A BOAT tour operator has been left “devastated” after it was revealed the masts of a sunken Second World War cargo ship that carries deadly explosives will be removed next year.

Angus Browne, 35, owner of the Brownes Thames Estuary Boat Trips has admitted that trip to the SS Richard Montgomery are “the most popular” tour that his business offers.

Last week, it was revealed the masts would be removed as soon as possible due to “severe degradation” and fears they could fall onto deadly explosives.

The SS Richard Montgomery, a Second World War shipwreck five miles off the Southend, sank in 1944 with 1,400 tonnes of explosives aboard.

Mr Browne has welcomed a spike in interest in his tours since the announcement, but is unsure what the future holds once they are removed.

He said: “Hearing the masts will be removed is a massive blow and has left me devastated because it is the most popular tour I offer.

“People love the five-mile trip north of the Isle of Sheppey to see the historic wreck and enjoy taking pictures of the masts.

“It is very sad that they will not be there anymore.

“As soon as it was announced, quite a few people sent me emails saying how much they want to see them before they go, and if they can quickly go on a trip.

“When the masts do go, it will be very strange to not see them poking above the Thames Estuary anymore.

“However, we will still know where the wreck is as the exclusion zone marked out by buoys will still be present.”

Previous talks to remove the masts began last year but have become more urgent after an inspection in November found the masts to be “severely degrading”.

As they have become an attraction and key feature for tourists, Angus wants to see them be “placed in a museum so many more people can see the historic and famous part of the SS Richard Montgomery ship”.

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

For more information on trips offered by Brownes Thames Estuary Boat and Fishing Trips visit bit.ly/41oFmxS.