On Saturday May 26th 1917 a terrific explosion shook the town of Ramsgate when HMTB No 4 torpedo boat blew up in the harbour. The explosion caused a fire to break out on the ship which later sank. Luckily before the fire reached the magazine sailors and firemen managed to remove most of the ammunition to the fish market on the harbour crosswall. Many houses and shops along the seafront were damaged, but without the quick action of the men who moved the ammunition, at considerable risk to themselves, the damage to the town could have been much worse. Unfortunately a month later, a Zeppelin bombed the fish market
Nearly all the windows in Nelson Crescent, Sion Hill and York Terrace were smashed and some tram wires were brought down. Pieces of the boat ended up in Albert Street, Alpha Road, Clarendon Gardens and Queen Street. About four hundred houses were damaged and many townsfolk narrowly escaped being hit by flying pieces of metal. In the centre of the town every shop was damaged and the demand for wood to block up damaged windows was greater than the supply.
The men killed in the explosion were buried in Ramsgate cemetery close to the WW1 war graves plot. The seamen came from all over the country, including Bristol and Plymouth. Several of the sailors who had been engaged in cleaning the torpedo were blown to pieces and the men below decks must have been burnt alive. It was not until some days later that the sad task of recovering the mutilated bodies was completed with the aid of a diver. Fourteen crew members were lost but miraculously three men, who had been standing on the raised gun platform in the immediate vicinity of the explosion,were uninjured.
The impressive funeral of the victims at Ramsgate Cemetery was attended by thousands of townspeople, who afterwards subscribed to the erection of a white marble cross dedicated :-
In memory of those of His Majesty’s Naval forces at Ramsgate who have given their lives in the service of their country during the war