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Solomon’s Underwater EOD Training


Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2’s Construction Dive Detachment Bravo (CDD/B) conducted advanced dive technical training with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit, and Maritime divers on Tulagi Island, May 4-15.

The training was in support of the U.S. State Department Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) program, which aims to assist countries in developing the means to remove and dispose of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) that can endanger local populations.

The Solomon Islands, and Guadalcanal specifically, were the targets of intense bombing during World War II in one of the first major offensives by Allied forces, also known as the “Battle of Guadalcanal.” The offensive lasted from Aug. 7, 1942, to Feb. 9, 1943, and resulted in Japanese forces evacuating and forfeiting the islands to the allies.

Remnants of the Battle are still evident on the islands today, from sunken bombers to intact fighting positions. Along with these historical remains are thousands of ordnances and remnants. The training taught the RSIPF how to safely find, mark, and remove the items.

During the training, CDD/B instructed twelve RSIPF EOD and 2 maritime divers in advanced diving techniques such as casualty management, full-face mask operation, advanced underwater searching techniques, and underwater lifting procedures utilizing open and closed-bottom lift bags.

The training began on the remote island of Tulagi in early May 2015. Initial training with RSIPF divers was conducted in a classroom environment, in conjunction with hands-on segments for each part of the curriculum.

When asked about how it felt to participate as an HMA instructor, Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Tristan de Delva said, “It’s an honor. To give training on something as important as this, it really is just a rewarding experience.”

After the classroom phase, the divers took to open water to apply the classroom training in an operational environment, and started with searching underwater for inert ERW. After locating an object, divers were required to surface and describe what they found. This was followed by lifting procedures, where divers raised large objects off the ocean floor by utilizing open-bottom lift bags. Throughout the diving evolutions, casualty management scenarios were imposed on the divers to simulate real world emergencies.

“I’m thoroughly impressed with the RSIPF divers,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William Schliesman. “Every day they bring their A-game. It challenges us to give them the highest level of training we can.”

Underwater Construction Teams provided a capability for construction, inspection, repair, and maintenance of ocean facilities in support of Navy and Marine Corps operations including the repair of battle damage. The teams have the capability to support a Fleet Marine Force (FMF) amphibious assault, subsequent combat service support ashore, and self-defense for their camp and facilities under construction and in an emergency or disaster, conduct disaster control and recovery operations.

Posted in Offshore UXO, UXO News |

Calais UXO Disruption


Ferry passengers are facing disruption as the Port of Calais remains temporarily closed today during an exercise to disarm two unexploded World War II mines.

The main access to Calais Port (Rocade), all ferry check-in booths, the UK Border Force and French Border Control booths have been closed from 7am French time.
They are expected to remain closed until 2.30pm French time, with queues and congestion expected in and around the Calais area.

P&O Ferries said customers can re-book their journeys free of charge and any cancellation fees “will be waived”.

“We do advise that any day trips should be re-arranged for another day”.

Posted in UXO News |

Chemical UXO in Iran


Bomb disposal experts from the army forces were scrambled on Thursday to the village of Ghalehgah after an unexploded chemical bomb left from the Iran-Iraq war was found, IRNA reported.

The unearthed chemical ordnance was lying two meters below the living room of one of the local residents who quickly alerted the authorities, said Masoud Rouhani, a local official from the Northwestern province of Kurdistan.

After assessing the device, it took six hours for the deployed unit of bomb disposal experts to successfully defuse and remove the ordnance which still posed a threat as the detonator was in good condition, and its shell was perforated from the impact on the ground, leaking chemical material.

The village was evacuated during the operation, Rouhani said.

The bomb, was part of Saddam´s 1988 chemical bombing campaign that took place around Ghalehgah and its surrounding villages, he concluded.

Posted in UXO News |

Cambodian Underwater UXO


When 42-year-old fisherman Yor Dieb snagged his net on an object just meters from the Mekong River bank here, he had little choice but to dive down and untangle it by hand.

The net had wrapped itself on the tail of a live 227-kilogram bomb, a relic of the 1970-1975 civil war when the United States dropped hundreds of thousands of tons on Cambodia, a so-called “sideshow” to its battle in neighboring Vietnam.

There wasn’t much Yor could do – until late last month, when a specialist in demining came to his village 30 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, asking whether residents had found unexploded ordnance, or UXO, in the river.

Yor told them he had, and on Thursday, Cambodia’s newly trained UXO dive team from the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) dived the 6 meters, extracted the Mk-82 bomb from the Mekong’s murky depths, brought it ashore and defused it.

Grueling training

It took the nine-man dive team two years of training to get to this point. Forty men started the course; none could swim. Their grueling training involved night dives as well as diving “blind” with blackened scuba diving masks to simulate the conditions of the Mekong. Visibility of 10 centimeters is a rare treat in that river, and strong currents are the norm.

Reducing safety risks

Addressing public safety risks are central to the program, said country director Allen Dodgson Tan. Mortars, artillery projectiles and other unexploded ordnance lurk in the mud and watery depths, snagging fishing nets and tempting scrap-metal scavengers.

“Is a fisherman getting his net caught in it? Is a boat going to hit it?” Tan said. “Are they going to build something like a bridge where they need to clear an area for a pylon? Are they going to dredge there? These are the kinds of things we look at, right?”

Caution is understandable. The international nonprofit MAG (Mines Advisory Group) reported that Cambodia is “severely affected by the presence of landmines, cluster munitions, air-dropped bombs and other unexploded ordnance,” dangerous residue from a civil war that ended in 1993 and from U.S. bombings, from 1965 to 1973, against the Khmer Rouge.

MAG said an estimated 9,000 suspected mined areas, including those on land, still must be cleared. The Cambodia Mine/UXO Victim Information System reported 19,684 people were killed and 44,630 injured by landmine and ordnance explosions from 1979 to 2013. The numbers have been declining as because of the demining work, which includes efforts by groups such as MAG and Golden West.

Some ordnance that landed in Cambodia’s rivers will never be removed, Tan said, because “it’s not going to do anyone any harm.”

But bombs like the one in Lvea Em district are a problem.

Mission details

Under a blazing sun, the team worked from Yor Dieb’s wooden boat. First, CMAC’s chief diver, Sok Chenda, descended 6 meters to dig away the mud surrounding the bomb. Next, a colleague went down to connect the bomb to an inflatable balloon that quickly wrenched it free from the riverbed.

With the most dangerous part of the mission over, they towed the bomb, suspended a meter below the surface, to shore at the ferry landing, which the police had emptied of villagers.

Mike Nisi, a former U.S. Navy diver who trained the team, works for Golden West as the technical adviser on the underwater program. Although the fuse in the nose sheared off – likely when it hit the water – the one in the tail was still live, he says, which meant the bomb was still dangerous. Other factors added to the dangers of the operation.

“The fact that it’s underwater in little to no visibility with high currents and all the other possible elements that can come into play – with other fishing boats coming too close, they can affect our operation. Currents changing, that can affect it,” Nisi said. “So many unforeseen elements … can make this even more dangerous than it already is.”

Good feeling

Sok Chenda, the dive unit’s leader, said he was pleased with his team’s performance.

“It’s good, and the first time, and it’s difficult and dangerous,” he says, adding that visibility was very poor – just 10 centimeters. “But we can do [this job] by feeling.”

In the penultimate stage, the bomb was driven to a distant rice field where Golden West had assembled its remote-controlled mobile band-saw cutter. From a safe distance, the team sawed off the nose and tail, rendering the device safe.

In the coming days, Golden West will process the 113 kilograms of explosives in the bomb into 1,000 explosive charges that demining groups such as CMAC use to blow up landmines – another scourge of decades of war that, along with the U.S. bombing, brought so much destruction. It is a classic case of turning swords into ploughshares, said Tan.

There’s little doubt that other bombs are in Cambodia’s rivers, and approaching villagers is a good way to find out where they are. To that end, says Golden West’s Nisi, the team will continue getting the word out to people in the provinces: “If they find anything, we have numbers for them to call – we pass out cards everywhere we go.”

The team’s next stop will be the site of an ammunition barge that was sunk in the 1970s, and which is under a meter of mud.

“We have to first dredge it and then we’re going to find out whether there’s any ordinance on there or not,” he says. “That’s what we’re working on after this.”

Posted in Offshore UXO, UXO News |

WWII bomb Evacuation


Some 31,000 residents in the northern German city of Hannover are being forced to temporarily evacuate their homes after construction crews found an unexploded 250-kilogram (550-pound) bomb underneath a former high school.

The bomb was discovered Tuesday afternoon during work tearing down the former school building. Experts decided, based upon its condition, it needed to be immediately defused and removed, so surrounding residents had to be evacuated as a precaution, the dpa news agency reported.

Even 70 years after the end of World War II, unexploded bombs are still found relatively frequently in Germany, generally during construction in major cities.

Hannover was a regular target for Allied bombers during the war. In one raid in 1943 alone, some 261,000 bombs were dropped on the city.

Posted in UXO News |

27 UXO Found in Brunei


Bandar Seri Begawan: Police in Brunei said on Sunday that 27 unexploded World War II era bombs have been discovered at a construction site in the centre of the capital Bandar Seri Begawan.

A group of construction workers found the mortar bombs, which are believed to be from the period between 1941 and 1945 when the Japanese were occupying Brunei, Xinhua quoted police as saying in a statement.

Police said the supervisor of the construction workers informed police on Saturday. As a result of the discovery, a part of Jalan Ong Sum Ping road was closed.

Members of the public have been urged to refrain from touching or disturbing any suspicious or dangerous items.

Posted in UXO News |

Major Alan Clouter – obituary


Major Alan Clouter, who has died aged 73, was awarded the George Medal in 1972 for disarming explosive devices during the terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland.

In autumn 1971 Clouter, then a captain, was based at Lisburn and was serving with 321 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Squadron. On October 20, he was part of a three-man bomb disposal team under the command of Major (later Lt Col) George Styles. They were called to deal with a device that had been placed in a public telephone booth in the bar of the Europa Hotel, in the centre of Belfast.

Major Alan Clouter

Major Alan Clouter

After the area had been cordoned off and evacuated, the team set about disarming and removing the bomb. The radiograph showed that it contained between 10 and 15lbs of explosive.

“Inside that telephone booth was enough energy to blow your head from your shoulders, your arms and legs from your trunk, and your trunk straight through the plate glass windows,” Clouter recalled. Until the electrical circuit had been dealt with, a false move, however slight, might be enough to detonate it. It was decided, therefore, to disarm the bomb in stages, each of which required the most careful planning and execution before proceeding to the next.

At last, it was possible to fix a line around the device and pull it a distance of some 18 feet before drawing it a further 30 feet out of the hotel and on to the pavement. The whole operation took six hours and was completed successfully.

Two days later, three masked men held the staff of the Europa at gunpoint while a fourth carried a heavy box which he left close to the reception desk. It contained a charge of almost 40lbs of explosive, and complex wiring and micro-switches had been added to try to confuse the EOD team. Inscribed in small letters on the device were the words, “Tee-Hee, Hee-Hee, Ho-Ho, Ha-Ha.”

After nine hours of hazardous work, the team disarmed, removed and dismantled the bomb. Clouter and Captain Roger Mendham were awarded the George Medal. Styles received the George Cross.

lan Ian Clouter was born at Woolwich on September 18 1941 and educated at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School and Welbeck College. He went to Sandhurst in 1961 and was commissioned into the REME.

After serving with the Light Aid Detachment of 7 Para RHA, he went up to Clare College, Cambridge, to read Engineering. He moved to the REME depot for a year and then transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

In 1970, he returned to England after a spell in Singapore and trained as an Ammunition Technical Officer (ATO) at Shrivenham College and the Ammunition School at Bramley. In March 1971, he was posted to HQ Northern Ireland. In September, he was called to a local police station at night following a shooting incident.

A holdall had been discovered on the steps beside the door. He found that it contained 10lbs of high explosive and a timing device. The police who had secured the area were ordered away but Clouter had to work fast to minimise the danger to those who had to remain in the station. He attached a line to the holdall but, as he was easing it away from the door, the line snagged on something and broke. He ran from cover, repaired the line and, having taken cover once more, managed to pull it further away before it exploded.
On one occasion, he was defusing a bomb when, as he said later, “I got a bad feeling about it and, in getting clear, probably broke all records for a man in EOD body armour before the device exploded.”

On another, there was a big explosion in a pub and Clouter arrived with an NCO to investigate. A crowd gathered around them and became very threatening. The two men were armed but either of their options – to try to shoot their way out, or be seized and have their weapons used against them – would, they believed, result in their deaths.
Clouter was saying his last prayers when the Reverend Ian Paisley came through the door. “Step aside!” he boomed. “And let these lads get on with their jobs.” Clouter was in no doubt that Paisley had saved their lives.

Clouter played a notable part in pioneering a remote-controlled vehicle which could be used to disrupt an explosive device without endangering the ATO. Apart from three months on active service in Iraq in 1991, he served in BAOR for the last 18 years of his Army career and remained there as a civilian adviser on health and safety at work and on handling dangerous goods.

He then worked for the BBC, the National Grid and, subsequently, Kellogg Brown & Root, the civil engineering company, in the Middle East. His last job was with Bertling Group, the ship-owning and transport organisation, where his work as global head of Health, Safety, Security and the Environment involved worldwide travel.

Alan Clouter married first (dissolved), in 1964, Wendy Annette Moss. He married secondly, in 1976, Catherine Mary Hawkins. She predeceased him and he is survived by a son and a daughter of his first marriage and a stepson and two stepdaughters of his second.

Posted in TRLtd News, UXO News |

UXO Injures Two

Two military contractors were injured by ordnance that exploded at Makua Military Reservation.

Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins says two men were taken by helicopter to Queen’s Medical Center after ordnance exploded Monday at the firing range.

Jenkins says the men have severe injuries.

The Army says the two civilian men are ground maintenance contractors. The Army says they were injured after encountering apparent unexploded ordnance.

The Army is investigating.

Makua Valley has been the site of decades of military training. However, no branch of the military has trained in Makua with live ammunition since 2004. The Army and its opponents have been embroiled in a long legal dispute over how the military may use the valley, which many Native Hawaiians consider to be sacred.

Posted in UXO News |

Major Stephen Hambrook


Major Stephen Hambrook, who has died aged 81, was awarded a George Medal for defusing a number of German bombs and mines.

Major Stephen Hambrook

Major Stephen Hambrook

In August 1969 Hambrook, then a Squadron Sergeant Major, was in charge of a Royal Engineers bomb disposal team excavating for a buried bomb in wet, marshy ground near Petworth, Sussex. On August 9, they found a 250kg German bomb close to a number of houses. It was in excellent condition and was fitted with a No 17 clockwork fuze , a type that was particularly dangerous because any shock could restart the clock and explode the bomb within seconds.

Hambrook summoned the assistance of an officer and the two men organised the complete evacuation from the area of everyone but themselves. Pumps were being used to prevent flooding, which would cause the shaft to collapse but the noise that these made meant that a stethoscope could not be used and if the clock started ticking they would not hear it.

After the fuze was neutralised and the base plate removed, they discovered that the powder explosive had deteriorated to such an extent that two gallons of nitroglycerine, a highly unstable explosive, had formed. The remaining powder was floating in this liquid or sticking to the casing and could only be extracted by hand.

Apart from the risk that friction or any small shock would set off an explosion, the fumes caused constant nausea and retching. By the time the bomb was made safe, Hambrook had worked continuously for 29 hours and had been exposed to extreme danger for 11 of these.
On October 1 that year, Hambrook was part of a RE team of disposal experts sent to a building site in Camden, London, following the discovery of a complex Type C parachute mine. Nine feet long and packed with more than 1,500lb of explosives, it was capable of devastating entire streets in the area. An underground railway line was 30 yards away and tall blocks of flats and terraced houses were all within 150 yards.

After evacuating the area, the team exposed the mine, which was found to be equipped with six different fuzes and a triggering device set for 17 seconds. Ten seconds were left to run because it had jammed after seven seconds. If the clock restarted, they would have three seconds to try to “choke off” the fuze and seven seconds to get clear.

At four o’clock in the afternoon, Hambrook and a colleague, Major George Fletcher, removed the filling plate and set about the hazardous task of steaming out the explosive. The two men knew that the rise in temperature caused by the steam could restart the clock at any moment.

The steaming out process lasted throughout the night. Hambrook, looking down into the deep trench which might become his grave, with the arc lights glimmering through the swirling steam, described the scene as a vision of hell.

The mine was declared safe at seven o’clock the following morning. In recognition of his bravery, he was awarded a GM. A block of flats built on the site was named after him and the BBC retold the story in a programme called Seven Seconds to Run.

Stephen David Hambrook was born on May 12 1933 at Peckham, south-east London, and educated locally. He served with the Royal Engineers from 1954 to 1992. In the 15 months from September 1968, he dealt with some 200 missiles and 10 bombs.

In 1982, he was deployed to the Falkland Islands, helping to clear unexploded bombs and mines left after the conflict. He stepped on a mine in an area which had previously been declared safe and lost his left leg below the knee.

Despite his injuries, he continued to serve in the Royal Engineers and the Army Reserve for a further 10 years and was given numerous awards including a Commander in Chief Commendation for Bravery and being recognised as “Army Man of the Year.” In 1991, he was appointed MBE (Military Division).

Posted in UXO News |

Deminers Comb Debaltseve


A week since pro-Russian rebels forced Ukrainian soldiers from the key transport hub of Debaltseve, the sound of explosions still reverberates around the eastern town.

This, however, is not the boom of artillery fire and combat — it is teams of Cossack deminers from the separatist side blowing up mines and unexploded ordnance littering this war-scarred railway junction.

Denis Zaitsev is the man in charge of three squads of sappers deployed by the insurgents in the wake of their victory here.

Sporting a black Cossack fur hat, Zaitsev points to the front door of a small building where one of his teams is working.

Ukrainian troops stored food in the building. A white thread is suspended, some 20 centimetres (eight inches) from the ground with one end tied to the pin of a grenade.

“The Ukrainians left us a lot of little surprises like this,” deminer Sergei Cherpakhin says with a smile.

A rebel in camouflage gear, but without any protective equipment, edges towards the booby trap and cuts the wire with pliers.

He then picks up the grenade with his bare hands and passes it over to his boss.

A few metres (yards) further on, three mortars are buried in the earth.

“These are anti-tank mines,” commander Zaitsev explains.

His team lays TNT on top and then, after some nearby fighters are ordered to take cover, they blow the charge, sending dirt flying into the air.

“We deactivate around twenty mortars, mines or booby traps every day and more are disposed of by soldiers who just don`t tell us about it,” Zaitsev says.

“We find them even in residential areas.”Since the rebels captured Debaltseve, the fighting in east Ukraine has died down in recent days as a shaky ceasefire has begun to take hold.

Both sides say they are now pulling back heavy weapons from the frontline in line with a peace deal that seeks to give civilians across the conflict zone a much needed respite from over 10 months of fighting that has cost some 5,800 lives.

But for residents left behind in Debaltseve after the fighting, the deadly legacy of weeks of ferocious battles for the town can still be felt all around.

Tamara Slivinskaya, 61, stands waiting for her box of food aid from the Red Cross in the central Lenin square.

“Oh yes, the mines are very scary,” she says. “We don`t have any running water here and you want to go and get some from the wells.”

“But we`re too scared of getting blown up,” she continues.

Slivinskaya lives on the penultimate floor of a nine-storey apartment block.

She says the Ukrainian soldiers — who she calls “Nazis” — were camped out on the one remaining floor above her to help direct artillery fire.

In the stairwell leading up to their observation post they set up three trip wires that were attached to “something looking like a grenade” to stop residents getting too close, she explains.

Back hard at work, the Cossack squads are just finishing up gathering all the unexploded munitions from a patch of territory around the town`s weather station.

By the time they`ve completed that, however, the call comes in with another location to search — the grounds of a metal plant where the Ukrainian forces dug in.

After weaving their way through the pockmarked town to the site, the sappers begin combing a water tower there that a government sniper had apparently occupied.

To their relief they find nothing there. But it is only a momentary respite.

Their next job comes in almost immediately — an unexploded rocket lodged in the roof of a factory nearby.

Posted in UXO News |