the wrath of the Managing Director was on my return to London after the Trafalgar incident. Richard Harris was an historian, and he worked closely with Jim Eades, Deputy Headmaster, who was a naval historian. They both wanted to capture the authentic feel of naval battles, so I always took the ship inside the shallows off Cape Trafalgar and a commentary was given from the bridge.
The day in question was the 21st October, Trafalgar Day, and I set a safe course from which the Cape could be seen. During a Party Leaders' Conference a huge explosion occurred and the ship shuddered; I quietly excused myself from the meeting and went to the bridge. Shells from the Spanish shore battery were exploding half a mile ahead of the ship. It was difficult to alter course because the reefs to the west were too shallow, so we soldiered on until the ship had a clear run and then made haste from the Spanish coast. It gave Trafalgar Dayan exciting climax.
The "Daily Mail" had the headline "Captain Turns Nelsonic Eye to Spanish Barrage", we made the television and radio news, there were questions in the House, and all the rest of the bally hoo. So why did we get in the range of the Spanish guns? It was a legitimate firing practice by the Spanish, but we had not been warned of it by our notices to mariners. The rounds were only practice rounds, so my experienced naval commander Staff Captain David Harridane advised, and they were not firing at us intentionally, it was accidental. It was Trafalgar Day, or was it?
The Chairman was not amused. Lucky for me that the Deputy Chairman, Richard Adams, had been on board, so I was spareda hundred lashes. The children were not in danger, so all was well. (Unquote)
tom e kelso
1st September 2006, 07:27
Herewith is another "eye witness account" which has been very kindly sent to me by Captain David (Mike) Harradine, RNR retd.
To set the record straight. Trafalgar Day 1969, Cruise 163, the ship was on passage Livorno/Lisbon. Lovely autumn day - sunny and hazy, with moderate visibility. Eric Plowman had taken the ship inside the Trafalgar shoals to show the customers the Cape. I was Staff Captain and had just read Nelson's prayer over the broadcast. After that I came out on the starboard side of the Prom Deck to chat to ICP's. As I did so, there was an audible "crack" broad on the starboard beam and a small splash (about a metre high) about 40 metres off. Two more "shots" followed again with small splashes. The splashes were quite clean - no smoke. They reminded me very much of Bofors break-up shot. It was reported by the CRO that an ICP* had immediately telegraphed the UK press magnifying the event into a deliberate unprovoked attack by Spain on an innocent British schoolship. Speed was increased and UGANDA cleared the area without further ado. BI London were on the case quickly. On return to Southampton 26th, Eric was told by John Sharpe that the ship had strayed into a Spanish gunnery opractice area. Spanish authorities in Madrid informed the UK Air Attache that the practice areas and times were promulgated correctly. Unfortunately, no such information was held in UGANDA or UK Hydrographic office. The Spanish government did apologise
(ICP = Independent Cabin Passenger i.e not student party leader)
So there you have it, Ronnie, from the "horses' mouths"
1st September 2006, 10:37
That was a fabulous account of the incident. I must order a copy of the book about "Uganda". Many thanks for your time and effort!
Regards Ronnie R
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