This postcard shows H.M.S. 'Natal', Invergordon (sunk 1915)
The Cromarty Firth, which was used as a safe anchorage for the British Fleet, was the scene of one of Britain's worst warship disasters. On 30th December 1915 a Hogmanay party and film show was underway on board HMS Natal, a 13,550 ton armoured cruiser.
Among the guests were the factor of Novar Estate, Mr Harry Dods, his wife and three children, three nurses from the naval hospital in Cromarty and Violet Black, wife of the captain, Eric Black. Without warning the warship was ripped apart by an internal explosion. The ship turned over and sank within five minutes. 421 people, including the captain and all the guests, died either in the explosion or subsequently from their injuries.
Despite rumours of sabotage or an attack by an enemy submarine an inquiry concluded that the explosion was probably the result of unstable cordite. Stored in the magazine room with insufficient ventilation the cordite had begun to sweat and eventually spontaneously combusted.
Wartime security meant the incident could not be reported. The Ross-shire Journal could only report that the Dods family had been wiped out 'as a result of a painful and distressing accident'. Many bodies were never found.
Over time the Natal gradually sank to the bottom but for many years naval ships saluted it when they passed. Much reduced the wreck is still a navigational hazard; the spot marked by a danger buoy.