Video: Britain's Worst Transport Disaster

By Londonist Last edited 35 months ago
Video: Britain's Worst Transport Disaster

For some reason, the worst tragedy in British transport history — the sinking of the paddle steamship the Princess Alice with the loss of over 600 lives — is largely forgotten.

Photographer and filmmaker Stephen McKenna has made this fascinating short documentary about the events on that day. He tells Londonist: "I didn't choose the story of the Great Thames Disaster for this short film so much as it chose me.

"My work as a photographer often brings me to the river and one day when out shooting, for some reason, I stopped on a frankly, rather dull turn in the Thames just downstream from Woolwich. That's when almost by accident I noticed a small sign I'd passed often and ignored. It told me that here was the site of the sinking of the steamship, the SS Princess Alice.

"Now, that tragedy was something I knew of at the back of my mind but I'd never known the precise spot, so I was galvanised into exploring the full story and questioning how it was that such a horrifying loss of life was all but forgotten.

"Some have suggested that the global catastrophes of two world wars and a host of other calamities in the intervening years have helped to erase the tragedy of the Princess Alice from the minds of Londoners, but it still remains Britain's worst ever transportation disaster. So this feature is an attempt to shine a light into a dark recess of the city's history and to show how much of an impact it has had on the river we take for granted today."

Last Updated 23 December 2014

UH

there's a pub named after this disaster located near to the waterfront at tripcock point http://www.crowncarveries.co.u...

Phil

What an excellent, if short film.

James White

Amongst great tragedy often comes very dark gallows humour, especially among rescue staff. I believe this tragedy and the fact that there was a lot of raw sewage pumped into the Thames nearby lead to one witness commenting, "they weren't so much swimming as going through the motions".