HMS Sidon Remembrance Ceremony 2024

On the morning of June 16, 1955, a routine torpedo exercise aboard HMS Sidon, a Royal Navy submarine, turned into a catastrophe that would forever be etched in naval history. The incident, which resulted in the tragic loss of 13 lives, serves as a poignant reminder of the dangers inherent in military operations and the importance of rigorous safety protocols.

In recognition of this significant event, the Dorset Branch of the Submariners Association will hold a short remembrance ceremony at 11:00 AM on June 16, 2024.

The memorial “gathering” will take place at the “stone” adjacent to The Heights Hotel overlooking Portland harbour.

This ceremony marks the 69th anniversary of the accident. Members of the Royal Naval Association will join the ceremony, commemorating the lives lost and the heroism displayed. Survivors and family members of the submariners involved in the tragedy will also be present, offering a poignant connection to the past and an opportunity to honor their loved ones’ memories.

The HMS Sidon: A Brief Overview

HMS Sidon was a ‘S’-class submarine, launched in 1944, during the latter years of World War II. Like many submarines of its time, Sidon was a formidable underwater vessel designed for stealth and armed with torpedoes for engaging enemy ships. By the 1950s, the Royal Navy was integrating newer, more advanced torpedoes into its arsenal, and it was one such torpedo, the Mark 12, that would play a central role in the Sidon tragedy.

The Fateful Day

On June 16, 1955, HMS Sidon was docked at Portland Harbour in Dorset, preparing for a torpedo exercise. Among the torpedoes on board was the experimental “Fancy” torpedo, later identified as the Mark 12. This new design was still undergoing tests and had not yet been fully adopted by the Royal Navy.

As the crew conducted their pre-exercise checks, disaster struck. At approximately 8:25 AM, one of the torpedoes, still inside its tube, experienced a catastrophic malfunction. An explosion occurred, followed by a fire that quickly spread through the forward section of the submarine. The blast and ensuing chaos left no time for the crew to react.

The Aftermath

The explosion resulted in the immediate deaths of several crew members, while others were severely injured. Despite the valiant efforts of rescue teams, 13 submariners lost their lives that day. The surviving crew members were left to grapple with the trauma of the incident and the loss of their comrades.

The Royal Navy launched a thorough investigation into the accident. The inquiry revealed that the cause of the explosion was a fault in the experimental torpedo. Specifically, it was found that a hydrogen peroxide-based propellant had decomposed, leading to the build-up of oxygen and subsequent detonation. The Mark 12 torpedo, still in its testing phase, had proven to be fatally flawed.

Lessons Learned

The tragedy of HMS Sidon had far-reaching implications for naval operations and safety protocols. The Royal Navy immediately halted the use of hydrogen peroxide in torpedoes and other naval munitions, deeming the risks too great. The incident also underscored the need for rigorous testing and validation of new technology before deployment in active service.

Memorials were erected to honor the brave sailors who lost their lives. A commemorative plaque at the Submarine Memorial Chapel in Gosport serves as a lasting tribute to their sacrifice.