Until the 18th century, the City was London; the rest was merely outlying villages. Yet its modem appearance belies a 2000-year history; what few buildings survived the Great Fire of 1666 and WWII bombings are now overshadowed by giant temples of commerce. Of the 300,000 who work here, only 8000 people call the City home. The City of London information Centre, in St. Paul’s Churchyard, offers acres of leaflets and maps, sells tickets to sights and shows, and provides info on a host of traditional municipal events, ( 7332 1456. Tube: St. Paul’s. Open Apr.-Sept. daily 9:30am-5pm; Oct.-Mar. M-F 9:30am-5pm, Sa 9:30am-12:30pm.)


The explosion lifted the lifeboat clear out of the water, knocking the boat’s crew flat on the bottom, their caps were blown off, never to be seen again and it was reported that the blast even emptied some of their jacket pockets. Pieces of metal up to half a metre long then began to rain down on the two lifeboats and both were damaged in the fallout. Several of the lifeboatmen were injured, with the bowman of the Clarissa Langdon receiving a severe gash to his head. The Somali’s stern end and centre section remained afloat with the two salvage men on board, but the bows went down to the bottom. Fearing for the men’s safety, Coxswain Campbell on the Clarissa Langdon took his boat in through the mass of black smoke and fumes and rescued the two men, who slid down a rope into the sea before the lifeboat was brought clear at full speed, but the lifeboat’s screw was fouled by some floating wreckage and the W.R.A. had to come in and tow her out of the danger area. When the screw was cleared, the two lifeboats made for Seahouses, where the two seamen were landed at North Sunderland harbour at 1320 hrs. The ship had a secret cargo compartment near to the bows and it was widely rumoured that she was carrying explosives, which may explain why the blast was so great, ripping her in two at the bow section.

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