Welcome to a site dedicated to the Veterans & present serving members of RAF Bomb Disposal who kept our Airfields operational during World War II and later helped make Europe safe by disposing of tons of bombs and ammunition left behind by the German and Allied Forces. The currently serving personnel are at this time dealing with unexploded ammunition and explosives in Afghanistan, the Gulf and the former Yugoslavia
Very little has been written about these men so have a look around the site and learn a bit about the type of person who would quite happily sit on top of 1000lb of high explosives as part of his day’s work. This site contains a lot of graphics so nearly all the pictures are thumbnailed to facilitate faster download speeds but if the page is slow please be patient. All the thumbnails are outlined so if you wish to see a larger image just click on the picture.
The men whose story is told here do not wish to be called heroes although many are. Their memory should not be forgotten. The men of the Bomb Disposal Units hold a reunion each year. If you require more information,
In the beginning…..
The history of RAF Bomb disposal began 61 years ago in 1939 when the threat of having unexploded enemy bombs on British soil was realised. In the past, prior to 1939, the RAF was well aware that not all the bombs dropped from the air would in fact explode.
Consequently, the responsibility for the disposal of these unexploded bombs (UXB’s) was laid upon the shoulders of the Senior Non Commissioned Armourers. It was therefore assumed that when war broke out in 1939 the disposal of enemy UXB’s would also be the responsibility of the same men.
On November 6th 1939, a bomb was dropped on RAF Sullom Voe in the Shetlands. The fuze was recovered and was probably the only type that any of the existing service Demolition Sections or in the case of the Army, Demolition Team’s had ever encountered.
In May 1940, the first German bomb to be dropped on Mainland Britain fell near to the city of Canterbury in Kent. It was then that the British War Office accepted responsibility for the disposal of UXB’s. On August 27th, a meeting took place at which the Inter Service responsibilities were thrashed out and have generally remained the same to the present day. The various responsibilities were defined as:
|Royal Air Force. Responsible for all unexploded ordnance including Allied ordnance, and all ordnance of whatever nationality found on or near to crashed aircraft.|
|The Royal Navy. All unexploded ordnance on it’s property and all underwater weapons.|
|The British Army. All unexploded ordnance on Army property or not on RAF or Navy property or crashed aircraft.|
In 1940, 80 RAF “Demolition Sections” existed to carry out duties at the more important airfields in the UK which were called “X” (for explosive) Stations. The equipment available was primitive to say the least and there was minimal training in addition to the norm for the Armament Tradesman.
In September of the same year, the RAF Armament School had begun 5-day bomb disposal courses to teach what was then known about enemy bombs and bomb fuzes. The 80 Demolition Sections had by then, been supplemented by mobile squads. The enemy had also come further along its path of destruction and chaos.
The Luftwaffe were dropping bombs containing anti withdrawal fuzes, long delay mechanisms and many other ideas to try and outsmart the men who were tasked with what was one of the most unpleasant and risky job of the last war. The Demolition Sections had now become Bomb Disposal or BD Sections. They were also awarded a Trade Badge.
Between 1940 and 1943 the Air ministry was the main controlling body for the BD Squads. In April 1943, a proper organisation was formed with a Wing HQ, 6 Bomb Disposal Squadrons and 29 Flights. The officers in charge of the squads went out with the Airmen and did the experimentation on unknown fuzes and new bombs to enable new equipment to be designed for dealing with them.
In the first 2 years of the war, RAFBD had dealings with 1512 enemy bombs and the specialist officers had to handle a further 114. All the bombs were actually dropped from aircraft. No bombs were from crashed enemy or allied aircraft.
It may be a little known fact, but during the war, the largest number of UXB’s made safe by the RAF BD organisation were of British or American origin. The fuzes in these bombs were just as dangerous as those in the enemy bombs and sometimes even more so. This aspect of responsibility placed a very heavy load on the teams at the time. When the war ended in Europe, about 84000 bombs had been dealt with in the UK and some 92000 in mainland Europe. Of these, the majority were British and Allied weapons jettisoned in an emergency or recovered from crash sites.
After May 1945, a disarmament programme began, involving the physical disarming of the Luftwaffe. It involved more RAF BD personnel than during the actual war. Some 8000 airmen were employed of which about 800 were actual BD personnel. This hazardous job claimed the lives of 10 BD personnel. Between May 1945 and June 1947, the RAF BD units disposed of:
|16300 Tons of HE Bombs.|
|13500 Tons of Pyrotechnics|
|1955000000 Rounds of Ammunition|
By 1965, the RAF BD organisation had been reduced to 2 Flights renamed No’s 1 & 2 EOD units. In 1967, they were absorbed into the Maintenance Units based at 60 MU RAF Leconfield near Hull, and 71 MU RAF Bicester near Oxford. Therefore, the last of the original BD Flights from 1943 was no more. Later in 1976, two units had become established at RAF Wittering near Stamford in Lincolnshire.
Eight years later in 1984, No 2 EOD Unit re-roled to become EOD Training Flight whilst No 1 became Operations Flight with responsibility for all the operational roles of the two former units. Training Flight had responsibility for training flying station’s armament personnel in airfield clearance. The responsibility for local EOD activities had again returned to local squadron armament personnel. History has a habit of repeating itself!
Ammunition Bulletin No 1:
Here is an extract from an Army document “Ammunition Bulletin Number 1” which was published in May of 1939 just before the war. The references to German bombs is particularly interesting for it seems the War Office didn’t seem to think the threat of unexploded bombs (UXB’s) was Quote, “any real problem” Unquote.
Some information published in this bulletin has been proved inaccurate as to the number of fuzes fitted to individual bombs. For instance, only one fuze was fitted to the 1000kg “Herman” but two were fitted to the 250 & 500kg bombs. The bulletin here is reproduced as it was published in 1939 with the available information at the time. The first paragraph verifies this as “not entirely comlete”.
After reading the extract, it is interesting to note that most German equipment and bomb fuzes were patented in the UK “To protect the manufacturing rights.” However, no-one thought of checking the patents office records at the time!
This extract starts at section 44
44. German Aircraft Bombs
The following data on German Aircraft Bombs is circulated; it is not entirely complete but will be helpful to those called to deal with unexploded bombs.
High Explosive Anti Personnel.
These are not likely to be used over towns as they are intended to burst on impact. There are two types – the SC.10 and the SC.10t; the former has vanes the latter has not.
The SC.10t is intended for low level attacks on personnel and has an “allways” fuze with a short delay action, on impact, for the protection of the aircraft. The SC.10 has a direct action fuze
The low flying bomber must use the SC.10t bomb with a two-second-delay fuze, and troops are given some little opportunity to take cover by reason of the delay action.
45. H.E. General Bombardment Bombs.
These are most likely to be used in the attack on towns and factories, etc. They are fitted with the Rhinemetall electric fuze. This fuze may be set:-
|For direct action|
|Short or long delay ranging from 10 seconds to 168 hours or longer, or|
|It may comprise of a booby trap, designed not the burst the bomb on impact, but only when an attempt is made to move it.|
So far as is known, the external appearance of the fuze is the same for all three settings. The fuze or fuzes are placed in the side of the bomb, one fuze for 50kg bombs and two for the heavier bombs.
As the fuze or fuzes are placed in the side of the bomb, there is no need for direct impact to cause them to function. The disposal of such bombs if unexploded is clearly attended with grave risks on account of the likely existence of delay and booby trap devices.
Bombers of the Hienkel III type can carry up to 8 canisters each containing 15 incendiary bombs of the GC 50 type, i.e. up to 120 such bombs per aircraft. A larger quantity of the smaller incendiary bomb can be carried only the exact number is not known.
The incendiary bomb also contains a quantity of explosive for discouraging the attention of A.R.P. personnel.
47. Gas Bombs
The only bomb known of this type is the GC.10, which is similar in shape, and form to the SC.10 Anti Personnel Bomb previously described. The H.E. charge is omitted and a gas container inserted, the same type of fuze being used. There are numerous reports concerning other gas bombs and gas spray but no precise information.
Unexploded bombs of the Anti Personnel, Incendiary or Gas types present no serous problem regarding disposal, and any experienced I.O.O. (Inspecting Ordnance Officer) can deal with them on the general lines laid down in any R.A.O.S. Part II. Incendiary bombs should be gathered together and disposed of by burning in some isolated spot. Care should be taken not to start grass or forest fires and not too many bombs should be burned at the same time. The burning ground should be surfaced or cleared of grass for a radius of 50 yards at least and should not be used for the disposal of H.E. or Gas Bombs. Gas Bombs should be dealt with by trained Anti Gas personnel fully equipped with the necessary protective clothing, etc.
Unexploded Bombs of the H.E. Type present a very definite problem owing to the probability of delay fuzes or booby traps being used. If the bomb lies in open ground, it should be disposed of where it lies. In view of the delay action, it would be preferable in such cases to mark the position and place a sentry near the spot, i.e. in a dug out at a safe distance, and leave the bomb for there for 10 days. Don’t move it then in view of possible booby traps but carefully carry out the arrangements laid down in Regulations and blow it up in situ. Sandbags should be placed round the bomb and care taken to ensure complete destruction at the first attempt. If the destruction of the bomb in the open is likely to affect important drainage, water gas, electricity or other supplies, it may be found preferable to defer its destruction, the spot being patrolled or otherwise protected.
The reason for suggesting this course is the difficulty of ascertaining whether a delay of booby trap is fitted. If the former, the bomb could be removed after 10 days, but risk of the latter precludes this action. If the bomb is not in the open, the above considerations are aggravated and the best procedure to adopt must be deduced from careful consideration of all the relevant circumstances. A number of experiments are in hand with the object of finding a solution to this problem.
The vital necessity for the efficient functioning of the services connected with the destruction of unexploded bombs is information. All that is available to date is contained in the preceding notes. If the complete demobilization of Key industries due to the risk of a large unexploded H.E. bomb being a booby trap is to be avoided, we must avail ourselves of every possible bit of information likely to throw light on the type of fuze actually fitted. If it can be established that an unexploded bomb in a large machine shop, departmental store etc is actually a non-delay, non booby trap type, its removal for disposal elsewhere becomes a reasonable proposition.
Again, if it can be established that a delay fuze is fitted, it may be possible to leave it for 10 days having cleared the area and arrange for the removal at some risk of valuable articles. A greater risk may be faced in very special and exceptional cases by the immediate removal of the bomb, but this course of action should not be attempted without higher authority.
To help in the solution of these difficulties all details of enemy bombs obtained by military personnel should be sent immediately to CIA who will collate and circulate them through the medium of these Bulletins for the information of I.O.Os and Ordnance Officers generally. Early information of this kind may be the means of saving life, as the handling of unexploded H.E. Bombs is a risky business.
The Trade Badge
The Bomb Disposal Badge was an early wartime design introduced by Air Ministry Order 69, published on 23 January 1941. The embroidered badge consisted of a bomb in the descent, flanked by the letters “BD” encircled by a laurel wreath.
The badge was worn only by Airmen on the right sleeve of the service dress above chevrons. This badge was abolished by Air Ministry Order 368, published on 1 June 1948. In modern times, it has re-appeared and is currently worn on the lower right sleeve of the service jumper by armament tradesmen employed on explosive ordnance disposal tasks within the RAF.
This is the blazer badge of the Ex RAF Bomb Disposal Club/ RAF Bomb Disposal Association
An Odd Ode!!
This is the tale of Sergeant Toms
Who used to play about with bombs.
He was not in the least afraid
To vivisect a hand grenade.
Bombs he habitually unloaded,
To see why they had not exploded.
He’d come into the Mess at night
With little sticks of Gelignite,
And hand around the wet canteen
Samples of Nitro Glycerine.
When people saw him, off they ran!
He was a very lonely man!
And when he went on leave, his wife
Went to an Aunt who lived in Fife;
And took the children, too, a rather
Unkind reflection on their Father.
Toms, though deserted in this fashion,
Could not forget his ruling passion,
And took his youngest cousin, Tom,
To see a lovely new time bomb,
And then sat down to pull and jerk it,
Believing he knew how to work it.
No matter what the Sergeant thought
These cousins are a small Tom short
And bits of Sergeant Toms were seen
Falling like rain on Waltham Green.
I cannot tell you more of Toms,
BUT PRAY DON’T PLAY ABOUT WITH BOMBS!
Just ring your nearest BD Squads,
They have the GEN on all the Mods,
The latest news is sent post haste
To them to stop this woeful waste
Of harps and things an Airman uses,
IF HE PERSISTS ON DRAWING FUZES!
A look at the Wartime BD Organisation in more detail.
September 1939. First Steps and Setting of Priorities.
In the beginning there were many conferences and meetings between The Home Office (HO) and The War Office (WO) (now MOD) as to who would be responsible for the disposal of unexploded bombs and missiles.
It was agreed that rather than the Civil Defence (CD) and Local Authorities (LA), the Armed Services should be responsible for all unexploded ordnance (UXO). The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force would be responsible for UXO on their property and installations whilst the Army would be responsible for UXO on their property and installations plus all civilian areas.
Arrangements were made to strengthen the BD Organisation and make clear the question of priority when dealing with UXO. The different priorities are listed below:
|Priority 1. To deal with all UXO concerning Railways. Important Telecommunication networks. Ordnance Factories and Oil Storage Depots.|
|Priority 2. To deal with important roads. Essential Public Services. Electricity, Gas and Water Supplies. Storage Depots other than Oil.|
|Priority 3. Health, i.e. Hospitals & Sewerage.|
|Priority 4. Any other property not related to the War Effort.|
In the early days of Bomb Disposal, the responsibility of UXO of RAF property rested with the Armament personnel on nominated “X” Stations. Some primitive equipment and instruction was available for the purpose of these “X” Stations. The nominated personnel were known as “X” Station Demolition Squads and consisted of three Armament personnel of Senior Non Commissioned or Junior Non Commissioned Rank. The List of “X” Station Demolition Squads at that time was as follows.
|BIGGIN HILL||HARPUR HILL||PADGATE|
|BIRCHAM NEWTON||HARWELL||PEMBROKE DOCK|
|CARLISLE||HIGH WYCOMBE||ST ATHAN|
|DISHFORTH||LINTON ON OUSE||WATTISHAM|
At the time the “X” Squads were operating, there was little information available on German bombs and bomb components or even other types of enemy ammunition.
The procedure followed by the “X” squads was to uncover or recover German bombs, unscrew the locking ring holding the electrical fuze and remove the fuze. The bomb was then demolished in situ or transported to a safe site for disposal later.
The one on the right is a No 15 Fuze, The one on the left is a No 17 with an anti withdrawal device called a ZUS 40.
The fuze however was sent post haste to BD Headquarters for examination and dismantling to find a method of immunisation. Once a method for a particular fuze was determined and the necessary equipment manufactured it was sent to all squads with instructions and correct procedures for its use in dealing with that particular type of fuze.
Accidents were commonplace when withdrawing bomb fuzes and were unavoidable in the early days but the “X” Squads who carried out this dangerous operation gained a vast amount of knowledge about the enemy weapons they were dealing with.
Summer 1940. Overstretch, a modern phenomenon in a bygone age.
By the summer of 1940 the Air Ministry realised that the squads were over tasked and stretched too far and a decision was made to disband the “X” Station Squads in favour of official RAF Bomb Disposal Flights comprising of:
|1 Officer of Flying Officer Rank|
|1 Flight Sergeant Armourer|
|2 Sergeant Armourers|
|12 Corporal Armourers|
|12 Ordinary Airmen (General Duties) for digging parties|
|2 or 3 Drivers (MT)|
Motor vehicles and the most up to date equipment for dealing with UXO was also provided. Each Flight was given a number and a name. Each Flight had a designated area of responsibility and operated within it’s own area. The Flight numbers and the area HQ were as follows:
1. MOUNBATTEN 11. FELTWELL 21. EVANTON
2. MIDDLE WALLOP 12. SEALAND 22. SKEABRAE
3. REDHILL 13. HUCKNALL 23. SULLOM VOE
4. DETLING 14. DIGBY 24. KENLEY
5. STORMY DOWN 15. CHURCH FENTON 25. HORNCHURCH
6. COLERNE 16. THORNABY 26. WATTON
7. HALTON 17. JURBY 27. LINDHOLME
8. NORTH WEALD 18. KIRKBRIDE 28. WICK
9. COSFORD 19. BELFAST 29. STORNAWAY
10. BRAMCOTE 20. GRANGEMOUTH
These Flights became fully operational in October 1940.
The newly operational Flights were very efficient in dealing with UXO and their equipment enabled them to undertake excavations to almost any depth. A lot of their tools were non magnetic for an added degree of safety when working on and around an unexploded bomb or missile. The Flights had the most up to date equipment for dealing with German and also Allied bomb fuzes of all known types at the time.
RAF Bomb Disposal qualifying courses were started in March 1940 at the School of Technical Training at Melksham in Wiltshire where selected personnel from the flights with the rank of Leading Aircraftsman were sent to undergo training in the art of Bomb Disposal. They were taught procedures and methods enabling them to deal with all types of munitions. The course lasted 6 weeks. If the trainee passed his course with a mark of 65% or more, he was promoted to Corporal in the trade of Armourer/Bomb Disposal. He also received a rise in his pay from Group 5 to Group 2.
April 1943. Re-organisation
On April 21 1943, the RAF Bomb Disposal Organisation was re-structured into Squadrons and Flights. The personnel compliment of the flights was not changed from the previous organisation. On this occasion, the Unit Commanding Officers and locations changed. The Squadrons were given a 4 figure number beginning with a 5 (i.e. 5xxx Sqn RAF BD) and the Flights within the Squadrons were given 4 figure numbers beginning with a 6 (i.e. 6xxx Flt RAF BD). The Squadrons were located as follows:
5130 Sqn RAF BD. Sqn Ldr E Bentley Commanding
6201 Flt Macmerry Scotland
6202 Macmerry Scotland
6203 Hollywood Belfast
6204 Dalcross Inverness
5131 Sqn RAF BD. Sqn Ldr HH Apted Commanding
6205 Flt Snaith Yorkshire
6206 Snaith Yorkshire
6208 Sealand Chester
6209 Thornaby Yorkshire
5132 Sqn RAF BD. Sqn Ldr HT Kennar Commanding
6210 Flt Bramcote
The two thumbnailed photo’s here are Left: 6210 Flt, Right: 6214 Flt. Click for a bigger picture.
5133 Sqn RAF BD. Sqn Ldr AE Haarer Commanding
6216 Flt Waterbeach
6220 North Weald
5134 Sqn RAF BD. Sqn Ldr A Dykes Commanding
6222 Flt West Malling
6223 West Malling
5135 Sqn RAF BD. Sqn Ldr IH De Wynter Commanding
6226 Flt Harwell
6227 Middle Wallop
Except for changes in Commanding Officers and the transfer of Flights between Squadrons this system continued throughout the war.
D Day and beyond
The ability to support the Allied Forces on “D” Day was improved by the formation of 3 new BD Squadrons made up of Flights from the existing organisation. These were formed as follows.
5137 Sqn RAF BD Sqn Ldr D Strachan Commanding
6220 Flt (from 5133)
6225 (from 5134)
5138 Sqn RAF BD Sqn Ldr A Dykes Commanding (ex 5134)
6214 Flt (from 5132)
6228 (from 5135)
6237 (origin unknown, maybe a specially formed Flight)
5139 Sqn RAF BD Sqn Ldr K Scammel Commanding
6205 Flt (from 5131)
6206 (from 5131)
6210 (from 5132)
The first BD Flight to embark for the beaches of Normandy was 6225 Flt, which was commanded by Flight Lieutenant Cartwright. On “D” Day + 1, at 0400 hrs 6225 Flt encountered enemy action when the Landing Craft they were in, No 390, was shelled by the German Shore Batteries and an “E” Boat at the port of Le Havre. The Landing Craft sank within 2 minutes. Seven men were killed, six hospitalised and one taken prisoner. In this incident, 90% of the equipment belonging the 6225 Flt was lost. The survivors were picked up by another Landing Craft and set ashore at MIKE/NAN Beaches on June 8.
6225 Flight was non operational, but by July 4 1944, having had personnel replaced and new equipment issued, the Flight was able to make a successful landing on the Normandy Beaches under their previous CO. On “D” Day + 2, 6220 Flt embarked for Gray-Sur-Mer where they temporarily merged with the survivors of 6225 Flt.
As the Allied Bridgehead strengthened and the Allied advances were being pushed home, more of the RAF BD Flights landed in Normandy with a formidable task ahead of them. The Flights who went to Normandy after the “D Day invasion cleared mine fields and German Bomb Dumps (some of which were booby trapped) that were left behind by the retreating German Forces.
At the end of the hostilities in Europe on May 8 1945, 90% of RAF BD Squadrons and Flights were employed in clearing and dismantling German Air Force (GAF) weapons in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Norway, and by 1948, the Allied Air Forces own BD Personnel who trained at the Bomb Disposal School in South Yorkshire were able to deal with their own GAF weaponry which resulted in disbanding, one by one, the original RAF BD Squadrons and Flights. The last BD Squadron to disband was 5131 Sqn at Snaith in 1948
5131 squadron was later revived and reorganised into No’s 1 and 2 Units of the RAF EOD based at Leconfield and Bicester, later to move to RAF Wittering as the primary RAF BD School and operating unit. They are equipped with highly sophisticated equipment borne out of necessity in the hostile environments of places like Northern Ireland and the Former Yugoslavia where the ever inventive terrorist plays a dangerous chess game with the lives of the EOD Operators.
The photo’s show a modern technique of cutting a bomb casing with high pressure water and abrasive grit called ACE (Abrasive Cutting Equipment). It avoids shock which could cause the bomb to explode. The other photo is of a German Fuze removed from a bomb. The thumbnail is part of 5131 BD Sqn RAF Wittering
Awards and Medals
The exploits of the RAF BD organisation are remembered in the number of awards for War Operations, some of which are listed here.
George Crosses Wing Commander LH Harrison
Wing Commander JS Rowlands
Squadron Leader H Dinwoody
Squadron Leader EL Moxey (Posthumous)
Flight Lieutenant WH Charlton
Flight Lieutenant JN Dowland
George Medals Flight Lieutenant HBH Dickinson
Warrant Officer EG Alford
Warrant Officer D Bishop
Warrant Officer EG Hunt
Warrant Officer JV Saunders
Warrant Officer JTS Stevens (Son of Wg Cdr JC Stevens)
Sergeant K Lythgoe
Aircraftsman R Nicholson
Sergeant D Rogers
Aircraftsman A Simpson
Order of the British Empire Wing Commander JC Stevens
The Awards shown here are:- L to R. The George Cross, The George Medal, The Order of The British Empire & The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
Other orders and awards were made to personnel of RAF Bomb Disposal; the above are just a few.
WG CDR Leonard Harrison GC
A Short Biography
Leonard Henry Harrison was born at Devonport on 6th June 1906 and educated at Devonport Secondary School. He enlisted into the RAF as a Boy Entrant Aircraft Apprentice in the 1st Entry to No 1 School of Technical Training RAF Halton in January 1922. He graduated as a Fitter Armourer A.C.1 in December 1924 and in 1934 joined the Reserve as a Sergeant.
On 11th February 1940 as a civilian instructor at RAF Manby he was called to use his knowledge and skill when a grain carrier limped into Immimgham Dock having been bombed in the North Sea. An unexploded bomb was wedged in the main deck. The bomb had a fuze of a type unknown at that time. With help from a colleague, Flt Lt John Dowland and fellow instructor, Harrison managed to defuse the bomb. A month later, he was called to defuse another bomb, this time onboard a fishing vessel in the Humber.
In 1943 he was party to a plot. The idea was to re-assemble the fuzes of unexploded German bombs, short circuit them, and have them smuggled into enemy ammunition stores by the French Resistance. The German bombers carrying the bombs with the tampered fuzes would be blown up by their own bombs as they were released from the aircraft. The Germans found out about this and consequently thousands of suspicious fuzes were destroyed as a precaution.
He retired in the rank of Wing Commander in 1949 but remained in civilian appointments with the Air Ministry until 1970.
His skill and handling of unexploded bombs resulted in him being awarded one of the earliest George Crosses on the Second World War and he was the honorary treasurer of the Victoria and George Cross Association. Len Harrison died on the 15th July 1989. at the age of 83.
The History of the George Cross
In the early days of the war, King George the Sixth was impressed by some very heroic deeds in mine and bomb disposal; deeds performed far from any human enemy but requiring the peak of courage for a considerable time. The King felt that no existing award for gallantry reflected such an impersonal bravery so the George Cross was instigated. It is worn on the right of any other awards except the Victoria Cross.
The Sorpe Dam Tallboy
The largest bomb ever tackled by the RAF and probably the largest ever rendered safe by any BD Unit was one of their own. This 12000 pounder known as Tallboy was found in the silt and mud at the base of the Sorpe Dam in 1958 after the dam was partially drained.
The bomb was fitted with three No 47 Half-hour delay fuzes which work by an ampoule of acetone dissolving a celluloid disc retaining a striker. The thickness of the disc determines the delay time and the delay can be set for 72 hours in some cases. The operatives who rendered this bomb safe included a West German. The crew was Flt Lt JM Waters, Herr Walter Mitzk, Corporal Technician F Smith and Corporal Mowett.
Squadron Leader Eric Moxey GC
Flt Lt (later Sqn Ldr) Eric Moxey invented early versions of fuze dischargers and remote fuze extractors. This photograph shows a fuze being extracted from a German 250Kg bomb. On August 27th 1940, two UXBs were reported on the airfield at Biggin Hill. Moxey volunteered to tackle them and was well aware of the dangers, as he was a Technical Intelligence Officer at the Air Ministry.
Alas his luck was out on that day and one of the bombs exploded killing him outright. Sqn Ldr Moxey is buried in the Churchyard of St Peter & St Paul Cudham, Orpington Kent. His headstone shows the George Cross, which was awarded posthumously.
The Kim Clock Stopper
The first German clockwork long delay fuze (Type 17) was found and recovered a fortnight before the death of Sqn Ldr Moxey. One can only speculate that it was a Type 17, which was the cause of his death.
It was quickly established that the mechanism could be stopped by the application of strong magnetic field thus the first “Clock Stopper” was developed and introduced to deal with these hazardous fuzes. The first design was a cumbersome large coil powered by bulky accumulators which produced a powerful magnetic pulse strong enough to stop the mechanism but, it could re-start if disturbed so a Mk 2 version called “Kim” was designed using a pot magnet which was energised continuously. A larger image of the Kim Equipment can be seen by clicking this thumbnail.
Over 700 Kim devices were used and it was claimed that they never failed once. Before that, over 50% of accidents occurred with the Type 17 fuze. This photograph shows a Kim device being lowered into a shaft by men of No 25 BD Squad.
The Stevens Stopper
The BD Boss throughout the war was Wg Cdr J Stevens who is on the right in the picture below. He invented the “Stevens Stopper”, a device to introduce a fluid into a ticking Type 17, 17A or 17B bomb fuze to stop the mechanism and render it unable to re-start regardless of vibration or movement.
The method used was to first evacuate all the air from the fuze pocket and introduce a suitable liquid into the pocket under pressure to ensure penetration into the mechanism thus jamming the works. Later in the war, an epoxy resin was used but care was needed to clean the equipment before the resin set hard. Simple but effective. The device is shown here as a drawing and a photo and the other picture thumbnail is a schematic drawing and the instructions for use. When opened in the browser it will fill the screen and can be easily read.
In July 1941 a chain of incidents happened near Aldergrove in Northern Ireland which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of two BD Personnel when it was decided to re-open a shaft to establish whether some fragments were a German bomb or just a tail fin. On July 21 at about noon, Cpl. Burton was working in the shaft when the soil collapsed around him and he disappeared into the cavity created when a bomb explodes beneath the ground but doesn’t break the surface known as a camouflet.
Cpl. Burton tried to climb out but was overcome by the residual fumes and Carbon Monoxide from the explosion of the bomb and fell back into the cavity. Sgt. Boulden climbed down to attempt a rescue but he was overcome as well and could not be pulled out in time to save him. Following these deaths a modified parachute harness was developed to be worn by men in the shaft where a camouflet was suspected.
These photographs show the difficult task of extracting a man from a small hole and the harness in use with shearlegs and a pulley block.
This is a story related to me by Bernard Westbrook (See Photo) and will also be chronicled in his forthcoming book on the RAF Bomb Disposal Organisation. The images in this story were taken on the weekend of the 2001 BD Reunion 27th September.
On Wednesday the 29th. of April 1942, the telephone rang in the office of No.15 BDS H.Q. in Ulleskelf, a small village near RAF Church Fenton. An Incident Report and map reference gave two German UXB’s to be recovered Nr.Clifton Airfield York, between Skipton Road and Green Lane. Over fifty German aircraft had bombed The City of York that night, causing many casualties and extensive damage.
The duty airman filled-in the Bomb Disposal Report and hurried with the message, the hundred yards or so to Mrs. Archer’s house, where F/Sgt. Travis is staying, and reported the Incident to F/Sgt. Travis, SNCO of No.15 BDS. He is already dressed, so without delay, walks back with duty airman to BD H.Q. F/Sgt. Travis phoned F/O Ievers, (O.C. No.15 BDS), at the Officers Mess on the RAF Camp Church Fenton. By the time F/O Ievers arrived at BD. H.Q. it was almost 08:00hrs.
F/O Ievers decided that a reconnaissance should be carried-out, to determine the safety areas, and how many personnel would be needed. Also there would be the problem of messing facilities and sleeping accommodation for the recovery crew. The outcome was, that F/O Ievers, a sergeant and two corporals would carry-out the reconnaissance, and will inform F/Sgt. Travis by phone as to the number of personnel and equipment needed for the incident.
This was normal procedure, so the reconnaissance crew left in the staff car for Clifton Nr.York. The recovery crew found the two German 250kg UXB’s, and had just examined the size of the holes of entry, when both bombs exploded one after the other. A rescue party raced to the site where F/O Ievers lay with fatal injuries to both legs. F/O Ievers died on the way to hospital. They found Sgt. H. Phoenix, dazed, lying on the edge of the bomb crater. When he reached hospital, he was found not to have a bone broken or scratch on him.
Although very badly shaken, Sgt. Phoenix was kept in hospital under observation for several weeks. Corporals Bonner and Williams had both their legs broken, and were hospitalised for three months. All three returned to No.15 BDS at Ulleskelf when fit. It was a traumatic experience for the personnel of No.15 BDS, and it took quite sometime for them to come to terms with the situation.
Almost a week later, the Funeral Party for F/O Ievers assembles outside the Guardroom, just inside the gates of RAF Station Church Fenton. A low-load vehicle carries the flag draped coffin of F/O Ievers, his cap, gloves and rested sword lay on top of the coffin. The Officer i/c Funeral Party gives the order for the Funeral Party to slow march. As the cortege moves off, the Station Commander gives the cortege a smart salute.
With the personnel of No.15 BDS at the rear of the coffin, the cortege turns right out of the main gates of RAF Church Fenton, on its way to Kirby Wharfe Military Cemetery. The cortege of F/O Ievers reaches the village of Ulleskelf, where the villagers have waited patiently. The villagers stand in silence as the cortege climbs the slope past the “Ulleskelf Arms”, and crosses the railway bridge on its way to Kirby Wharfe Military Cemetery. The villagers have said “Goodbye” to their gallant officer.
At Kirby Wharfe Military Cemetery, the Station Padre gives a brief funeral service. A volley of three rifle shots are fired over the coffin, the crack of exploding blank cartridges fills the air. As F/O Ievers is laid to rest, an RAF bugler sounds the “Last Post”, the crisp clear notes echo around the still countryside. The Officer i/c Funeral Party gives the order for the Funeral Party to “Dismiss”. In single file they slowly file out of the cemetery, and board awaiting transport, to be taken back to RAF Church Fenton.
The personnel of No.15 BDS pays its last respects to their brave officer, and assemble on the road outside the cemetery for the short march back to the village of Ulleskelf. On arrival at Ulleskelf, No.15 BDS are ushered into the village school-room, where a salad lunch and sweet have been prepared by the villagers of Ulleskelf. No.15 BDS stand while F/Sgt. Travis says Grace. No.15 BDS now sit in silence, while the ladies of the village serve them with hot sweet tea.
Once the meal is over, F/Sgt. Travis pays tribute to a gallant officer and gentleman. He also asks the squad to remember those airmen still in hospital. Two airmen are given orders to collect the crockery and cutlery, and place them at the end of the table. F/Sgt. Travis orders No.15 BDS to return to their billets to change into their working uniforms, and report back to BDS H.Q. for duty.
F/Sgt. Travis thanks the villagers for their kind, generous and sympathetic attitude at such a time of grief. The excellent meal must have come from the ration books of the village community. This was the kind and generous attitude the village community always gave No.15 BDS.
One week later a new Bomb Disposal Officer arrived to take the place of F/O. Ievers, and F/Sgt. Travis introduced him to the personnel of No.15 BDS. Two new corporals arrived to take the place of those badly injured in hospital. No.15 BDS is now back to full strength.
On April the 29th. 1992, Mrs. Gladys Jewitt, Mrs. Pauline Woods, (Mrs Gladys Jewitts Daughter), and Mr. Geoffrey Jewitt, placed a wreath of flowers on the grave of F/O. Ievers on behalf of the villagers of Ulleskelf and the Lads of No.15 BDS. Fifty years after the incident, they still remember their gallant officer. The flowers here were placed by the webmaster and his wife on the reunion weekend 2001.
The Disaster At Snaith
Shortly after the reorganisation of the RAF BD Squads into Squadrons & Flights in April 1943 came one of the worst bomb disasters in Britain. The date was Saturday June 19th; the place was Snaith in Yorkshire. The duty Officer at Air Ministry O.10 (BD) (the re-named T. Arm. 4 as of July 1942) was phoned by Sqn Ldr HH Apted the OC of the newly formed 5131 BD Squadron at Snaith to report a serious explosion had occurred in the Station Bomb Dump and 18 men were missing.
Wg Cdr John Rowlands was visiting RAF Sealand and rushed to the scene immediately. After a recce of the bomb dump it was seen that there were dead bodies scattered with the bombs which were fuzed ready for use with a mixture of No 37 Long Delay & No 845 Anti Movement Fuzes. (The No 845 fuze was such a dangerous fuze that only a SNCO of the Armament trade was authorised to fit it to a bomb in preparation for loading to an aircraft.)
A great deal of Incendiary had caught fire and the heat was intense. A decision was made to leave the area for some days to elapse giving a margin of safety before Wg Cdr Rowlands. Flt Lt Wilson and Sqn Ldr Apted began the task of clearing up the harrowing scene. By June 29th using a combination of remote control fuze removal and demolition of the damaged bombs the site was declared safe. For this operation and conspicuous courage in bomb disposal over two years, Wg Cdr Rowlands was awarded the George Cross
LAC Gordon Collier
His death was caused whilst handling a German 1kg Anti Personnel bomb. At the time of the accident and subsequent death of Gordon Collier, 6220 Flight were using a house in the suburbs of Eindhoven as their Headquarters. I wonder if anyone knows if it was the same house as was used by 6223 Flight later when they suffered 4 fatalities. That story is described on the next page but one. Here is a copy of the letter informing Gordon’s father that his son had been killed.
Doodle Bugs & Buzz Bombs
This V1 flying bomb crashed without exploding! But nearly wrecked a barracks full of polish airmen A UXB V1 was a very rare thing as the vast numbers which were sent over from the Continent usually did their job of terrorising the population of the home counties. The V1 worked by employing a ram jet engine into which was fed neat petrol (Gasoline). Once the engine was running, the bomb was launched from a ski slope towards London and the The weapon guidance was by a gyro and a pre determined amount of fuel, usually just enough to get to London where the fuel ran out causing the bomb to fall to its target. The V weapons were indiscriminate in the destruction of our cities and very few were ever found unexploded. I have put some V1 diagrams below. They can be made bigger by clicking the image.
On the 29th of August 1944, British troops in France, led by General Sir Bernard Montgomery, destroyed the V1 launching sites in the Pas de Calais. The first phase of the German V-weapon attack was over.
In total, 6,725 flying bombs had been seen over Britain, almost all of them over London, Kent and Surrey. Nearly 3,500 had been destroyed by fighter planes, A.A. guns or barrage balloons. 2,340 had hit London causing 5,475 deaths and injuring 16,000.
The Upminster Bomb Cemetery
Shown here is a map with the location of the bomb cemetery at Upminster. The location was the sandpits near Gerpins Farm in a remote area to the East of Hornchurch Airfield. Experimental and research work was done here in relative safety under the control of No 25 BD Squad.
An incident happened here, which cost the life of the C.O. The 2Kg “Butterfly” bomb or Splitterbombe SD2 had already killed a lot of BD personnel because it was impossible to move or disturb. Sometimes it got stuck in roofs and caught in trees and disturbing it to clear the area was usually fatal to the BD Operator. Usually they were dealt with by shooting or jerking with a long string. They were lethal up to 70 yards.
were available for instructional use until Sgt. Cann & 2nd Lt. Taylor of the Royal Engineers found some in Ipswich on October 28th 1940. Noticing that the arming rods had not fully withdrawn, they screwed them back into the fuzes enabling the scientists toNone dismantle them and use them for instructional purposes. Flt Lt Hanford was awarded the BEM for a similar feat at Harlaxton. There was and still is no method of rendering this nasty little bomb safe once it has armed. They still turn up in woods and lofts to this day.
The tragedy mentioned earlier happened when a butterfly bomb exploded at the Upminster site on November 27th 1956 injuring Flt Lt Herbert Denning who was examining it. He died of his injuries at Oldchurch Hospital on the same day. Hornchurch closed in 1962; the bomb cemetery was evacuated and filled in for a refuse dump as shown in the photograph next to the map.
The Butterfly Bomb
The “Butterfly Bomb” or SD2 was a small weapon of about 2Kg in weight which were packed in a container holding 23 in total which resembled a 50Kg bomb. When dropped, the container split open spilling its contents of butterfly bombs. The bombs, when packed had an outer thin metal cover the same shape as the bomb which hinged in two halves and opened after a short delay to reveal vanes which rotated as it descended to remove an arming spindle to arm the fuze.
The bomb could be fitted with a number of different fuzes, i.e. No 41, No 67, No 70B. The 41 fuze was designed to explode on impact. The 67 was a delayed action and very dangerous fuze as there was no way to tell if the bomb would explode immediately it was moved or whether it was ticking or not. the 70B was just as evil because it was designed to be a booby trap and explode immediately the bomb was moved.
The problems encountered when these bombs were dropped were compounded when they were found hanging in houses, in organ lofts, on fences, on telegraph wires, down sewers, in hangars containing aircraft in fact everywhere they were dropped became an area problem for the BD Crews. The SD2 was in effect an area denial weapon.
SD 2A and SD 2B “Butterfly” Technical Specifications
Over-All Length: 3.5 in.
Body Length: 3.1 in.
Body Diameter: 3.0 in.
Wall Thickness: 3/8 in.
Total Weight: 4.4 lbs.Filling: Cast TNT surrounded by a layer of bitumen composition.
Weight Of Filling: 7.5 oz.
Charge/Weight Ratio: 11.4%
Fuzing: SD 2A: (41) (Airburst or impact)
SD 2B: (41) A (Airburst Or Impact), (67) (Delay 5-30 min.), 70) B (Antidisturbance)
CONSTRUCTION: The body of the bomb is a cylindrical cast iron casing. A fuzing pocket is situated transversly in the side of the body. The SD 2A and SD 2 B differ only in the method in which the fuze is secured to the bomb. The fuze is threaded into the SD 2A while it is secured in the SD 2B by a bayonet joint and two U-shaped safety clips.
The bomb body is encased in thin sheet steel container made in four pieces–two end flaps and two pieces covering the sides of the bomb. These parts are hinged together, the hinges being mounted with torsion springs tending to force the parts of the wings away from the body, but are prevented from opening until a safety pin is pulled when container opens. After release, the wings because of the air drag, rise to the upper end of the 6-inch wire cable connected to the fuze. The rotation of the wings relative to the bomb body arms the fuze. When fuze (41) A is employed in the bomb, the wings consist of two triangular shaped flaps.
SUSPENSION: 23 bombs in the AB 23 SD 2 container; 108 bombs in the AB 250-3 container; 6 bombs in the Mark 500 Roden container; 24 bombs in the AB24t container.
COLOR AND MARKINGS: Body of bomb may be painted either black, lead-grey, red, yellow, or field grey. If the bomb is painted field grey it may have a 3/4-inch yellow band on the body, the wing assembly will be painted field be painted field grey with a yellow stripe on the inside and outside of the wings and may have a 3/4-inch red stripe at right angles to the to the yellow stripe on the wings. If the body is painted yellow, the wings will be painted yellow with a 3/4 inch strip of red on the wings. In addition to the specific color combination given, the wings may be field grey or unpainted.
Hitler’s Legacy These may still be found today. Should you find one of these evil little devices today PLEASE leave it alone, do not allow anyone near it and call the Police on 999 who will call the nearest Bomb Disposal Experts to deal with it
The latter stages of WW2 & Post Hostilities
Steenockerzeel & Immediate Post War
With the termination of hostilities, the largest job of all fell onto the shoulders of the RAF Bomb Disposal organisation, which became responsible for the clearance of huge stocks of German Air Force ordnance on the Continent. During the task, 161,088 tons of explosive ordnance, 28,088 tons of chemical weapons (Sea Dumped) and 4,370 tons of V weapons were disposed of. Most bombs were transported to suitable areas for wholesale demolition.
These pictures show Personnel of 6229 BD flight loading German Bombs and Incendiary containers in Steenockerzeel Bomb Dump prior to demolition and burning. The centre photo shows German incendiaries burning in a pit near the bomb dump in 1945
A situation at here at Steenockerzeel just outside Brussels called for exceptional skill when 700 tons of aircraft bombs were found to be booby trapped with 22 bombs armed with No 17 delay fuzes and Zus 40 anti withdrawal devices. Moving the bombs was considered too dangerous, as was the thought of defuzing them within the Bomb Dump. However, Wg Cdr Len Harrison (that man again!) assisted by Sqn Ldr T.M. Clark, came out from London and spent 3 weeks in February/March 1946 in winter weather conditions of snow & ice defuzing the 22 bombs where they lay.
Roll of Honour
Listed below are the names of personnel of RAF Bomb Disposal who were killed & wounded as a result of the disposal of German Munitions. We know this list is not fully complete and we are constantly looking to update the information. Please help complete this list if you know of anyone who should be here.
1408823 Sgt DH Comer 6223 BD Flt Killed 29/10/45 Eindhoven 1006380 Sgt K Dorsett 6228 BD Flt Killed 13/12/45 Aalhorn 929413 Cpl EG Evans 5139 BD Sqn Died of wounds 16/01/45 Knokke 914792 Cpl WW Fordham 6224 BD Flt Killed 23/06/45 Kaltenkirchen 972574 Cpl WA Franks 6223 BD Flt Wounded 29/10/45 Eindhoven 1307162 Sgt RH Giles 6223 BD Flt Killed 29/10/45 Eindhoven 1014419 LAC AT Glass 6218 BD Flt Wounded 17/08/45 Oslo 55198 F/Sgt JR Ings 6214 BD Flt Wounded 20/08/46 Lubeck 1187711 Cpl G Kenna 6223 BD Flt Wounded 29/10/45 Eindhoven 1808509 LAC HW Lomax 6228 BD Flt Wounded 13/12/45 Aalhorn 1691674 LAC W McCallum 6224 BD Flt Killed 23/06/45 Kaltenkirchen 971313 Cpl G McNiell 6223 BD Flt Wounded 29/10/45 Eindhoven 1272546 Cpl TR Powell 6201 BD Flt Killed 05/07/45 Eudenbach 952457 Cpl F Reid 6223 BD Flt Wounded 29/10/45 Eindhoven 922950 Cpl SB Rice 6201 BD Flt Killed 04/07/45 St Wendel 1702549 LAC EW Rowe 6228 BD Flt Killed 13/12/45 Aalhorn 1623486 Cpl F Taylor 6225 BD Flt Wounded 20/08/46 Lubeck 1509875 Cpl G Telford 5139 BD Sqn Died of Wounds 10/11/44 Knokke *639123 Cpl AE Whiting 6223 BD Flt Killed 29/10/45 Eindhoven* 1265175 LAC JA Winn 6218 BD Flt Wounded 17/08/45 Oslo 1170082 Sgt KT Wyllie 6223 BD Flt Killed 29/10/45 Eindhoven
You may notice an asterisk beside the name of Cpl AE Whiting. Since this list was compiled just after the war there was obviously some confusion about who exactly was involved in the Eindhoven accident in which 4 personnel were killed and 4 wounded. As time passed, it came to light that Cpl Whiting was not killed after all but wounded so the mystery still remains as to who exactly was buried in the grave marked as Cpl Whiting. No coffins were used in burying the dead from this incident just body bags and service issue blankets. An exhumation would probably reveal the identity of who is in the grave but do we really want to dig the poor guy up after nearly 55 years?
6223 Flight taken at Floralaau Eindhoven Holland before the accident which killed 4 & wounded 4. Personnel shown are named below:
Left to right.
Back Row: Cpl A Bland, LAC H Gibson, Cpl G McKenna, Cpl A Whiting, L Codgebrook
Middle Row: Cpl G Morrey, B Court, Cpl R Rand, T Vanns, LAC Franks
Front Row: Sgt Giles, Sgt Proffitt, F/Sgt Scott, Sgt K Wyllie, Sgt B King
Three of the personnel involved in the Eindhoven Accident are not on this picture I would assume they joined the Flight after this photo was taken.
This is a photo of the funeral of the 4 Airmen killed in the Eindhoven accident.
What really happened at Eindhoven? Find out here.
This is personal account of the incident at Eindhoven from Cpl Arthur Whiting who was thought to have been killed and buried in the grave at Tilburg Cemetery but turned up live and well later after a stay in hospital having shrapnel wounds treated.
The account starts:
“There were many smiling faces and outstretched hands when a visitor in the shape of Sgt Danny Comer arrived at the house in Floralaan, a very select street in Eindhoven. This was the HQ of 6223 Flight in which there were a number of Danny’s acquaintances. He decided to stay for a couple of days with his old friends before returning to the UK for another Bomb Disposal course.”
“The usual flow of conversation took place over a few beers in that part of the house turned over to a bar and stocked with Stella Artois from Louvaine. 6223 Flight was currently engaged in the final clearance of the old Luftwaffe Base at Welscap near to Eindhoven. All the large Bomb Dumps had been cleared and the remaining task was to clear the surrounding areas of scrubland before handing the area back to the Dutch Authorities who were eager to take the base for their reformed Air Force.”
“Some personnel from 6223 Flight were detailed to carry out the final clear up and Danny Comer went with them. Most of the day was spent searching through the long grass and thickets which resulted in a large number of assorted explosive ordnance including SD1’s Butterfly Bombs, Panzerfausts, Grenades, Ammunition and a number of 250 Kg HE bombs.”
“Two vehicles were employed, Sgt Wylie drove the one containing most of the ordnance whilst Sgt Giles followed at a safe distance in the other truck with the rest of the work party. On arrival at the demolition site the trucks were reversed up to a crater from a previous demolition that already had some HE bombs prepared for disposal. The personnel formed a chain and passed the items hand to hand down into the crater.”
“I was in the back of the truck passing the objects within reach of the first man in the chain, the exact positions cannot be remembered but it is sure that those nearest the bottom of the crater were Sgt’s Wylie & Comer with Sgt Giles at the crater’s rim. LAC Harry Gibson was behind a German Half-Track vehicle paying a call of nature and was spared injury when the explosion occurred. Harry helped the seriously wounded into the remaining undamaged vehicle and drove to the Dutch Army Unit based at the Main Camp. Sgt’s Wylie, Comer, Giles and I were left where we fell.”
Sgt Giles Lac Gibson Cpl Whiting
“After a period of time I was able to drag myself around the area finding the other three men. Sgt Wyllie was dead. Sgt Comer was barely alive and in a terrible condition and Sgt Giles had had all the flesh stripped from his face and his arms & legs were contorted. I managed to get Sgt Giles into a sitting position by propping him up back to back and in a hissing voice Giles asked “Gis a fag, Gis a fag”….he had no lips to hold one!”
“Help finally arrived and we were transported to the St Joseph Hospital in Eindhoven ant later taken to the Field Hospital at Tilburg where surgery was performed. Sgt’s Comer & Giles died in the Field Hospital and were buried at Tilburg. I had several pieces of shrapnel removed and was transferred to No 6 British Hospital at Antwerp where I spent a few weeks before returning to 6223 Flight at Eindhoven where I was promoted to Sgt and moved to Germany with the Unit.”
“The mystery of my reported demise and entry into the BD Role of Honour will remain such as will the mystery of the Fourth Grave. I hope this will give you some insight into the events of the 29th October 1945.”
Here’s to you and yours
These images are borrowed from The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website and show the Memorials to the 3 dead Airmen of 6223 BD Flight. The last photo shows the actual graves at Tilburg Cemetery where my wife & I placed some flowers last year in October when we paid a visit to the WW1 Battlefields around Ypres in Belgium
Post War To The Present Day 2
The Llanberis Project
The longest post war clearance operation and also the biggest took place in the disused slate quarries at RAF Llanberis in North Wales. Llanberis opened as a storage depot in 1941 under the control of No 31 Maintenance Unit and comprised of a 70-acre site of old quarries and interlinking tunnels. In 1942 a quarry collapsed and buried over 8,000 tons of bombs, not all of which could be removed.
In 1943, the RAF School of Explosives moved in and, as the school curriculum included the destruction of explosives, large quantities were sent to Llanberis for demolition or burning. Over 250,000 incendiary bombs alone arrived over the next 18 months. By the time of the final closure in 1956, every type of explosive had been sent to Llanberis but not all had been destroyed. A great deal of the dumping had been indiscriminate and a lot ended up on ledges and slate outcrops. A large quantity was also submerged in the lakes, which had formed in the quarries after the war.
By 1969 it was realised that the situation could no longer be ignored so a massive clean up operation was instigated by No 71 EOD Flight (Later to become No 2 EOD Unit). The task went on for six and a half years. Because of the inherent risk associated with such a task, a casualty plan had to be established between Llanberis and RAF Valley so that a helicopter could be used to evacuate any casualty to medical aid immediately it was requested. The RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team organised rock climbing training for the EOD operators and trained the EOD teams in rescue techniques so that the ledges could be cleared of explosives and the cliff sides inspected for signs of imminent rock falls.
One of the final tasks was to tackle pit 3C (see Photo) in which was found a 90 ft high pile of explosives and incendiary magnesium slag liberally interspersed with live detonators, fuzes and other unmentionables. The estimated weight of this pile was 3,000 tons. Awesome! Naval frogmen dived into the flooded pit 2C and found large quantities of derelict explosives and bombs. By April 1973 pit 2C was emptied of water and clearing the pit took a further 2 years.
Over the period of the project and using picks, shovels and muscle, dumper trucks and mechanical diggers, the teams had pumped out 20 million gallons of lake water, from pit 2C, shifted 85.000 tons of slate and debris, recovered and disposed of 352 tons, or 121,420 items of explosives together with 1,420 tons or 213,881 items of ordnance debris. The Llanberis project finally ended in October 1975.
The Second World War is not the only source of unexploded ordnance which has occupied the personnel of the RAF Bomb Disposal Units. This photo illustrates the unusual rather than the typical situation that an EOD operator may find himself in during his career. This particular bomb was one of many UXB’s left over from the Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus in July 1974. It was dropped by the Turkish Air Force and was found laid across two beds on the sixth floor of the Venus Beach Hotel in Famagusta.
It is an American 750lb bomb and the fuze was susceptible to jarring! It was successfully defuzed by Flt Lt Ted Costick and Fred Knox using the fuze Extractor Mk V, colloquially known as *IGOL. For his action in the rendering safe of this bomb, Costick received the Queen’s Gallantry medal in January 1975. *I Go On Living*
Falklands The Gulf & Afghanistan
The Falklands Bomb 2003
On Thursday 16th October 2003 at 1115am, EOD received a report of a suspicious metal object (possibly a bomb) situated 50m to the East of the FIGAS Workshop at Stanley Airport . The item had been uncovered during excavations close to the Stanley Airport complex by Mr Iain Berntsen working for Ian Stewart Construction. The suspicious object was reported to Spr ‘Andy’ Kirkcaldy in the JSEOD Operations Centre situated on Ross Rd , Stanley .
Photos (c) MOD
MAJOR INCIDENT 16th & 17th OCTOBER 2003 – 1000Ib BOMB AT STANLEY AIRPORT
The 1,000 Pound Bomb in Situ
On Thursday 16th October 2003 at 1115am, EOD received a report of a suspicious metal object (possibly a bomb) situated 50m to the East of the FIGAS Workshop at Stanley Airport . The item had been uncovered during excavations close to the Stanley Airport complex by Mr Iain Berntsen working for Ian Stewart Construction. The suspicious object was reported to Spr ‘Andy’ Kirkcaldy in the JSEOD Operations Centre situated on Ross Rd , Stanley .
QMSI Mines, WO2 ‘ Tay ’ Taylor RE with Spr ‘Jon’ Rouse based in Stanley , were deployed to carry out a reconnaissance of the item and immediately confirmed that a 1000Ib bomb had been uncovered. At 1132am the Royal Falkland Island Police were informed and an initial cordon provided by WPC Caroline Cotter. Soon after, a 1500m cordon was put in place under the direction of the RFIP Inspector ‘Len’ McGill, closing off the whole Peninsula from Boxer Bridge and the Totem pole outside Megabid. A complete evacuation of the area was undertaken and the cordon made secure by 1213pm. All emergency services were informed and placed on standby outside the cordon.
OC JSEOD Flt Lt ‘Nick’ Lynskey BEM RAF and QMSI Mines WO2 ‘Tay’ Taylor RE were conducting ‘casualty extraction from a minefield’ training on the morning of the incident along with Bomb Disposal Officers from the Royal Engineers and Royal Air Force, this proved to be quite useful as this enabled a bi-service RAF and RE team to be immediately established to deal with the incident. A bi-service team offered greater experience and effectiveness for the task. A Joint Service team was established as follows:
Flt Lt ‘Nick’ Lynskey BEM RAF EOD Incident Commander.
WO2 ‘ Tay ’ Taylor RE Bomb Site Commander
Sgt ‘Dan’ Flood RE Bomb Disposal Officer
Sgt ‘Ian’ Reeve RAF Bomb Disposal Officer
Cpl ‘Joe’ King Incident Control Point Controller
Spr ‘Andy’ Kirkcaldy Operations Room – Coordinator
The RFIP was kept up to date and briefed by WO2 ‘ Tay ’ Taylor RE, and as a result, an Incident Control Point was set up and maintained. In addition to this, RFIP Superintendent ‘Dave Morris’ set up a Police Major Incident room at the Police Station. FIBS and BFBS radio stations were contacted and requested to broadcast a warning that personnel steer clear of the incident until the area was declared safe.
Once the security of the area was under control, Sgt ‘Dan’ Flood and Sgt ‘Ian’ Reeve set out to identify the fuze type by carrying out further exploitation of the bomb. The bomb was found to have a single fuze located in the base of the bomb. The fuze was identified as a 951 Mk 2 fuze that is designed to function on impact. The condition of the fuze was considered dangerous and unstable. This together with the position of the bomb, sat in an upright position, precluded the remote removal of the fuze from the bomb.
Close-up of the Double Baldrick
An alternative Render Safe Procedure was discussed and decided. A ‘Double Baldrick’ attack was the safest alternative. A Baldrick attack allows a metal slug, in this case two, to be fired in to the bomb through its casing that causes a lower velocity explosion to take place and splits open the casing to expose the High Explosive filling of up to 350Kg.
Whilst there was every confidence that this technique would work, there is always a slight chance that the bomb may explode, therefore, a worst-case scenario assessment was carried out in order to minimize possible damage to the airport complex. Subsequently, Commander Stangroom RN from HQ BFFI, Chief Executive and Director of Aviation visited the site to assess the situation. Authorisation for the Low Order Technique to take place was subsequently granted.
What was left of the fuse
At this point EOD was ready to carry out further action, but it was important that as much protective work as possible was given to the Airport Complex to prevent any collateral damage in the event of a large explosion taking place.
Mr Ian Stewart and Mr Iain Berntsen of Ian Stewart Construction put a protective mound of earth in place. Utilising Plant machinery on site, the two brave volunteers placed over 400 Tonnes of earth between the bomb and the FIGAS buildings in order to minimize fragmentation or blast damage to the infrastructure.
An 8ft trench was excavated between the buildings and the protective mound, this was carried out to protect the foundations of the FIGAS buildings from distortion or shockwave damage.
Fire Chief ‘ Gardner ’ Fiddes and the Stanley Fire crew set to work and carried out protective measures to the complex, opening all windows and ensuring curtains and blinds were closed. It was soon to be dark so the decision was made to continue further protective works the next morning.
What was left of the tail
During the night the RFIP maintained the cordon and ensured that no one entered the area until the next morning. The second day saw all hazardous materials removed and the fuel feed to the heater system isolated. Windows were taped to prevent flying glass hazards and Stanley Services assisted in the decanting of 5000 litres of fuel from a nearby fuel tank just 100m from the bomb.
All vehicles were removed with the help of the Fire Service and Sgt ‘Jonathon’ Butler of the RFIP. FIGAS staff removed all FIGAS Aircraft to the end of the lazy runway some 1200m away from the bomb down towards the Lady Elizabeth. Finally the electricity supply to the buildings was turned off.
After all protective measures were carried out even to the point of checking the horses down by the Lady Elizabeth and the cordon security being confirmed, OC JSEOD Flt Lt ‘Nick’ Lynskey BEM RAF confirmed that authority was granted to conduct further EOD action with the use of a ‘Double Baldrick’ Low Order Technique. Having prepared charges, JSEOD personnel withdrew to a firing point approximately a 1000m to the East of the bombsite and initiated the charges at 1230pm.
Sgt ‘Dan’ Flood having approached the bomb at 1240pm declared that the Low Order Technique was successful. The bomb casing had split wide-open exposing large pieces of RDX explosive fill and leaving the 951 Mk 2 fuze and pocket in an isolated position with easy access. The fuze and pocket was destroyed in situ using a small amount of explosives. Large pieces of explosive fill remained, and was placed in sandbags and secured away from site for disposal on the next demolition range day. The bomb carcass was recovered from site to the JSEOD compound.
Having made the area safe, EOD and the Stanley Fire Service personnel carried out a visual check of all areas to confirm the building structures were safe. Amazingly, there was no damage to the complex at all, not even a scratch of paint. At this point the bombsite was cleared of EOD equipment, reinstated and the cordon collapsed with the area being handed back to FIGAS on 17th October 2003 at 1430pm, declared safe.
The incident was a great success with the whole community being both patient and supportive. The Police and Fire emergency services worked extremely hard along with the FIGAS staff and Stanley Services, everyone helped EOD wherever possible in order to make the community safe as soon as possible. In particular, Mr Ian Stewart and Mr Iain Bernsten are thanked for their hard work with the enormous protective mounds and trenches put in place close to the bomb.
EOD dealt with the situation in the most professional manner that resulted in the bomb being made safe with no injury to personnel or collateral damage to the Airport Complex. Thanks to an extremely professional Joint Service team:
Flt Lt ‘Nick’ Lynskey BEM RAF who commanded the JSEOD team and WO2 ‘Tay’ Taylor RE who initially deployed to the bomb with Spr ‘Jon’ Rouse and controlled the task site thereafter in support of the two duty Bomb Disposal Officers Sgt ‘Dan’ Flood and Sgt ‘Ian’ Reeve who dealt with the bomb. With a good support team: Cpl ‘Joe’ King controlling the Incident Control Point and Spr ‘Andy’ Kirkcaldy who coordinated everything through the EOD Operations Centre who without, such a successful task would not have been possible.It is the considered opinion of JSEOD that Harrier Aircraft dropped the bomb during the conflict. The Harrier is able to carry up to four 1000Ib bombs that are suspended using a double lug suspension, the bomb dealt with at the Airport had a double lug configuration thus indicating Harrier had dropped it. A Vulcan Bomber carries up to twenty-one bombs but uses a single lug suspension that meant this bomb was not dropped by a Vulcan Bomber.
This area will be completed as and when information is forthcoming
29 Jan 2006 – 31 Mar 2022
A Collection of Photographs & Diagrams
These six photos were donated to the site. They show some of the parks in London where unexploded bombs were taken for transportation to a convenient disposal site.
The course notes of Corporal Fred Duckwoth
The notebook images on this page are reproduced from the actual hand written course notes of Corporal Fred Duckworth (Deceased) who attended No28 Bomb Disposal Course and worked with No 6205 & 6208 RAF Bomb Disposal Flights. I am indebted to his wife Mavis (Shown here with me) for giving me the opportunity to use the material on this site.
Each of these pages is a thumbnail image; by clicking on each small picture you can see a larger version and read the actual note as Fred wrote it.
This is a photo of No 6205 Flight taken on VE Day 8th May 1945. Although the War was now over, there was still a lot of work to do, not only at home but in Europe too. Unfortunately, Fred isn’t shown here, he was posted to 2nd TAF after the hostilities and worked in France & Germany.
Bomb Disposal at the RAF Museum Hendon
MAX, The Largest German bomb dropped on Britain
SC 2500 MAX
Type: General Purpose Over-all Length: 154.25 in. Body Length: 94.75 in. Body Diameter: 32 in. Wall Thickness: 17/32 in. Tail Length: 66.5 in. Tail Width: 33 in. Filling: Trialen 105; 40/60 Amatol mixture of RDZ, TNT and aluminum Total Weight: 2,400 kg. Fuzing: Forward fuze pocket: AZ (24) A.; After Fuze Pocket: E1AZ (28) A.
Color and markings: Sky blue overall. SC 2500 is stenciled on the body in letters 3 inches high. Two yellow stripes are painted on the body between the tail fins. A few anti-shipping bombs have been found with the following stenciled on the body "Bei abwurf auf land nicht im tiefangriff und nur o.V." (not to be released over land in low level attack and always without delay). This type is thought to be filled with Trialen 105.
Construction: The SC 2500 has an aluminum body with a awelded head and tailpiece. There are two welded head and tailpiece. There are two welded fuze pockets. The rear fuze pocket is in the plane of the suspension lug. The forward pocket is rotated 30 degrees to the right. This pocket is connected to the nose of the bomb by a tube which extends a break-up functioning rod. This rod, which is central to the axis of the bomb, will on distortion of the nose crush the lower section of the (24) fuze to explode the bomb. A kopfring is welded to the nose. The tail of the SC 2500 is aluminum and of the drum type.
Suspension: Horizontal by an H-type lug. A suspension band is placed around bombs to give a solid base for the suspension lug.
Remarks The bomb is very similar to the SB 2500. The main difference is that the SC is made of aluminum while the SB is made of steel. The bomb is filled through the nose. Because of the rupture-type fuze, bombs cannot be dropped safe
Satan, not quite the largest German bomb dropped on Britain.
The RAF name for this particular bomb was “SATAN”. It weighed 1800 Kg and was 12ft 3in long with the tail unit attached and 2ft 2in diameter. The bomb itself was 8 ft 11 in and the tail was 4ft 8in long. It was attached to the bomb with screws and the bomb had one fuze in a central location behind the suspension lug. The tail was made from sheet metal and braced with tubes for added strength. The ring on the nose of the weapon prevented the bomb from penetrating too deep, it was known as a “Kopf-ring”. Thanks to Bernard Westbrook for this picture.
Heres a picture of a real SATAN taken in Egypt 1942 (Click for a bigger picture.)
Badges & Crests
The Use of Dogs for Security Duties including EOD
Sorry I couldn’t resist putting this in!
This photo shows Titch Mewton with a 22000lb bomb. The bomb was designed by Dr Barnes Wallis and was dropped from a modified Lancaster bomber. (Not this particular one!)
Have a look at this. It is a BD Log Entry from North Weald. It was sent to me by a person who works in the National Archives. It relates to an ammunition burn which went tragically wrong when the explosive filling exploded instead of the normal rapid burn. Some personnel were badly injured.
From Idea To Reality.
The Story of The RAF Bomb Disposal Memorial.
All images on this page are thunbnails and should be clicked for a bigger view
At the Annual Reunion in 2000, Jim Jenkinson, a member of the Ex RAF Bomb Disposal Club, suggested the original idea for a memorial to the personnel of the RAF Bomb Disposal Organisation. He made initial approaches to a local stonemason and other members of the club. He also investigated ways of raising the money to fund the memorial project. When it became clear how difficult a task it might be, the club at the AGM and Annual Reunion officially adopted the project in 2000. Sadly, Jim was too ill to attend the dedication at Eden Camp in September 2001 and died in January 2002 of Cancer.
From the outset, it became apparent that in view of the short time scale allowed it was not going to be easy to raise sufficient funds. The club was promised a considerable cash amount to start us off but later the offer was withdrawn and we started the project with a nil balance. It was decided, that at least during the initial fund raising drive, the first plans and ideas of the design for the memorial would be those first shown to the club by the originator and his stonemason together with some graphics from Chris Ogden our former News Editor. However, it was soon realised that the logistics and costs of this design would never be met within the projected time scale.
The organisers knew that in order for the memorial to be in position for September 2001, an initial order would have to be placed by March 2001 at the latest to give sufficient time for a stone to be inscribed etc. The original costings exceeded £7500 so the organisers were faced with a dilemma comprising of two choices. The first was to postpone the memorial for a year to enable the money to be raised over a longer time span. The second was to make a cut off date of March 2001 and order a memorial to the value of the money raised at that time. The decision was not considered one to be made solely by the organisers so a ballot was made to the members of the club for them to decide what was to happen. After all, the memorial was a club project and the wishes of the members were paramount.
After the ballot, and considering the age of the majority of the club it was decided that although some members were happy with the original plans, the practicalities of paying for it were the main criteria in making the decision of re-designing the memorial to fit the fund.
A plan was devised to slim down the design of the memorial. Chris Ogden and Ron Willis set about the task of producing publicity material so that the Secretary who also took on the task of fundraiser could start a wide-ranging mailing attack. The design varied quite considerably during the early stages and it caused some confusion when the publicity material was being sent to individuals in order to advertise the campaign. The decision was taken to target serving armament units, Service organisations, RAFA and Media personalities, as well as known business contacts and anyone else who might show an interest.
The Lottery Commission was approached as was the Prime Minister and other MPs. Sally Frosdick, a friend of the club also wrote to many influential people and institutions to further our cause. Her father had been in the Royal Flying Corps and Bomb Disposal during the last war and she felt she should do as much as she could to help.
The memorial was to be placed in position at Eden Camp and a meeting took place with the camp management team to assess their interest and engage their support. During the meeting, the management team explained that they would prefer to work with the officers of the club rather than individuals and that if we were really serious they would lend their support to our project and our wish to have the memorial at EdenCamp.
This first meeting was very much a tongue in cheek affair as we were starting the campaign with a zero cash balance so any decisions made would depend on the required amount of money being raised in time thus ensuring that Eden Camp had confidence in the club and we were not just dreaming. The camp management accepted this premise and agreed to support us. However, we would need to show we had means to raise the funds before they became too involved.
Following this initial meeting, the organisers met for the first of many planning meetings. Fred Knox, the secretary/fundraiser was to start his campaign whilst Chris Ogden took a tour of the local stonemasons to present the design and obtain quotations. He settled on four monumental masons and requested firm quotations to enable an idea of the projected costs to be seen. RW Atkinson Monumental Masons of Malton (01653 697190) were finally chosen to carry out the work.
In the initial stages of the fundraising, many of the appeals fell on deaf ears or in the cases where we did receive a reply; it was a negative one with little general interest being shown. Indeed, our request for support to the Prime Minister resulted in the letter being passed to the then Sports Minister! As was suspected, we were turned down by the Lottery! Fred mentioned at the time “Being killed or wounded on Bomb Disposal was not as important as investigating how snowballs rolled downhill!”
The feeling of despondency set in but efforts were re-doubled and slowly the money started to come into the fund account. 34 out of 660 RAFA branches donated money and 3 serving organisations did the same. To those, we would like to record our appreciation and to those serving and private individuals who gave freely and helped put the memorial in place and on time in September 2001. Thank You
By March 2001 we had raised just over £3000 so it was decided to ballot the members again and find out whether we should go ahead for September or carry on the fundraising for another year. After the returns were in, the views were for the memorial to be in place by the Reunion in September 2001 although as was thought, some members would have preferred to raise more money. The final decision was taken with the age of the majority in mind and the ability of those older or infirm members to attend the reunion and dedication ceremony.
Further meetings were held with Eden Camp, the stonemason and bricklayers and an order was placed to the value of the funds. Provision was also made that should we receive further sums of money we would then move to a staged improvement of the projected memorial. Further funds would also permit a contingency should the memorial need to be moved and if any maintenance for the upkeep be required.
It was soon realised that in addition to the cost of the memorial, money would have to be available for organising the actual dedication; a book recording the contributors to the project to be placed in the camp chapel and the cost of producing a memorial edition of the club magazine. The money was forthcoming and all expenses are now fully paid.
So, there you have it! The seeds were sown. They were nurtured through hard work and determination. The result is shown here at Eden Camp. The Memorial dedicated to the men of The Royal Air Force Bomb Disposal Organisation who sacrificed their lives or suffered grievous injury in the performance of their duty.