Loss of life in ship sinking disasters

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By Malcolm Speed

The HMY Iolaire sinking was the worst peacetime loss of life Inside British territorial waters in the 20th century.

There are three other sea disasters in peace and war in the UK which both had a huge loss of life.

In 1878 the Greenock built paddle steamer Princess Alice-previously PS Bute-was sunk on the Thames following a collision with the Collier Bywell Castle.

She was sailing to a berth to land day trippers. More than 650 lives of crew and passengers were lost.

In June 1904 the Clyde built SS Norge was sailing between Copenhagen and New York with almost 800 people on board .

The ship hit the Hasselwood Reef near Rockall with the loss of 635 lives. The rock is  claimed by the UK under an Exclusive Economic Zone order but this is disputed by other countries.

In  November, 1914 an internal explosion ripped HMS Bulwark apart at her mooring off Sheerness.

Out of 750 officers and men there were only 14 survivors all of them seriously injured with two of them dying from their injuries. No officers survived the explosion.

The largest loss of life in a ship sinking ever is believed to be the German ship, MV Wilhelm Gustloff a 25,000 ton wartime transport ship which was torpedoed and sunk in January, 1945 by Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea.

The former luxury liner was evacuating German military personnel, officials and civilians from the then East Prussia, trying to escape the advancing Red Army.

East Prussia, is now divided between Russia and  Poland

It is believed that about 9,400 people, many of them children, lost their lives, making it the worst loss of life at sea.

In 1987  a ferry, The Herald of Free Enterprise capsized as she left Zeebrugge, heading for the UK, drowning 193 people.

In 1912 saw the most famous ship sinking anywhere in the world when the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage, hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic en-route to New York.

Of an estimated 2224 passengers and crew on board more than 1500 died.