#1
Thousands of military explosives are found in Britain each year - most of them from World War II.

This article is about the British Army bomb disposal troop that covers Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man and the work they undertake to make sure no-one is injured or killed by these explosives....



Making sure your year goes without a bang



A Howitzer shell unearthed by grave diggers, grenades in garden borders, a 120 mm tank shell used as a doorstop and mortar rounds in the drawer of an antique wardrobe – all in a year's work for the Army bomb disposal troop that covers Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man.


The 37kg "bomb suit", which has breast plates and protection made from woven Kevlar and is covered in fireproof nomex. The Kevlar helmet has a 2 inch (5 cm) thick transparent visor
[Picture: Chris Barker]



Referred to in the media as "the bomb disposal squad", Chester Troop 521 Squadron 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) has attended over 100 incidents of Conventional Munitions Disposal (CMD) in their region this year. This includes 27 in Merseyside, 25 in Greater Manchester, 21 in North Wales, 19 in Cheshire, 16 in Lancashire and just the one on the Isle of Man.

The CMD incidents have ranged from fairly benign, such as picking up grenades found in attics and cupboards, to potentially devastating, like the grenade found buried on a building site close to five different gas mains.

Thousands of military explosives are found on the UK mainland every year through excavations, building works and dredging operations – many are relics from the two World Wars. Hundreds more turn up in gardens, attics and cupboards, on beaches or in the countryside. Caches of Second World War Home Guard munitions regularly turn-up having laid forgotten in attic rooms or outhouses for decades.

Chester Troop, based at Dale Barracks, Chester, is the only Army bomb disposal team in the North West and is one of three Troops which form 521 Squadron, which has its HQ in Catterick, and which itself is one of six Squadrons that form 11 EOD Regiment.

"The public cannot know which devices are safe and which are dangerous. We'd rather be tasked to an incident that turns out to be an innocuous item, than for someone to get hurt picking up a blind mortar bomb or shell."

Captain Ady Tebay, Second-in-Command of 521 Squadron

Among its many duties, Chester Troop, comprising 13 soldiers and two civilian support staff, offers expert explosive ordnance assistance to the police forces of Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man.

Two man teams answer each call-out, the Ammunition Technician Number One and his/her driver, who also fulfils the role of being the team's Number Two.

At the team's disposal is an array of state of the art equipment, the pick of the bunch being the remote controlled Wheelbarrow Mk8 Bomb Disposal Robot, a device now far advanced from its humble original which was made from the shell of a garden wheelbarrow, hence the name! The "barrow" can cross any terrain, climb stairs, push a car, and is always used to reconnoitre and hopefully render safe any suspect device found.

Another useful piece of kit is the 37kg "bomb suit" worn by the Number One, which has breast plates and protection made from woven Kevlar and is covered in fireproof nomex. The Kevlar helmet has a 2 inch (5 cm) thick transparent visor.


Captain Ady Tebay, Second-in-Command of 521 Squadron, explained that the key message for the public is not to take any risks – this from a man who's been on both sides of the fence:
"When I was a young boy living in Cumbria, I was playing on the fells with a friend when we came across a suspect item of ammunition. We continued back to my grandparents, passing it like a rugby ball, oblivious to any danger. My granddad went mad – he took it straight off us and dropped it in the fish tank at the bottom of the garden, which didn't really assist the police when they arrived!
"The Army EOD team from Catterick had to come out to deal with it. It's a bit ironic and quite a coincidence that, 30 years later, here I am as Second-in Command of the Catterick EOD Squadron! Many potentially explosive devices crop up every day in the UK. Our main concern is that, if people do find anything, they contact the police, who in turn may get the bomb squad involved. The public cannot know which devices are safe and which are dangerous. We'd rather be tasked to an incident that turns out to be an innocuous item, than for someone to get hurt picking up a blind mortar bomb or shell."
11 EOD Regiment RLC is the British Army's specialist unit responsible for counter terrorist bomb disposal and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), the recovery and safe disposal of conventional munitions.

The Regiment also inspects and licences ammunition storage and enforces explosives safety regulations. This mission is carried out an all British Army operations worldwide, at home throughout Great Britain and on British Forces bases in Germany.

Recent overseas operational deployments for 11 EOD Regiment RLC personnel include Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Falkland Islands, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Yemen and Congo. Training deployments have taken its soldiers recently to Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Malaysia, among other countries. The Regiment has also supported exercises in the likes of Canada and New Zealand.

Conventional Munitions Disposal (CMD) requests form the bulk of requests from UK police forces for assistance from Army bomb disposal teams. However, there are of course times when the EOD teams are tasked to jobs of potentially more sinister origin – such as being called out to assess and deal with suspect devices.




A career in EOD is extremely rewarding, explained Capt Tebay, who, having completed 22 years service, has served tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan:
"We are a specialist trade as Ammunition Technicians and are in the top pay band. As one would expect, there is an element of risk but your training allows you to manage that risk."
www.mod.uk