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The Royston Grange Tragedy - Fifty Years On

50 Years on A Memorial Service

will take place at

The Church of All Hallows by the Tower of London.

Wednesday 11th May @ 2.00pm

Fifty years ago on 11th MAY 1972 the cargo passenger ship “Royston Grange” was heading from Buenos Aires back to London, on board were 61 crew, 12 passengers (including six women and a 5-year old child) and the Argentinian pilot. In dense fog as she crossed the Pyunta Indio Channel, just before six in the morning she collided with the Liberian-registered tanker Tien Chee, carrying 20,000 tons of crude oil. The Tien Chee immediately burst into flames and a series of explosions rapidly carried the flames to the Royston Grange where most of the crew and passengers were asleep. Sadly all 74 people on the Royson Grange lost their lives. What was surprising was the fact that the Deck officers and passengers were separated from the engineers and the crew by a cargo hatch. The hold was holding a cargo of butter and the insulation ignited from the initial fireball of vapor from the oil tanker.


The Tien Chee also caught fire and eight of her forty Chinese crew died but the remainder, along with her Argentinian pilot, managed to abandon ship and were picked up by cutters of the Argentine Naval Prefecture.



The Royston Grange memorial window in the Church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower in London is signed by F.W. Cole and dated 1973. An almost identical window by the same artist is installed at the Church of St Paul, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan.


George Boothby, the captain of the Royston Grange, lived in Barry and the window was placed in the church in his and the crews memory. St Pauls church has since been demolished but the window is in storage awaiting funds to restore it in a suitable location. My brother, Hugh Watkins, was one of the RG crew. - Thank you David Watkins for this information


Following an enquiry into the disaster, the report concluded that the master and pilot of Tien Chee had probervbly been navigating too far south of the Pyunta Indio Channel in an attempt to find deeper water to accommodate her deep draught. The report concluded that the officers of the Royston Grange were probably not to blame, although there may have been some human error in attempting to avoid the collision. Whilst finding that the Master and pilot of the Tien Chee probably should’nt have entered the channel in the tidal conditions prevailing at the time, the report criticised the lack of maintenance of the channel.



The burnt out shell of the Royson Grange


Royston Grange was initially towed to Montevideo.


In March 1974, Royston Grange was towed to Barcelona,where her scrapping began on 20 May 1979




The memorial of the 74 passengers and crew who lost their lives on Royston Grange. The grave is in Montevideo, Uruguay.


S.T.V. Royston Grange


Worse things happen at sea they say, worse things happen at sea,

In `72 this came true with the tanker `Tien Chee`,

Within dense fog near the River Plate, she collided with a freighter,

Crude Oil gushed from shattered tanks exploding seconds later.


The other ship the `Royston Grange ` in fatal rendezvous,

Lost seventy four razed on her - all passengers and crew,

Full cargo holds of butter ignited overall,

Fused in mighty fireball that left no chance at all.


Ten thousand tons of vessel went up in lethal blaze,

No time then for rescue or warning sound to raise,

Montevideo close at hand, bodies still entrapped,

The Houlder`s ship towed away and later on just scrapped.


By the Tower of London in All Hallows Church,

There is a stained glass window - if carrying out research,

In commemoration colour with burning red repands,

Depicting Royston Grange in memory of all hands.


Worse things happen at sea they say,

Worse things happen at sea.


Capt J S Earl

2005


The above is attributed to Joe Earl with thanks.





50 Years on A Memorial Service

will take place at

The Church of All Hallows by the Tower of London.

Wednesday 11th May @ 2.00pm

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the group via the FaceBook page here




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My uncle Roy lost his life on the Royston Grange. I remember sitting with my Grandparents when the news flash came on the TV and my Grandmother screaming, I was 10 at the time.

My mother told us all that Roy told her he did not want to go as he had a bad feeling about that trip and she had begged him not to go

, but being the head Steward he could not let them down at such short notice. He was the youngest of 5 children, it broke my Grandmothers and my Mums heart and I remember going shopping with them to buy outfits, as his company paid for them to go to the Funeral service i…

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Just came across this, I remember the Royston Grange because I was radio officer on the "Margo" sailing in the South Atlantic at the time and I had a communication with the radio officer of the "Royston Grange" a few days before on the morse key, I was shocked when I heard of the tragedy on the BBC world service.

Dougie

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George Boothby, the captain of the Royston Grange, lived in Barry and the window was placed in the church in his and the crews memory. St Pauls church has since been demolished but the window is in storage awaiting funds to restore it in a suitable location. My brother, Hugh Watkins, was one of the RG crew.

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Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
Feb 20, 2022
Replying to

Thank you David for that information. I knew they must be some connection, but could not find any information online about it. I will amend my blog.

I am sorry for the loss of your Brother in the tragedy.

Thank You.

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Rainer Mau
Rainer Mau
Feb 19, 2022

toblamethingfog is bullshitz 1972, every ship got radar, sothisThe Royston Grange Tragady,could havebeeneasely prevented.

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Richard Rees
Richard Rees
May 12, 2022
Replying to

Radar in 1972 was far more basic by today's standards. Pulse width/repetition and discrimination were relaively poor and ability to render and target parts of a nearby ship difficult, particularly of a large ship. Plotting on screen, true motion etc were relative rarities at that time, any plotting was done by chinagraph on a separate board near the radar making it less likely to be used. More reliance would have been placed on taking relative bearings but in a confined waterway which is where they were and the foregoing factors these bearings would probably be of not much value. Add the "comfort" factor that the pilot was on board meaning the bridge team would defer to him rather than actin…

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John Martin
John Martin
Feb 19, 2022

I remember this incident vividly. I was home on leave shortly after a four and half month trip running between Europe, West Africa, US and Canada. The thought of so many people - who would have been like me and fellow crew - being incinerated like that. There were 67 of us (including 15 Cadets and 4 wives) on board'Onitsha'. Not quite as many as Royston Grange...but the thought of being in a similar situation..as we had negotiated fogs in rivers on our trip too. Thank you for the reminder David - a time to remember. I had a similar feeling of horror at the loss of Bibby Lines Derbyshire in 1980. I had served in a similar ve…

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