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Home > Lifestyle News > Culture News > Article > 1944 Bombay explosion St Xaviers High School in Fort houses pieces of propellers from the explosion

1944 Bombay explosion: St Xavier’s High School in Fort houses pieces of propellers from the explosion

Updated on: 13 April,2024 10:18 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Nascimento Pinto | nascimento.pinto@mid-day.com

As Mumbai observes the 79th anniversary of the explosion that rocked the city in the 1940s, Mid-day Online visited the school, which saw the debris fly into its campus. Today, the school has two pieces of propellers within its corridors. The school believes more people need to know about the incident

1944 Bombay explosion: St Xavier’s High School in Fort houses pieces of propellers from the explosion

The piece of the propeller is situated on the left side of the entrance at St Xavier's High School in Fort. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto for Mid-day

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A light summer breeze blows past on a hot April morning, as this writer enters the gates of St Xavier's High School in Fort, a stone’s throw away from Metro Cinema and Furtado’s Music shop. It's as if the breeze prods Mumbaikars along towards the gates of the school to get to know the history within its walls. The stories are hard to ignore; especially that of the 1944 Bombay Dock explosion that rocked the city. A reminder of which is seen with the now-rusted red-hot piece of a propeller lodged on the left side of the school entrance that flew into the campus from Victoria docks.


A plaque bearing the exact details of its presence takes you back to the explosion of April 14, 1944, that occurred not too far away and subsequently led to all kinds of objects flying in different directions, two of which landed in the school. While one is a piece of the propeller, the other is a larger part of a silver-coloured propeller that found its home at the school, which is the stuff for history books about the city. One is placed at the entrance, the other is hung high up on the left side of first floor, at the end of the corridor. It is only one of the many things the winding corridors boast of including an endless museum, that has been curated by Brother Antonio Navarro S.J., who was with the institution, and visibly loved nature.


Also Read: 1944 Bombay Explosion: All about one of the largest explosions ever recorded


The St Xavier`s High School was established by the Jesuits in 1869. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto for Mid-dayThe second piece of the propeller is situated in the corridor of the St Xavier's High School. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto for Mid-day

This year marks 79 years since the explosion occurred in the maximum city at the Victoria docks. Popularly called the 1944 Bombay Explosion, 1994 Bombay Docks Explosion or the Victoria Docks Explosion, it is one of the biggest explosions the city has witnessed and regarded as one of the city’s worst disasters. It not only killed 1,300 people but also left 80,000 people homeless. According to historians who have spoken to mid-day in the past, the blast occurred when the freight steamer SS Fort Stikine caught fire and was left completely destroyed in two big blasts. It took three days to get the fire under control. The explosion left five lakh tonnes of debris as everything around it sunk or caught fire and sent debris flying in areas close to it and some of which landed at the school.

Coincidentally, it was Ms Renee Carvalho’s father who witnessed it because he was studying in the school at that time. Carvalho, the present alumni coordinator, who has been an ex-teacher and vice-principal of the school of St Xavier's High School, tells of the event that she believes more people should know about.

The second piece of the propeller is situated in the corridor of the St Xavier`s High School. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto for Mid-dayThe St Xavier's High School was established by the Jesuits in 1869. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto for Mid-day

A resident of Dhobi Talao, Carvalho says that she was not present, but her father who was an ex-Xavierite, had recollected it. While senior Carvalho was only a child at the time, very little of the story was passed on, but having spent over three decades at the school, the alumni coordinator feels proud and deeply connected with the piece of history not only at the personal level but also for the school, which boasts of some of the biggest names in the country as its alumni. The fact that she is a history buff may be the other reason.

Also Watch: 1944 Bombay Explosion: Propeller at St Xavier's School in Fort

Walking through such rich heritage daily must definitely give goosebumps to anybody who knows about it, like it did for us. It is also why she believes more people need to know about the piece of propeller in the school, and the story behind it. She says, “I hope students at the school take interest and know more about it as much as other Mumbaikars should know about the piece of history in this school.” Interestingly for Carvalho, it is not limited to current students because she wishes that more visits are arranged even for ex-students to come and see the institution to know about the rich heritage and legacy.

While it is easier for in-house students to pay a visit, the Mumbaikar undoubtedly believes it should be open to the public too but as supervised visits so that school is never disturbed, as the teacher in her springs up, for it feels like the school is her second home as she tells us tales of its beautiful history. “The rich heritage of Mumbai must be made known to the younger generation,” she reiterates, “I don’t think enough people know about the explosion, and there needs to be an emphasis on it so that more people know about the rich heritage and culture.”

“If they don’t know about the explosion, how will they know?” she asks.

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