15th July 1947

Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey

When TBF Davies died, he left specific instructions that his racing yacht should be scuttled off Guernsey. Davies himself had been born on Guernsey – and lived there – but had died in Durban five years before his wishes were carried out.

The Westward, as it was called, had been built at Rhode Island and once belonged to the Kaiser. Worth £60,000 (around £2.3m today), it had frequently raced against King George V’s yacht, Britannia, and was well-known in Dartmouth where it was berthed.

Indeed, it was so well-loved that despite the fact the date of its sinking had been kept a secret until the very last moment, Dartmouth residents had turned out to see it off and, according to the Western Morning News, “The smoke of the tug [that took Westward] along the estuary was so dense that some local people believed a smoke screen was being thrown out to hide the schooner’s departure.”

Westward’s sinking

A report in The Times read,

In accordance with the owner’s will, two members of the crew, Skipper Aldis and the sailmaker, Mr James Foster, were the last to be on board. Two souvenirs were taken from the Westward – the wheel and a punt.

The Western Morning News described the sinking in more detail:

Preliminaries completed, the explosives in the hold of the vessel were detonated by means of a switch from the cabin of the tug and also by a time fuse. There was a loud roar as the explosion took place, with clouds of smoke billowing in mushroom fashion into the clear sky, intermingled with pieces of timber which fell over a wide area of the sea. Westward gradually settled and disappeared from the view of the men watching in the tug, leaving only a few floating spars.

Davies was a millionaire who had made his fortune as a stevedore (dock worker who loads and unloads ships) in South Africa.


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