Stokes Bay Accidents and Disasters


The sea at Stokes Bay has seen its fair share of disasters and accidents during the Victorian period.





Eastern Monarch : Fire 1859


The Eastern Monarch was a three masted sailing ship bound for Gravesend in 1859 when a disaster occurred off Fort Monckton at Stokes Bay. She had left Kurachi in February and instead of proceeding up the Channel to her destination at Gravesend the captain decided to put in to Spithead to take on fresh provisions. She was carrying a cargo that included 2782 bags of Salt petre, 15 cases and 784 peccas of elephant's teeth, 58 cassia Iigiua, 31 packages of senna leaves. On board as passengers were 11 Officers, 352 Rank and file of various regiments including invalids from North West India, 30 women and 53 children. An explosion tore up the stern deck. The men and passengers were quickly mustered and two barges, the Petrel and the Providence, sailed up close to the burning ship, rescuing the women and children. The boats of a Man-of-War came up at speed and took of the troops, section after section. Colonel Allan and Captain Morris were the last to leave the burning ship.

It was reported that although the fire burnt with alarming rapidity the loss of life was small. One woman and five children were killed by the explosion and one man died after being brought ashore.


The Eastern Monarch burns off Fort Monckton: ILN 1859 A painting of The Eastern Monarch at Stokes Bay

The Eastern Monarch burns off Fort Monckton: ILN 1859

A painting of The Eastern Monarch burning at Stokes Bay




The Mistletoe : Collision with the Royal Yacht 1875


The Mistletoe collision with the Royal Yacht The Illustrated London News 1875 The Mistletoe after the accident in Portsmouth Harbour
The Mistletoe collision with the Royal Yacht

The Mistletoe

(Illustrated London News 1875)

The Mistletoe after the accident in Portsmouth Harbour


On Wednesday 18 August 1875 the Royal Yacht Alberta, whilst sailing in the Solent, ran into the schooner yacht Mistletoe which immediately sank. Her Majesty was on board the Royal Yacht, together with their Royal Highnesses Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice, which was en-route from Osborne House to Clarence Yard at Gosport, where a train was waiting to convey her to Scotland. The Mistletoe of 120 tons was close hauled on the starboard tack and ran across the bows of the Alberta. As soon as the Royal Yacht observed the schooner it tried to run under the stern of the vessel. Had the Mistletoe remained on course the Alberta would have avoided her; but seeing the Alberta approaching, and believing that a serious accident was inevitable, the master " is supposed, became flurried, and, losing his presence of mind, allowed the sails to flap and the vessel to go off course. She was struck violently amidships, and almost immediately turned over and sank. Mr Heywood of Manchester, the owner of the Mistletoe, and several of his passengers were severely injured. A passenger, Miss Peel and the ship's mate went down with the schooner. Captain Stokes of the Mistletoe was struck by a spar and died shortly afterwards from the injuries he received. The mate's body was later recovered from the sea. Mr Hayward was "picked up in a dangerous condition but will recover". The rest of the crew were all recovered and taken on board the Royal Yacht. The Alberta lost its bowsprit and received other damage. The sister of Miss Peel was recovered form the sea by a the gallant action of Alberta's Commander Fullerton "and was himself placed in the greatest jeopardy while endeavouring to save the life of the deceased lady.


The Queen, who witnessed the tragedy, was said to have been much agitated, and upon reaching Gosport she remained for some time making enquiries. Before leaving for Balmoral she issued special commands with regard to the care of the survivors.


The accident occurred between Stokes Bay and the Mother Bank. The Mistletoe was sailing from Stokes Bay to Ryde when they saw the royal Yacht approaching. During the inquest into the death of Captain Stokes it was determined that the owner of the Mistletoe had given the order for his schooner to sail near to The Alberta as possible so that they could "dip the flag to her Majesty" as they passed her. "The ladies wanted to get as near as they could to see the Queen." The jury were unable to arrive at a verdict although it was reported that they were very near to bringing in a verdict of criminal negligence on the part of the officers of the Alberta with a verdict of manslaughter by Prince Ernest of Leiningen and Captain Welch who were in command of the Alberta.


An inquest was later held on the death of the mate, Nathaniel Turner, who's body was recovered near the Sturbridge Shoal. The jury came to a formal conclusion that the death was by accident but that there was on board the Alberta "a certain lack of judgement and a certain lack of care; but they do not think the failure in these respects can be treated as criminal in nature".





H.M.S. Thunderer : Explosion 1876

On 14 July 1876 H.M.S. Thunderer steamed out of Portsmouth Harbour and into Stokes Bay to carry out trials under full steam. Thunderer, launched in 1872 and completed in 1876, was the last ship to be fitted with rectangular box boilers, eight of them arranged in two stokeholds, constructed by Humphrys, Tennant and Company for a working pressure of 30 lb. per square inch. Unknown at the time the safety valves on the boilers, which were of the dead weight type, had become seized in their seats due to corrosion. The pressure gauge had been shut off and the stop valves were closed. An explosion occurred that resulted in the deaths of fifteen men including her commanding officer, who was in the engine room at the time. Seventy men were injured and subsequently thirty of these men died.


H.M.S. Thunderer explosion July 1876: I.L.N. H.M.S. Thunderer explosion 1876: The Graphic
H.M.S. Thunderer explosion July 1876: I.L.N. H.M.S. Thunderer explosion 1876: The Graphic



A memorial to the dead can be found in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Haslar. Information on the Stokes Bay Memorials Page  

HMS Thunderer Boiler explosion




H.M.S. Eurydice : Sinking 1878


H.M.S. Eurydice, a 26 gun wooden frigate, converted to a training ship in 1861, capsized and sank on 24 March 1878 during a storm in Sandown Bay off Dunnose Point, the Isle of Wight during her return voyage from Bermuda. No blame was attached to the crew for the disaster, which was deemed to be due to the veering of the wind from west to east accompanied by a by a blinding fall of snow, rushing from the high lands down Luccombe Chine, striking the Eurydice just a little before the beam, driving her out of her course, which was heading to the north-east, and turning her bows to the east. Of the ship's 319 crew and trainees only two survived, although five were recovered from the sea. Those who did not go down with the ship died of exposure in the freezing waters. The ship was also carrying a number of military officers, supernumaries and invalids from the West Indies at the time of the sinking. The total deaths was therefore higher.


H.M.S.Eurydice H.M.S.Eurydice: ILN April 6th 1878
H.M.S.Eurydice H.M.S.Eurydice: ILN April 6th 1878


The Prince of Wales visited the wreck in 1878. The wreck was raised and taken to the Dockyard at Portsmouth but then broken up in dry dock.


H.M.S.Eurydice: The Graphic April 6th 1878 The raising of H.M.S.Eurydice: The Graphic April 27th 1878 H.M.S. Eurydice. ILN July 27th 1878 The Prince of Wales visits Eurydice. ILN Aug 17 1878
H.M.S.Eurydice: The Graphic April 6th 1878 The raising of H.M.S.Eurydice: The Graphic April 27th 1878 H.M.S. Eurydice. ILN July 27th 1878 The Prince of Wales visits Eurydice. ILN Aug 17th 1878


A memorial to the crew of HMS Eurydice can be found in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Haslar.

Information on the Stokes Bay Memorials Page


The Times report of the sinking with manifest

The Eurydice sinking






H.M.S. Kite: Gunboat Accident 1887

H.M.S. Kite, a Flat-Iron Ant Class gunboat, was firing a salute at Stokes Bay during the Fleet Review of 1887 on 23rd August when an accident occurred. She was firing three rounds from each of her three B.L. guns , two six-inch and one four-inch, as part of the salute when the gunpowder exploded prematurely. There were three men stationed at the gun on board the Kite when the accident occurred. One of these was a bluejacket who had passed through the gunnery schools, and one was a bombardier of the Royal Marine Artillery, who was also captain of the gun. The gun crew had been exercised three times since commissioning on July 7, and one round had been fired during this period.


On July 24th. 1887 Able Seaman William Turrell died at the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar due to injuries sustained during the premature explosion of the gunpowder. He was the third member of the gun crew and was pushing the charge into the breech of the gun after it had been fired once, the explosion happening due to the gun being sponged ineffectively. He was terribly burned and struck by the breech in the jaw, then hurled across the deck. Three men standing nearby were also injured and treated at Halsar Naval Hospital.


At the inquest it was determined that the deceased able seaman had not received much instruction in the use of B.L. guns as some days before the salute he had asked how to open the breech. The four-inch BL gun on which the accident occurred was a new one and had not be fired before the first round of the salute. The deceased was the no.3 of the crew and it was stated that it was his duty to sponge and load the cartridge into the breech of the gun. The no.2 stated that upon opening the breech there had been a great deal of smoke blinding him. He did not have time to remove the friction tube left from the previous round and there had been no time to sponge out when the explosion occurred. He saw nothing of the charge or who had put it in. The crew member told off as powder man reported that he had fetched the second charge from the magazine, brought it to the gun and the deceased took it from him. A verdict of 'Accidental Death' was gven despite there being some discrepencies as to the duties of each man in the crew of three where normally there would have been a crew of four.






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