At precisely 3:34 pm, on June 22 1893, the Royal Navy flagship, HMS Victoria, was rammed and eventually sank. She went down off the Mediterranean port of Tripoli and took with her several lives, including that of her commander-Admiral Sir George Tryon.
A naval board of inquiry heard that the HMS Victoria was rammed by another ship in the same squandron-Camperdown, the flagship of his second in command, Rear Admiral Sir Albert Markham–during a difficult manoeuvre ordered by Sir George himself.
The manoeuvre was supposed to make two columns of ships, including the Victoria and Camperdown, to turn inwards towards each other.
The plan didn’t work. And a collision was so imminent that many thought that averting it would be a miracle
Sir George ordered the Victoria “Full astern”. The term “full astern” is used by naval officers to instruct the engine room onboard a ship to reverse the engines at highest speed possible.
Sir George was considered by many of his contemporaries to be a supremely competent yet radical officer but with a strong and sometimes overpowering demeanor. No one knows what prompted him to order such a manoeuvre that spelt disaster from the moment it was imposed. Surely his experience and level-headed sailing abilities and knowledge would have prevented him from taking the bizarre step.
Sir George went down with the ship. Many survivors heard him say his final words-“It is all my fault!”
“Much has been said about George Tryon’s charm of manner, and the rest of it, but in truth he was, at any rate when officially engaged, a very brusque and dictatorial man. Unfortunately he was a ‘viewy’ man too, a man of theories…”
-an article in Society Journal Talk in July 1893 following the tragic accident.
But here’s the astonishing part. At the time of the collision, Sir George’s wife, Lady Tryon was throwing a party in her home at Eaton Square in London, completely unaware of what had transpired miles away and that her beloved is no more.
However, shortly after 3:30 pm, guests saw the well-defined unmistakable figure of the admiral stride across the drawing room!
When the guests politely remarked that it was nice that Sir George could be present, Lady Tryon, who had not seen the figure, replied that her husband was with his ship. But some of the guests later claimed to have spoken to the figure, who they were certain was none other than Sir George Tryon. Whether he replied or not is unknown, as there are no known records.
It could be possible that this story about a figure of Sir George briefly showing up in his London home about the moment of his death, is just a part of a 20th-century paranormal lore. The story cannot be traced back to any contemporary source. There have been theories that the figure was a Doppelgänger*. Considering that the admiral disappeared, never to be seen again, this is a mystery that remains unsolved.
*A Doppelgänger (german) is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a paranormal occurence, and is usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck. Other traditions recognize one’s ‘double-goer’ as an evil twin. In a more general sense, the word refers to any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person.