This is coolbert:
Thanks to McTodd we have this comment to the blog:
The loss of HMS Vanguard due to spontaneously combusting ammunition or propellant was not only not unique but also not as rare an event as you would think during that period. Modern so-called smokeless propellants were still relatively new, and totally safe manufacturing and storage techniques had yet to be finalised. Several British (Bulwark, Natal, Vanguard), French (Iena, Liberte) and Japanese (Mikasa, Mutsu) warships suffered catastrophic ammunition explosions (it is also arguable that the USS Maine was lost for such reasons in 1898). Oddly enough, no German warships were lost in this way, some writers suggesting that different manufacturing techniques accounted for this."
Spontaneous explosions of this sort were NOT rare! Far from it! More common than we like to think, as McTodd has commented. Even a constant and understood and troublesome worry for which precautions were taken, albeit not even as effective as desired.
Spontaneous combustion of stored coal leading to spontaneous explosion of ammunition stores perhaps even leading to a WAR! The Spanish-American War, The War of 1898 in large measure due to the destruction of the USS Maine, speculation even at the time that the sinking of the Maine was due to a spontaneous eruption of the ammunition magazine being the cause, but mentioned only in closed circles and then in whispered and hushed tones.
Here with some extracts from the most recent PDF document entitled: "Destruction of the Maine (1898)"
"Many ships, including the Maine, had coal bunkers located next to magazines that stored ammunition, gun shells, and gunpowder. Only a bulkhead separated the bunkers from the magazines. If the coal, by spontaneous combustion, overheated, the magazines were at risk of exploding."
"Fires from coal bunkers were frequent occurrences. From 1894 to 1908, more than 20 coal bunker fires were reported on U.S. naval ships."
"from 1895 to 1898, 13 other American ships had fires associated with spontaneous combustion in coal bunkers."
"within four hours a fire in the Maine’s coal bunker 'could have raised the temperature of the nearest canister of gunpowder (a mere four inches away on the other side of a quarter-inch-thick steel plate) to more than 645˚ — hot enough to ignite the powder, triggering a chain reaction in the adjacent magazines.'”
Spontaneous combustion in a coal bunker caused an unrecognized fire, that bulkhead separating the coal bunker from the ADJACENT ammunition magazine becoming overheated to a dangerous degree, the "big bang" totally without warning and catastrophic!!
The conclusion both in 1898 and in 1911 that the Maine was sunk by EXTERNAL explosion too are not without foundation. Many possible culprits lurk! Cuban freedom fighters, American interventionists, Spanish dissident officers included.
As for the German warships NOT suffering from such catastrophic explosions - - the German just compartmented their warships better and in a manner peculiar and particular to their entire methodology of naval warfare and ship design?
The truth is out there, it is just hard to find with absolute 100 % certainty!