On This Day…
On the 6th July Piper Alpha exploded
On the night of 6th July 1988 explosions and fire destroyed Piper Alpha, This was the world’s worst off-shore oil disaster and the largest industrial disaster in the UK since the explosion at Gresford Colliery in 1934.
Piper Alpha was a North Sea oil and gas production platform operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd, in the Piper Oilfield about 120 miles north-east of Aberdeen. In a little over two hours, 167 men were killed; there were only 61 survivors.
Posthumously recognised for bravery
Amongst those rewarded for their great bravery that night was Robert Carroll, aged 34. It was a standard safety measure in the summer that the fire water pumps, operated from the control room, were switched to manual control in order to prevent divers being sucked into the inlet pipes if the pumps were switched on. This demanded that the pumps be manually activated in the fire-pump room.
With the fire raging and the rig filled with black, choking smoke, two men donned breathing apparatus and went into the rig to activate the pumps. The two men were Bob Vernon and Robbie Carroll—neither were seen again.
Robert Carroll enlisted into Royal Signals as a junior soldier in April 1970. His first postings were to 229 Signal Squadron in Berlin and 4th Armoured Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment. He joined the White Helmets in 1975, remaining with the team for three years. His final tour was as a detachment commander in ‘R’ Troop, 16th Signal Regiment, which included a stint in 266 Signal Squadron (South Atlantic). He left the Corps in 1984. For his bravery this night in 1988 he was awarded a posthumous Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.