The Richard Montgomery

Sheerness     History Index     17th July 2000

The "U.S.S Richard Montgomery" was built in 1943 by the St Johns River Shipbuilding Company, Jacksonville, Florida USA.

After taking on board 6127 tons of bombs and ammunition at Hog Island, Philadelphia, USA she sailed across the Atlantic to join a convoy to Cherbourg. Whilst waiting for the convoy to form she was berthed off the North edge of the Sheerness Middle Sand, off the coast of the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England.

On Aug 20th 1944 in strong winds the USS Richard Montgomery ran aground and over a period of days became stuck fast in the sand bank.

During the coming weeks Stevedores from Rochester, Kent were able to remove a large quantity of the explosives from the holds of the ship. The ship was finally abandoned on 25th September 1944 along with its remaining cargo which amounted to some 3200 tons of explosives.

Residents of Sheerness have lived with a multi-kiloton bomb sitting a couple of miles from their homes. As the hulk and her contents have rotted, so it is of considerable interest to know the effect of sea water coming into contact with 50 year old explosive.

When I started browsing the Internet I tried to find information about the Richard Montgomery and her namesake. I have found information about a Brigadier General Richard Montgomery Gano who distinguished himself as a Confederate hero of the American Civil War and very little else.

However it seems that she may have been named after an Irish soldier who had settled in America, became a congressman and fought against the British in Canada. He was killed in action on December 31st 1775.

If you can supply me with any further information about the Richard Montgomery, I would be very grateful.

By visiting http://www.cascobay.
you can discover more about liberty ships in general.

I have dived on a few Liberty ships around the south coast and always tried to get info about the ships before diving them. I came across an article about the Richard Montgomery in a divers guide to shipwrecks in the Thames area. I read that the Montgomery drew 33 feet and was moored outside the Medway while waiting for the tide to turn. The problem was, at low tide the water depth was 30 feet and the ship bottomed out breaking it's back. A problem with Liberty ships in general was that they broke up very easily once damaged.

Also I read that the shells were stored in the holds while the detonators were stacked on the deck above. Before all the ordnance was cleared from the holds after it sank, the decks collapsed dropping the detonators onto the shells, making it too dangerous to clear the rest.

I hope this is of use to you.

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