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Rare photos released of the damage caused by the Silvertown explosion

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 January 2017

The explosion caused numerous fires, some of which burned for days.

The explosion caused numerous fires, some of which burned for days.

Copyright PLA Collection / Museum of London

The devastation caused by the explosion spread for miles around, but one of the hardest hit areas was the Royal Victoria Dock.

Buildings damaged by the explosion at the Brunner Mond works taken from a granary silo. Buildings damaged by the explosion at the Brunner Mond works taken from a granary silo.

As part of today’s commemorations, rare and haunting images of the destruction have been released online.

Taken by John H. Avery, who was asked to take pictures of the damage to help the Port of London Authority (PLA) in its claim for compensation, 24 photographs are made available by the Museum of London Docklands.

Museum curator Vyki Sparkes, who put together the digital album, explained: “There was a war on so there were limits to what you could report.

“You wouldn’t have had people going round taking photographs.

In the aftermath of the explosion John H. Avery was commissioned by the Chief Engineer of the Port of London Authority to document the damage caused to PLA property. In the aftermath of the explosion John H. Avery was commissioned by the Chief Engineer of the Port of London Authority to document the damage caused to PLA property.

“Having these photographs and making them accessible helps show the scale of destruction.”

Avery took 130 pictures, the only visual record of the damaged docks, and presented them to the PLA board who used them in their claim for £357,540 in damages, equivalent to more than £22m today, from the Ministry of Munitions.

In total businesses in the affected areas claimed £82m in today’s money in compensation from the British government.

Vyki commented: “These are really arresting images. Avery really brought his artistic skill to the job.

Firemen and police pick over rubble in the Royal Victoria Dock. Firemen and police pick over rubble in the Royal Victoria Dock.

“It seems like another battlefield. It was a humanitarian disaster. The docks were part of the war effort, sending things to the frontline.

“In the pictures you see policemen, firefighters and nightwatchmen. These people were at the front line too. The dock was devestated.”

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