This narrative begins with a recollection of my father’s, a resident of a care home in October 2016. Dad recalled not only the name of the vessel on which he was a DEMS (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship) gunner, but also the name of British ammunition ship SS Fort Stikine, the vessel that caused a massive explosion on Friday 14 April 1944 in the docks of Mumbai (called Bombay at the time).
This had remained in my father’s consciousness for many years not only because he was lucky to survive the disaster but because the explosions killed over 740 people and injured thousands more.
The SS Fort Stikine, captained by Captain Naismith, was a 7,000 ton freighter. It reached Karachi on 30 March, where some of its cargo was unloaded, including crated spitfires, gold bars and 1400 tons of explosives including shells, torpedoes, mine signal rockets and incendiary bombs (most of which were for discharge at Bombay). Sulphur, cotton bales, timber, lubricating oil drums, turpentine, fish manure and resin were loaded to fill up the empty hold, flouting all normal rules. Continue reading »