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On this day in history: tragedy on the River Severn

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In thick fog, on the night of October 25th 1960, tankers the Wastdale H and Arkendale H collided in the River Seven off Sharpness.

In our video eye-witness and author of several books about the River Severn, Chris Witts describes the tragic events of that night.

wrecks2 | On this day in history: tragedy on the River Severn
The remains of the Arkendale H (left) and the Wastdale H in the River Severn near Purton. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

Five crewmen lost their lives when the vessels crashed into a pier of the Severn Railway Bridge, causing a span to collapse onto them. The cargo of oil and petroleum exploded, and reports spoke of the river being ablaze.

rail bridge | On this day in history: tragedy on the River Severn
The Severn Railway Bridge, showing the missing span brought down by the collision in 1960. Demolition of the bridge began in 1967. Picture: Brian Candy Photographic Archive.

Firefighters from across the county, including Stroud, attended the incident but the chief officer denied them permission to try to reach the stricken vessels due to the dreadful conditions.

wrecks1 | On this day in history: tragedy on the River Severn
The remains of the Arkendale H and Wastdale H are still visible at low tide in the River Severn – Sharpness Dock can be seen in the distance. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

They reached the wrecks at first light the following day to search for survivors, though without success. The bridge was never repaired and demolished in the late 1960s. The wrecks of the boats can still be seen at low tide and serve as a reminder of the tragic events 60 years ago.

(Video by Matt Bigwood)

memorial | On this day in history: tragedy on the River Severn
Memorial plaques were unveiled on both sides of the River Severn in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

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