Articles, Maritime History, Newsletter June 2019

An April Disaster in Wartime Greenock 1940 By Pat Sweeney

April this year was the 79th anniversary of the sinking of the French Destroyer, Maillé Brézé, in Greenock in Scotland on the last day of that month when she was badly damaged by the accidental discharge of an armed torpedo on the portside. At 4:15pm on Tuesday 30th April, the weapon slid along the deck, crashed into the forecastle and exploded. This blocked all exits to the forecastle head. It was decided to scuttle the ship to prevent further explosions, which was done.

The trapped sailors put their arms through the porthole in order to receive morphine injection to relieve their suffering before their inevitable deaths from drowning. There were twenty-five killed and forty two injured in the disaster. At that time, I was in singing class in a small school. The nun in charge had sent one of the older girls to find the cause of the noise.

When she returned she gave us the news that one of the warships in the Anchorage had blown up. I was sent home as we lived on the seafront. I ran all the way to find that all the front windows in the four storey flats had been blown in by the blast and there was glass everywhere. Luckily my mother was in the back kitchen at the time. The destroyer was raised in 1954 and broken up in 1956.