Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald 2nd May 1931
EXPLOSION DURING EXPERIMENT IN SCIENCE ROOM
Six boys were injured in an explosion which occurred at Whitstable Boy’s Council School on Wednesday afternoon the 29th of April, and one had to be taken to the Whitstable and Tankerton Cottage Hospital, where he was detained, suffering from severe cuts to the face and neck.
The boys belonged to Division 1a Lower, and following their usual custom, they had gone to the science room after their midday meal.
Here they were engaged in carrying out experiments, until the short respite, which was spent in the playground. When the boys returned they took their places at tables and were keenly occupied in making notes of the work which they had been doing previously.
Mr William George Pardey, B.A. B.Sc., the Science Master, was engrossed a few yards away in an experiment on a table of producing hydrogen from sodium, and as the experiment progressed the boys, who take a very keen interest in this particular phase of the school curriculum, gathered round Mr Pardey.
He advised the boys to keep well back, and while he was placing a little more sodium under the gas jar in the chamber, there was a flash, a report, and the water chamber and gas jar were shattered.
Pieces of glass flew in various directions, and the room was soon filled with smoke. Blood began to stream down the faces of those boys who had been cut by the flying glass, and they rushed to the taps in the cloakroom, which is just outside the science room.
Here they bathed their injuries, and in the meantime, doctors and the police had been called.
Doctor Glyn and Saville were soon on the scene and attended to the boys. The most seriously injured was Terence J. Dennis (12), son of Mr. R. Dennis, Melita Cafe, Canterbury Road. He had severe cuts on the neck and face, and was promptly conveyed to the Hospital.
Ernest Ebenezer Emptage (12), son of Mr. E, Emptage, Seaways, Cromwell Road, South, had cuts on the left eye, cheek, and nose; Jack Theobald (13), son of Mr. Frank Theobald, Daisy Villa, Cromwell Road South, hadcuts on the right cheek and upper lip; Ernest Brindle (13), son of Mr E. Brindle, senior, 6, Gladstone Road, had cuts on both cheeks, top of the head, neck, right ear, and sodium in the eyes; Leslie Wise (13), adopted son of Mr William J. Bennett, of 42, Warwick Road, had cuts over the right eye, left side of the face and chin; and George Hubbard (13), son of Mr S. Hubbard, 26, Middle Wall, had cuts on forehead, both sides of face, lip and nose.
These boys, after attention were able to proceed to their homes. Mr Pardey had fingers of the right hand injured. Two boys who happened to be nearest to the apparatus were not injured.
The cause of the explosion is purely a matter for conjecture, but those who know anything about hydrogen are well aware of the fact that it is a colourless inflammable gas, and is readily obtained by the action of certain metals on water, at either ordinary or high temperatures.
It might also be prepared by the action of acids, such as dilute sulphuric acid, on metals, such as zinz or iron. When it burns in the air it combines with the oxygen to form water, and when mixed in certain proportions with air or oxygen the mixture explodes violently on ignition. Therefore in this case it is probable that the hydrogen and oxygen of the air formed an explosive mixture which was ignited by the heat generated by reaction.
Such a occurrence as this is very regrettable, and it is most fortunate that it was not attended with more serious consequences. No one is more sorry than Mr. Pardey, who has been at the school since the Christmas term.
He is much concerned as to the progress the boys are making from their injuries, and is a frequent enquirer at the respective homes.
Ernest Ebenezer Emptage 1918 – 1984, son of Ernest Emptage 1896 – 1984 and Emily Edith Hadlow 1894 – 1962.