News story

Royal Navy divers blow up WWII mine

Royal Navy bomb disposal experts have blown up a huge German mine off the Kent coast after a delicate operation to remove it from a dredger.

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The 76-metre-high plume thrown up by the exploding German mine
The 76-metre-high plume thrown up by the exploding German mine

The air-dropped ‘GC’ mine, containing 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms) of high explosives, dated from the Second World War and was brought to the surface by a dredger 6 miles (10 kilometres) north of Sheerness.

Before carrying out a controlled explosion a four-man Navy team from Southern Diving Unit 2 in Portsmouth had to carefully remove the device from the vessel’s dredge head.

Chief Petty Officer Ian ‘Scouse’ Fleming, who led the team, worked for 7 hours through the night in atrocious conditions to safely extract the mine and hoist it onto the dredger’s upper deck.

He said:

I had to crawl along a pipe to reach the mine to attach chains. It was a confined space and waves were splashing all around me. The fuses had been bashed about a bit and were quite dangerous and the explosives were exposed.

The air-dropped German mine
The air-dropped German mine lodged in a dredger's dredge head [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

It was a tiring operation - one of the most testing I have been involved in - but everything went to plan.

Yesterday the Second World War device - which measured 2 metres long by 50 centimetres in diameter - was towed 2 miles (3 kilometres) further out to sea and dropped to a depth of about 10 metres.

The controlled explosion caused a 76-metre-high plume of water and mud, which was clearly visible from the shore.

Accompanying CPO Fleming on the task were Leading Diver Lewis Watson and Able Seamen (Divers) Peter Birse and Josh Spibey.

Published 28 November 2012