The People of Gibraltar

1951 – The Bedenham Explosion – Gibraltar

The following quotes and most of the illustrations are taken from a 2010 Gibraltar Museum Blog which I think now no longer exists.

The Naval Armament Carrier RFA Bedenham arrived in Gibraltar on the 24th April, 1951, laden with 500 tons of ammunition. It tied up at Gun Wharf. While it was unloading depth charges into a lighter, on the morning of the 27th April, one ignited. 

Attempts to put the fire out failed and there was an explosion in the lighter. The fire spread to the Bedenham which blew up. The bow of the ship was blown out of the water and onto the wharf itself. The remainder of the ship sank. 

Thirteen people died as a result of the explosion, including Sub Officer George Campbell Henderson of the Fire Service who was posthumously awarded the George Cross for bravery in attempting to extinguish the fire. Many more people were injured and many public buildings in Gibraltar suffered damage. 

The Admiralty paid out around £250,000 in indemnity. The event has become a part of the living memory of the Gibraltarians of that time. These photographs document the incident, damage and the subsequent memorial service.  

A piece of the Bedenham in Main Street (Not from Chronicle)

(Tommy Finlayson - Local photographer)