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You have initiated such a thread on right time... I think few of our members must get benefited from this timely reminder...
Thanks for sharing the additional two file on National Fire Service Day... Thanks and keep on sharing... We have celebrated the same with few speeches followed by one mock drill and fire drill...
Kindly find details of Fire Service Day- 14th April Case Study
We OBSERVE Fire Service Day / Week but DO NOT CELEBRATE. Request all my friends, colleagues and seniors to use word Observe and not Celebrate as we pay homage to the fire fighters and conduct awareness program to avert such situations in timely manner.
Please circulate as much as you can.
At 16:40 hours on 14th April 1944, Mumbai was rocked by the catastrophic explosions in a vessel S.S. "Fort Stikine" berthed at No.1, Victoria Dock. The ship contained nearly 1,200 tons of explosives, cotton bales and oil drums. The destruction was appalling. Prince's and Victoria Docks, were full of blazing and drifting ships, while other sank near the littered which they had been-moored. The approach channels the docks were littered with obstruction, and a vast land area of various types of buildings, roads and railways were utterly devastated. Beyond this area fires raged caused by the wide dispersal of incendiary material from fatal ship. The disaster involved heavy loss of human life.
The magnitude of the explosion could be judged from the fact that a ship lying at the adjacent No.2 berth - Victoria Dock, 400 feet long and dropped on land with the midship section across the quay and the bow overhanging the water. All building and ships in Prince's and Victoria Docks were set on Fire. An area of 100 acres adjacent to the docks was gutted.
Fire engines disappeared from the face of the earth. Steel-framed buildings collapsed into tangled masses of fused steelwork and debris. Bulk grain stores continued to burn and smoulder for four months. Fragments of mangled steel weighing up to 100 tons travelled laterally at incredible velocities passing through whatever was in their paths. The bridges over the dock entrance were irreparably damaged. Hydraulic operating gear for dock gates bridges were buried beneath masses of cotton and debris. In Victoria Dock , 500 ton ship was sunk at the inner end of the entrance and a 300-ton water boat was submerged just outside. Masses of the superstructure, such as masts and rigging , completely blocked the entrance to the Dock. The water surface of both docks was solidly covered by a mass of floating cotton, damaged cargo, debris and corpses. It took three weeks to clear the debris . Small crafts such as tugs, lighters, water boats had sunk. Transit sheds, warehouses, dock buildings, offices and other structures were razed to the ground and reduced to tangled heaps of rubble, steel and ashes which completely blocked all roads and railways. The railway tracks were irreparably damaged. Electric sub-stations were gutted. Hydraulic, electric and fresh water mains, sewers and storm water drains were damaged by the tremendous earth tremor caused by the explosions.
The actual seat of the explosions revealed two huge craters and hundreds of feet of shattered quay wall forming a vast beach reaching far out below the water in the dock. Ashore as the sun set the wind swept the flames towards the center of the city in raging inferno visible for miles. As dawn of the 15th April approached what was left of the Fireman were to arrest the wrought and havoc that devastated the area. The authorities in power ordered about Fire lane" to be dynamited through the center of the City and everything on the dock side to be concede to the flames. This was an unbearable pain added to the injuries already caused by the explosion to the Firemen . The Officer Fire Services Mr. Norman Coombs who had enormous faith and confidence in his gallant Firemen vehemently refused to budge and the Firemen stood to their post so that the fire did not cross the 'Fire lane'. The heroism and devotion to duty of these Firemen were thus proved.
For weeks the fires burned in the devastated area but never crossed that 'lane' for the brave Firemen stood to their stead with no relief whatsoever ungrudgingly for days together ' Mumbai was saved'.
No exact toll of dead or injured will ever be known except for those 66 gallant personnel of Fire Service who laid down their lives and it is for their great act of bravery and devotion to duty that our great National salutes them to this day "14th April " every year and years to come. For those who gave their lives on duty died a glorious death. 'Death or Glory' was the motto of these gallant men, and their sacrifice shall remain in memory forever. They brought honours and glory to the Bombay Fire Service. The services rendered by the Brigade will go down in the history in golden letters.
The officers and men did not die in an emotional heat of battle but laid down their lives in the cause of safety, welfare and prosperity of the citizens and the community at large of the city. In recognition, the citizens of Mumbai erected a Memorial Column at the Fire Brigade Headquarters at Byculla and the Government of India declared 14th April as "Fire Services Day" to be observed nation-wide every year. Thus, the city and the nation took pride in the Brigade, which established a memorable example for other Fire Services to emulate.
The SS Fort Stikine was a 7,142 gross register ton freighter built in 1942 in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, under a lend-lease agreement, and was named after Fort Stikine, a former outpost of the Hudson's Bay Company located at what is now Wrangell, Alaska.
Sailing from Birkenhead on 24 February via Gibraltar, Port Said and Karachi, she arrived at Bombay on 12 April 1944. Her cargo included 1,395 tons of explosives including 238 tons of sensitive "A" explosives, torpedoes, mines, shells, and munitions. She also carried Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft, raw cotton bales, barrels of oil, timber, scrap iron and approximately £890,000 of gold bullion in bars in 31 crates. The 87,000 bales of cotton and lubricating oil were loaded at Karachi and the ship's captain, Alexander James Naismith, recorded his protest about such a "mixture" of cargo. The transportation of cotton through the sea route was inevitable for the merchants, as transporting cotton by rail from Punjab and Sindh to Bombay was banned at that time. Naismith, who lost his life in the explosion, described the cargo as "just about everything that will either burn or blow up." The vessel was still awaiting unloading on 14 April, after 48 hours of berthing.
IFSMA- FIRE ACADEMY
14 april 1944 bombay explosion
The Bombay Explosion-1944 The freighter SS Fort Stikine, carrying a mixed load of cargo (including over 1,400 tons of explosive) caught fire and was destroyed in 2 giant blasts. The explosions scattered debris, sank the surrounding ships and killed 740 people while injuring a further 1,800.
Fort Stikine was a cargo ship that first came to my attention when I was constructing the Benjidog Tower Hill website. I noticed that the WW2 memorial to those with "No grave but the sea" contained several panels for ships that had met their fate due to the explosion of Fort Stikine. Recently I came across information that I had not seen before whilst working on re-publication of material from the MerchantNavyOfficers.com website that closed down a couple of years ago on the death of its owner and this inspired me to create this page.
The 'Fort' ships were a class of 198 cargo ships built in Canada during WW2 for use by the United Kingdom under the Lend-Lease scheme. They all had names prefixed with 'Fort' when built. The ships were in service between 1942 and 1985 with two still listed on shipping registers in 1992. They were built at eighteen different Canadian shipyards and there were three variations of the basic design. The North Sands type were of riveted construction and the Canadian and Victory types were of welded construction. I presume that Fort Stikine belonged to one of the latter two subclasses but have been unable to discover which. The vessel was named after a historic fort and fur trade post whose site is now occupied by Wrangell in Alaska. The Stikine river had been a route to the Klondike during the 'Gold Rush'.
The destruction and death caused by the explosion on Fort Stikine resulted mainly from bad practice in the mix and stowage of cargo. It is easy to say this in hindsight, but too many corners were cut in desperation during the war and blame should not be attributed to the Captain and crew who, when they raised objections, were told in no uncertain terms to "Shut up and get on with it" with the addition of the commonly used phrase "Don't you know there is a war on?"
To me the most inspiring aspect of this story is the courage of the crew and the local fire brigade in trying to bring under control the fire that led to the eventual destruction of several ships and a large area of the harbour. In colloquial terms, put in their shoes, "you wouldn't have seen my arse for dust" when the fire started knowing what the cargo consisted of. Many of these brave men died. As a mark of respect I have included below the names of the members of the Fire Service that lost their lives as well as merchant seamen.