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14 May 2018

The death of Thomas Speechley

Sydney Evening News Friday 18 Nov 1904.

Soon after the tragic death of young Thomas killed by an exploding Navy shell he was playing with many articles appeared in Sydney newspapers from correspondents covering the official enquiry.

The navy denied it shot live shells on to the shore, saying they set up floating targets at the entrance of the bay, and only occasionally towards Bowen Island, regarded by the navy  "as an uninhabited place." They also said the shells were full of sand and were nonexplosive,  Asked why sand ?, The officer explained they were once filled with water, but this was replaced with sand as the weight was closer to a live shell.
They could not explain how a live shell could have been found where it was.

The article below was written in response to the statements above.

With reference to statements published in Thursday's "Evening News" regarding the Jervis Bay explosions our Nowra correspondent writes:
_ "Where the shell exploded is on the opposite side of the bay from Bowen Island at Point Perpendicular, the site f the new lighthouse and hundreds of shells are to be found on that side.  Of course, the population on either side is sparse,  but a  good many pleasure seekers often visit the spot.

'In many places around the shores of the bay tracks of these shells can be found.   They often tear up the ground for yards cutting a deep trench,  and afterward rising higher, and striking further on.  It's all very well for officers of ships to say they never fire towards shore, excepting towards " an uninhabited spot known as Bowen Island." If they did fire towards the island they would as likely as not hit the main shore on the south side, or fire on to the high seas; but everyone in the vicinity of Jervis Bay  knows that it has been the custom of the men-o-war to steam backward and forwards at the 'hole-in-the-wall.' and fire at a target opposite, which means they must hit the northern shore.  In proof of this, shells are often picked up miles from the entrance to the harbour."

Continue reading about Thomas Speechley, his lonely grave and his association with Jervis Bay.


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