What caused the fire on 29 September 1939


Aug 3, 2005
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Hello all!

I am interested in Majestic (II) and have read many books and web pages which mention only that "[o]n 29 September 1939 the Caledonia caught fire, burnt out and sank at its moorings in Rosyth". As the WWII was already in progress by then, I have always thought that it was sunk by Luftwaffe bombs, sabotage or something like that.

Anyway, I have never seen any book or web page discussing in detail what happened until now. Today I found this page while surfing around:

http://www.bluewatercapital.com.au/ccp/late.htm

It contains the following paragraph:

"On 29 September 1939 the Caledonia caught fire, burnt out and sank at her moorings in Rosyth. In March 1940 she was sold to Thomas W. Ward for demolition and salvage work commenced. It was not until 17 July 1943 that the hulk was raised and towed five miles to the scrap yard. No one knows why an empty ship spontaneously caught fire."

I wonder if anybody here has better knowledge of what happened (preferably with sources). It would also be interesting to know if there are any pictures of the burning ship and/or the wreck after it was raised. If they do exist, where can one find them?

Best Regards,

Nuutti
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
For whatever it may be worth...and that may not be a lot...I suspect the culprit was the electrical wiring, if only because this ship and herenear sisters were known to have had some on going problems with it.
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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The New York Times, 30 September 1939

Former Liner Majestic Is Afire on a Mudbank
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Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES
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LONDON, Sept. 29---The naval training ship Caledonia, better known to Atlantic sea lanes as the Majestic, is on a mudbank somewhere in England with a fire still raging aboard her.

Ever since 1936, when the government bought the 56,000-ton Majestic, which was originally built as the Bismarck by Germany and came to Britain as part of the spoils of the World War, she has been used as a training ship for boys. There was no one on board when the fire broke out.

It is believed that the fire started either through a faulty electrical system or through the carelessness of workmen. It was said that it was not the result of enemy action.

-30-
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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There's a photo, attributed to the Imperial War Museum, of Caledonia's hull after she was raised, in Braynard's Classic Ocean Liners, Vol. 1, p. 172. That's the only post-fire photo I recall seeing.