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A Fatal Explosion

From the Sydney Morning Herald, 11 September 1900:

"The City Coroner (Mr. J. C. Woore) held an inquest yesterday at the City Coroner's Court respecting the death of George Halse, 35, a single man, who died from the effects of an explosion at Spectacle Island on Saturday last. The evidence showed that deceased was an armourer attached to H.M.S. Katoomba, but performed his duties on Spectacle Island. On Saturday last he was engaged in extracting a charge from a shell. He fired the cap, thinking he had extracted all the powder, but the shell exploded, injuring him so badly that he died shortly after being admitted to the Sydney Hospital. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death."

Newspaper item about fatal explosion on Spectacle Island

Sydney Morning Herald, 10 September 1900

The inscription on George’s grave memorial at Rookwood Cemetery reads:

“GEORGE HALSE
A.B. Armourer R.N. Aged 34 Years
Died From Injuries Received Through
An Explosion At The N.O. Depot Spectacle Island
8 September 1900
Beloved Son Of Eliza Halse
Stope Devonport England
Erected by His Sorrowing Mother”
George Halse's Grave Memorial

George Halse's Grave Memorial at Rookwood Cemetery
(Photo courtesy of Gary Heap)

George was born on 8 December 1865 at Montrose, Forfar, Scotland to Edward and Eliza Halse, one of at least 6 children. He joined the Royal Navy in April 1888 after serving an apprenticeship as a plumber. It was a Navy family. At least one brother joined whilst another became a skilled dockyard worker. When his father Edward died in 1872 at Inverness he was described as "late of the Coastguard a seaman in the Royal Navy belonging to Her Majesty's ship "Favourite".

George’s service record shows many postings. He first joined HMS Katoomba in 1894 and rejoined it in 1899. His final posting is recorded as “Sydney Yard”. The Coroner's formal report stated that:

“We find that the said George Halse at the Sydney Hospital in the City of Sydney in the Colony aforesaid on the 8th day of September 1900 died from the effects of injuries accidentally received on the same day in the Armourers Shop at the Naval Ordnance Depot Spectacle Island Port Jackson in the District of Sydney in the Colony aforesaid through causing the explosion of a 3 pounder cartridge from which he had extracted the shell and part of the powder.”

George’s mother, who had the memorial erected, survived George by only 3 years.

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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au