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Torrey Canyon - 40 years on

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Torrey Canyon - 40 years on

Old 29th Mar 2007, 07:27
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Torrey Canyon - 40 years on

Just read on the BBC website that the Torrey Canyon sunk 40 years ago today, was also reading that the RAF and Royal Navy "appeared" to have failed spectactulary in sinking it afterwards, am I assuming that there was a lot more to it than poor bombing techniques?
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Old 29th Mar 2007, 07:31
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Bit difficult to sink it afterwards as it was already sitting on the bottom!!

Wasn't the bombing an attempt to set the oil on fire and burn it off?
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Old 30th Mar 2007, 08:59
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Never mind all that - 40 Years ago ' feckin 'ell
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Old 30th Mar 2007, 13:11
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Groundloop - AIUI, it was an attempt to burn the oil rather than to sink the ship. As far as I recall, napalm and the fuel from drop tanks has never been regarded as being particularly effective as an ASuW tactic... (the S-3 that sank an Iraqi patrol boat thanks to a switch foul up that led to the release of the buddy refuelling store rather than the intended Mk 82s notwithstanding).
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Old 30th Mar 2007, 13:48
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I listened to a programme on this on Radio 4 t'other day in which some of the crews were interviewed. They didn't want to sink the thing before burning off the remaining oil, so the aim was to put bombs through the upper deck that would detonate before the putting a hole in the bottom that'd let more oil out. As such, failing to sink her was a spectacular success...

Last edited by TMJ; 30th Mar 2007 at 13:49. Reason: typo
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Old 30th Mar 2007, 14:06
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Similar incident in SA in the '70s with the Wafra. Buccs and Shacks were used to dispatch her.

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Old 30th Mar 2007, 14:42
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I think this is the show I listened to:
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Old 30th Mar 2007, 15:01
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As I recall (I was only a nipper so didn't understand) there was a bit of a hullabaloo because at this time the good old Ministry were denying we had napalm in the inventory - it had received a bit of a bad press in SE Asia IIRC. The PC solution was to rename the weapons 'fire bombs' ! Don't think it fooled anyone tho'.

Overall a job well done.
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Old 30th Mar 2007, 19:28
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Groundloop and Archimedes are indeed correct - the aim of the exercise was to try to diminish the prospect of ecological damage by setting the fuel on fire, coupled of course with the opportunity to conduct unusually realistic bombing practice.

Curiously enough, and without wishing to incur the wrath of the Mods for threadcreep, I recall that one of the Observers in the Buccaneer NAS involved with bombing the TORREY CANYON, and gained much newspaper publicity at the time, was one Bodger Reardon, who had a rather unusual claim to fame. In 1963, he was the first, and I suspect only, "Looker" to convert from Sea Vixens to Buccaneers by means of an onboard conversion course, whilst serving in HMS VICTORIOUS's Air Group.

Almost by chance, it had been discovered that Bodger had such a long torso that he could not sit fully upright in his "dustbin" seat in the Sea Vixen, and therefore would virtually certainly have broken his back if he had had to bang out. VICTORIOUS was at the time half way to Singapore so the solution was an immediate transfer from 893 NAS to 801 NAS and a very intensive and successful conversion from Vixens to Buccs - a considerable achievement for all concerned (since 801 squadron had embarked just days previously to take the Bucc to sea for the first time in an operational squadron), not least for Bodger who was very young and junior at the time - weren't we all!


For much more detailed info from participants and - interservice banter! - See Torrey Canyon - 18 March, 38 years ago

Last edited by Union Jack; 30th Mar 2007 at 19:41. Reason: Fiat Lux
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Old 4th Apr 2007, 09:30
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I know Bodger quite well. He currently lives in sunny Spain and is well versed in the local arts of having a few and skinny dipping. Having observed him in both of these dubious practices, I cannot say that he appears to have a particularly long torso - or anything else for that matter!

Small world, innit?

By the way, the Bodger reckons he missed!
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Old 4th Apr 2007, 23:07
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Many thanks and nice to hear that Bodger is both in good form and good shape - although perhaps he's shrunk a bit over the years ....

So he missed, did he - clearly a budding ecologist!

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Old 5th Apr 2007, 09:34
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Is that the same Bodger as sung about in the B*****eer song about the Blue Parrot?
Being ex-Vulcans and also 6'4'' tall I was never to taste the pleasures of the Banana bomber. However, I have many happy memories of having it sung to me by an inebriated "Foldingwings" person, who used to post here, in various bars around the bazaars.

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Old 25th Dec 2022, 00:12
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Torrey Canyon

On 19 February 1967, Torrey Canyon left the Kuwait National Petroleum Company refinery, at Mina, Kuwait (later Al Ahmadi) on her final voyage with a full cargo of crude oil. The ship reached the Canary Islands on 14 March. From there the planned route was to Milford Haven in Wales.[citation needed]

Torrey Canyon struck Pollard's Rock on Seven Stones reef, between the Cornish mainland and the Isles of Scilly, on 18 March. It became grounded and, several days later, began to break up.

In an effort to reduce the size of the oil spill, the British government decided to set the wreck on fire, by means of air strikes from the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and Royal Air Force (RAF). On 28 March 1967, FAA Blackburn Buccaneers from RNAS Lossiemouth dropped 1,000-pound bombs on the ship. Afterwards RAF Hawker Hunter from RAF Chivenordropped cans of jet fuel (kerosene), to fuel the blaze.[3] However, the fire was put out by high tides,[clarification needed] and further strikes were needed to re-ignite the oil, by FAA de Havilland Sea Vixens from RNAS Yeovilton and Buccaneers from the RNAS Brawdy, as well as Hunters of No 1(F) Squadron RAF from RAF West Raynham with napalm. Bombing continued into the next day, until Torrey Canyon finally sank.[4] A total of 161 bombs, 16 rockets, 1,500 long tons (1,500 t) of napalm and 44,500 litres (9,800 imp gal) of kerosene were used.[5

We were on holiday in Cornwall when this happened.
Is there anyone out there from the FAA/RAF who dropped stuff on it who can tell us what it was like to be involved?
Did it sink through Mother Nature or are you the one who DEFINITELY hit it??!!
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Old 25th Dec 2022, 08:06
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Tankers can be tough to sink - lots of subdivided spaces - think of the "Ohio" in Operation Pedestal
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Old 25th Dec 2022, 09:01
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I remember reading somewhere that it took so long to make the decision that all the light fractions had gassed off before the bombing started which made it an almost impossible task to set fire to the remaining oil.
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Old 25th Dec 2022, 09:16
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One of the Buccaneer pilots either involved in the bombing, or close to those that were (Dougie Hamilton) told me years ago that the thing was extremely difficult to set fire to. They kept bombing it, small fires would start, only for the waves to put those fires out. The media made it sound as if it should have been easy, but according to him it was nowhere near as easy a job as at first thought. I'm pretty sure the small amount of oil that burned off from the bombing made little difference to the eventual outcome, which is probably why other ways of dealing with oil tanker accidents have evolved since then.
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Old 25th Dec 2022, 10:02
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I believe that attempts to burn off the oil through bombing were largely unsuccessful and made things worse - as was the Unilever and BP detergent that dispersed and broke up the oil in the water and on the shore, as it turned out to be more toxic than crude oil alone. The estimation in the aftermath was that man’s efforts to chemically disperse and burn the oil made the recovery five times as long as doing nothing and letting the wind and waves do their job!

Here is a video of just how hard it was to burn off the oil - petrol, kerosene, sodium chlorite we were all tried - even flame throwers on the beaches. You could get it lit, but after a short while it would just burn out (and the smoke would have given Greta a duck-fit!). This classified (at the time) film from the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) shows the difficulties of burning:

What the Torrey Canyon disaster did do was enable future ways of dealing with such a disaster for the many oil spills after. However, it still remains a really hard problem to sort, but the main methods are containment and then pumping it off (arguably in hindsight that should have been used on Torrey Canyon to pump off the remaining oil rather than trying to blow the crap out of the ship!), absorbents, dispersants, elastomasizers, burning (as long as this doesn’t make the spread worse) and finally good old fashioned elbow grease and manual clean up. Finally assisting bioremediation and natural recovery in the aftermath of the clean up.
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Old 25th Dec 2022, 10:51
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Living in Penzance as I was then (aged 3) I think we went to watch some of the bombing from up on the cliffs near Sennen or somewhere though I don't recall it other than in the vaguest haziest way which may be false memory. However my elder brother who must have been 9 or 10 seems to recalls it in something I saw he'd written on a Web page. Must ask him...
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Old 25th Dec 2022, 18:20
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I was aged 9 when it happened. My Dad and I used to fish off the beach at Pagham, near Bognor Regis. We couldn't fail. Plaice, sole, etc in abundance. The local professional boat fishermen used to sell crab and whelks as they landed. We used to go cockling at Dell Quay near Chichester Marina and cook bucketfuls of them at home.

Within a month everything changed. Big black globules of oil washed up on the beach. No fish or shellfish. The approach to Dell Quay was closed for years due to pollution. To this day cockling is prohibited due to contamination. The sand along the coast has a top layer of brown with a black seam about a foot underneath.

Total destruction.

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Old 25th Dec 2022, 20:28
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I was there! At the time of the wreck, I was on the Dartmouth Training Squadron minesweeper, HMS Brierley, in the Channel Islands. We received a signal to proceed with all dispatch to Falmouth, where we loaded spraying booms and a large number of 50-gall drums of detergent. The next 10 days were spent in very rough seas spraying Fairy Liquid onto rafts of brown, foul-smelling oil and throwing up over the stern.

We were replaced by the other half of the course two days before the Buc attacks! Damn!

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