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Rob's Shed

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

It's possible that the shell concerned was of the type known as "Common" - essentially a hollow steel forging with a percussion fuze in the nose, a bursting charge of gunpowder, and a filling hole plug in the base. If so, the operation being undertaken was, based on the few clues in the newspaper report, removal of the gunpowder charge through the filling hole, and initiation of the fuze (although the term "cap" is used in the report) as a means of rendering it safe. However other explanations are possible, including that the item concerned was a cartridge rather than a shell.

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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au