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Explosion at Adelaide in April 1924 on Board SS City of Singapore

The story of Frank Manning and his experiences following an explosion at Adelaide in April 1924 on Board SS City of Singapore describing the events of the day.

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City of Singapore

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A picture of the City of Singapore

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My Father’s Cousin, Frank, told me of an accident which befell my Grandfather, John Kitchener Key.  Grandpa was serving as Fifth Engineer on the S.S. City of Singapore which was a cargo ship.  In 1924, after a voyage to Australia and whilst docked in Adelaide, there was a fire and explosion on board ship.  SS CITY OF SINGAPORE – Explosion at Adelaide in April 1924 My Grandpa was very brave and tried to help save some of the crew and extinguish the fire, but was badly injured when there was a second explosion.  I reproduce below an article written by Frank whom he kindly donated to me when he discovered that I was researching my Family Tree.   I was most interested in Mr Christiansen’s letter in February issue concerning this incident.  At the time I was merely 2 months old but my Uncle the late Jack Key was Fifth Engineer in the ship and was severely injured by the explosions and fire.  His wounds were such that after over 12 months in hospital he was unfit for further sea service.   Information that I possess states that the SINGAPORE suffered a terrific explosion about midnight which killed one fireman and injured others.  A second explosion occurred two hours later which resulted in two firemen missing both presumed blown to pieces.  Total reported casualties were 3 dead, eleven seriously injured including the Chief Officer and Fifth Engineer with many others receiving minor injuries.  In Lloyds the total damage was estimated to be £250,000 (Sterling).

 I have in my possession some pictures taken at the time which were published in the Adelaide Chronicle dated 3 May 1924.  One in particular shows a large bulge in the ship side when she “broke her back” and sank at the dockside.  A caption under the photos states that oil and methylated spirit formed part of the cargo.   No mention was made of the cause of the disaster and I would be most grateful if any of the readers are able to shed any light on this.  Some 10 years later Jack Key’s youngest brother Harry also serving as a Junior Engineer died at sea and lies buried at Aden.   Then 10 years further on in April 1944 it befell my lot to follow in the family footsteps and take my turn in the engine room as Seventh Engineer.  Luck was on my side and I remained fit and well serving mainly in the Far East until the end of 1947.   I was unaware that the City of Singapore was sunk in WW2 as the vessel is not shown on the Tower Hill War Memorial.  This Mystery I have now solved as the crew of 87 and 10 gunners were all saved when the ship was lost on 1 May 1943.   Yours sincerely

 

   F A Manning

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