Project Description

Royal Marine Light Infantry

HMS Princess Irene

Born Landport on 30/4/1889, son of Harry and Harriett, brother of Florence, Emma, Louisa and Ethel. In 1891 he was with his parents at 33 Somers St, Portsmouth and his father was working as a stableman for the Tramway Coy, by 1901 the family had moved to 7 Chapel St, Alverstoke and his father’s occupation was a Carman. By 1911 Charles was in the Marines and was on HMS Prince George.

In May 1915 HMS Princess Irene was moored in Saltpan Reach, on the Medway Estuary in Kent, being loaded with mines in preparation for deployment on a minelaying mission. At 11.14.GMT on 27th May, HMS Princess Irene exploded and disintegrated. A column of flame shot 300 feet into the air a pall of smoke hung over the spot were HMS Princess Irene had been. Two barges laying alongside her were also destroyed. A total of 352 people were killed, on the Isle of Grain a girl of nine was killed by flying debris and a farmhand died of shock. A collier (bulk cargo ship) half a mile away had its crane blown off its mountings. A part of Princess Irene’s boilers landed on the ship, a man working on the ship was killed when a piece of metal struck him weighing 70 pounds. Wreckage was flung up to 20 miles away, with people near Sittingbourne being injured by flying debris. A case of butter landed at Rainham 6 miles away. The sole survivor from the ship was a stoker who suffered severe burns, 3 of her crew had a lucky escape as they were ashore at the time.