MASTS on a sunken ship full of 1,400 tonnes of deadly explosives will be removed next month in a bid to make the wreck safer.

The masts are the only visible sign of the SS Montgomery, which sits at the bottom of the Thames Estuary around five miles off the Southend coast.

The Department for Transport wants to remove the masts amid fears they could fall on to the boat below and detonate the explosives.

Experts say this would cause a tidal wave which could cause devastation along the Essex and Kent coastlines.

The masts are due to be removed next month and Southend Council’s environment boss, Carole Mulroney, is calling for safety signs to be installed to remind people of the dangers of the shipwreck once the masts are removed.

The Lib Dem councillor for Leigh said: “I have heard the masts are due to go in June and I think the whole wreck is under the Ministry of Defence.

“I know it’s been the topic on conversation for a long, long time and it’s been there for about 70 years or so.

“There is an exclusion zone and I think there should be some sign or something to show the exclusion zone after the masts have been removed.

“We must trust the judgements of the experts on this.”

The ship sunk off the coast of Southend in 1944 after it became beached.

Southend historian Marion Pearce admits she is against removing the masts but insisted it they are removed they should be preserved and put in a museum, along with any other artefacts that can be recovered.

She made the call after labelling the masts a “huge part” of Southend’s history.

She said: “I am quite shocked by this as it’s a historic monument.

“They should be taken and put into a museum rather than being destroyed.

“I quite understand there’s a hazard but it’s still historical and it marks an important time for the town.

“I do not think it’s right at all.

“I can’t see why they can’t be put on display for people to see and learn about.”