Posted By The Sugar Girls ~ 25th January 2013
Do your family have any connection to the Silvertown Explosion of 1917? The One Show are looking for people to interview for a forthcoming programme and would love to hear from anyone with a personal connection to the tragedy.
The explosion happened on 19 January 1917 at 6.52pm, claiming the lives of 73 people. The Brunner Mond factory had been turned over to war work, and was producing TNT.
Oliver Lyle described the impact at Tate & Lyle’s Plaistow Wharf factory:
“Brunner Mond, now I.C.I., half a mile down the road, were producing TNT. A fire broke out in their factory and after about 20 minutes reached a vessel containing 16 tons of TNT which exploded. The damage was enormous. The pressure wave went out in strange lines, one of which went right along the Edgware Road breaking windows as far as Maida Vale. At Plaistow all large windows were broken and every roof was lifted and dropped down out of position with or without its slates or tiles. It took only a few days to get straight enough to start melting again because the process buildings were so strong and their window panes so small that few were broken.
“The loss of life in the district was very great but not nearly so great as might have been expected because everyone knew what was going on inside Brunner Mond’s and everybody who could was going up the road as fast as possible.
“In 1906 we had built the big ferroconcrete chimney, 25′ high and 20′ in diameter. It very soon cracked all over so in 1909 steel bands 3″ wide and 1″ thick were fitted every three feet. After the explosion it was seen that all the bands had dropped 3” quite evenly. It was assumed that the passing compression wave had compressed the chimney by closing the cracks sufficiently to allow the bands to drop freely.
“The compression wave struck the big gas-holder at the South Metropolitan Gas Works at Blackwall. The top plating rolled up like the shaving from a plane and the heat from the tearing metal ignited the gas so that 12,000,000 cubic feet of gas burned in a few seconds. This caused the great glow that was seen for 20 miles round.”
If you have a personal connection to the Silvertown Explosion, and would be willing to speak to The One Show, please contact Will Steel.