PrincessAlicebodiespic104

The Princess Alice paddle steamer disaster of 1878—-why was the death toll so high?

The late Peter Haining was one of many writers fascinated by the terrible events of the evening of 3rd September 1878, when the paddle steamer ‘Princess Alice’, laden with over 800 day trippers returning from an excursion to Margate, was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle close to North Woolwich. Over 630 men, women and children perished in the disaster, which remains the worst in the history of river navigation—not just in the UK, but in the world.

Hoping to publish a book on the subject, Peter Haining kept clippings both from the centenary coverage of the disaster in 1978 and from August 1989,when a much smaller vessel, the ‘Marchioness’, sank further upstream in the Thames. He also researched a similar Victorian sinking in 1875, when the’ Deutschland’ went down off the Kentish coast, carrying among its passengers,   five German  nuns--- a disaster which  prompted Gerard Manly Hopkins to compose his famous poem The Wreck of the Deutschland.

Continue reading