Royal Navy detonates WWII mine

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Royal Navy bomb disposal experts have destroyed a large German Second World War mine off the Essex coast, which had been picked up by a dredging vessel.

The 1 500-pound (680kg) Second World War device was dredged up last Friday by the vessel Congo River about seven miles (11km) off Walton-on-the-Naze, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said.

A team from the Royal Navy’s Southern Diving Unit 2 in Portsmouth was faced with an initially risky task of detaching the parachute mine from the vessel before laying it safely on the seabed.

The team then had to wait until Tuesday for a safe weather window to send a diver down to the device and attach explosives.

Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews, who led an eight-man team during the operation, said the controlled explosion created a 300-foot (91m) plume.
“The weather and sea state in the region were extremely poor for a few days but thankfully it improved a lot yesterday [Tuesday] and we were able to crack on with the task,” Nekrews said.
“The mine was in excellent condition – in fact it was still shiny – but the dredger had pierced its skin so this was a delicate task for the team.”

Lieutenant Commander Nekrews praised Chief Petty Officer (Diver) Ian Fleming and Leading Diver Matt Baker for their efforts in safely detaching the mine from the vessel. “They were first on the scene and were faced with a challenging and precarious task but as usual they dealt with it in an extremely professional way,” Nekrews said.
“These type of devices are not uncommon, particularly in that part of the world. There are still tens of thousands of unaccounted for pieces of ordnance from the Second World War scattered throughout northern Europe.”

On April 14 the Dutch minehunter HNLMS Willemstad detected and detonated an extremely heavy German influence mine off the coast of Scotland, which dated back to the Second World War.
“A very special find”, said the captain of the minehunter, Lieutenant Commander Paul Bijleveld. “In October 1939, the German submarine U31 laid an offensive minefield of 18 mines off the coast of Loch Ewe.”

Three of these mines detonated due to the presence of British ships: HMS Nelson was heavily damaged, and HMS Promotive and HMS Glenbalyn were sunk, the Dutch Ministry of Defence said.

HNLMS Willemstad, which was taking part in an international exercise off the Scottish coast, had been tasked with clearing exercise mines in the approach route to Loch Ewe. While performing this task, the minehunter, for the second time during the exercise, detected a real explosive at the entrance of the bay.

The mine turned out to be a German GN influence mine, one of the most infamous of the Second World War. It was 3.38 metres long and fitted with an explosive charge of 907 kg of hexanite. This is equivalent to 1,100 kg of TNT. Not only was it equipped with acoustic and magnetic fuzes, it was also fitted with boobytraps.

On March 22 this year, BP discovered a 3.5 metre long unexploded World War II German mine near one of their pipelines in the North Sea. World War II explosives have been found in the region before – in 2009 the Royal Navy destroyed two WW II explosive charges there.

It is estimated that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are 80 000 unexploded mines dating primarily from WW II, according to AFP. Since 1994, more than 600 mines have been found in the Baltic Sea.

It has been estimated that between 600 000 and 1 000 000 naval mines of all types were laid during World War II.