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The 'Princess Alice' tragedy

Disaster on the Thames
The setting
The collision
The aftermath
The investigation
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Disaster on the Thames

 By the late 19th century, the Thames was increasingly busy. Hundreds of vessels, from large liners to tugs, barges and lighters, used the river each day. Despite ever larger and faster ships, there were no precise 'rules of the road'.

Model of the Princess Alice disaster.
View full size imageA model of the Princess Alice disaster. © NMM

Such confusion inevitably led to tragedy. In 1878, the paddle steamer Princess Alice sank after a needless collision in Galleons Reach.

A ship's wheel spoke from the Princess Alice.
View full size imageA ship's wheel spoke from the Princess Alice. © NMM
More than 600 people lost their lives in what is still the worst ever disaster on a British waterway.

Official enquiries followed the tragedy, and the rules on using the river were finally tightened up.

 

 

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GalleriesFamous Thames ships
The great and the good
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Fact fileThe 'Princess Alice’
The passenger steamship that collided with a collier in 1878 killing over 600 people
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Related Resources
Related Images1 Images
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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