WITH VIDEO: Memorial marks 60 years since submarine tragedy

Bryan Simpson at the wreath-laying ceremony at Portland Heights

HMS Sidon

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VETERANS gathered to remember lives lost in a Portland submarine disaster that took place nearly 60 years ago.

A ceremony took place at the HMS Sidon Memorial yesterday, with one of the remaining survivors placing a wreath by the memorial.

The event was organised by the Dorset Submariners and attended by Commander Rupert Best, one of Dorset’s Deputy Lieutenants.

On Thursday, June 16, 1955, one of HMS Sidon’s torpedoes exploded, wrecking the torpedo tube and devastating the forward compartments.

Twelve men in the forward compartments died in the explosion.

When Sidon sank, a 13th victim was recorded.

A medical officer who had gone on board with the rescue party collapsed unnoticed and died of asphyxiation after everyone else had evacuated.

Bryan Simpson, who was a 21-year-old leading seaman at the time, is one of the remaining survivors.

Speaking of the day’s events, Mr Simpson said: “It was something you never think you are going to survive.

“The only reason I survived was because I came back to say all the torpedoes were all loaded.

“I said: ‘All loaded, all ready to go’ and as I said that, basically, it went up.

“Everything went black and things went flying.”

Mr Simpson escaped by climbing up the tower – the nearest possible exit.

The memorial, next to Portland Heights, was put in place on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy in 2005.

After the wreath was laid there was a minute’s silence.

Mr Simpson said: “I get tearful. I come every year. It’s important to me.

“There’s not many of us left now.”

Mr Best, who is also the president of the Dorset Submariners, said the ceremony was a way of remembering the tragedy.

“I think at the time not much was said because of the security of the trials concerned. The crew was disbanded and broken up and sent to other submarines very quickly. I suppose we thought we would put that right so there is a tangible place for their children.”

• A Court of Enquiry absolved anyone aboard HMS Sidon of blame.

The direct cause of the accident was determined to have been the malfunctioning of the safety features of the torpedo.

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