Bang out order to knock UXB team

DON'T knock the UXB squad - they are doing a very difficult job in tough circumstances.That was the message from Felixstowe today where the Royal Navy have been hailed as heroes on one hand for removing a 1,000lb bomb threatening to flatten much of the seafront, but mocked by some for losing it while towing it out to sea.

DON'T knock the UXB squad - they are doing a very difficult job in tough circumstances.

That was the message from Felixstowe today where the Royal Navy have been hailed as heroes on one hand for removing a 1,000lb bomb threatening to flatten much of the seafront, but mocked by some for losing it while towing it out to sea.

As the search for the missing weapon continued off the coast, people were urged not to forget what a dangerous and difficult job the divers are doing, risking their lives to dispose of the bomb.

The team are working by touch in zero visibility below the waves, forced to check every single object which Remus - a £250,000 unmanned underwater vehicle - spots on the seabed.

So far this has included metal pipes and an old encrusted anchor from a ship.

Some people have also questioned the cost of the operation, but if the team were not working at Felixstowe they would be elsewhere on a similar mission or on an exercise or training off Portsmouth, doing exactly the same thing.

Most Read

Suffolk diving expert Stuart Bacon said it was possible the team may find even more bombs while looking for the misplaced one - especially as there was a war-time explosives dump off Harwich.

“There is a tremendous amount of ordinance down there on the seabed around our coast - it is impossible to say how much,” said Mr Bacon, director of the Suffolk Underwater Studies unit.

“I wouldn't be at all surprised if they found another bomb while they were looking for this one because we have found them many times.”

Having dived off the Suffolk coast for many years exploring lost Dunwich and shipwrecks, he knows intimately the conditions the diving team are facing.

“I feel so sorry for them because they are getting a bit of stick about this when really it is very easy for something like that to come adrift in those circumstances,” he said.

“They have done excellent work in getting the bomb off the beach where it was a problem and I am sure they will find it because I don't believe it will have rolled that far. Even a massive storm would not roll it far.

“The biggest problem though is the visibility beneath the waves.

“It really is nil because of the silt and sediment. You have to work by touch and sound, it's all fingertips and we use probes about one metre long attached to our wrists, which we sweep in front and around us, a bit like an antenna or a blind man's stick.

“You immediately feel if you hit something and if there is sediment you can poke the probe down into it and if you hit a cannon or a bomb the metal rings like a bell and you hear it.”

Mr Bacon, of Orford, said there were several theories about the bomb.

One of the most interesting aspects was the lack of concretion after 65 years - barnacles and other sea matter which tend to stick to items in the sea for decades - which suggested the bomb had been covered with shingle.

This meant it could have been buried on or very close to the beach and perhaps disturbed by the sea defence work rather than washed ashore.

If it was rolling a long way now it might have some air inside to give it buoyancy which means it might not be as dangerous after all.

The Royal Navy team says strong undersea currents and the flat, featureless seabed have caused it to roll away but are confident of finding it.

Give us you views - write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Felixstowe bomb . . . the story so far

The bomb was found on Felixstowe's south beach by sea defence workers at 6am last Monday - after it was spotted scooped up in a digger bucket.

Royal Navy experts were called and when they saw the size of it said if it went off it could flatten the whole of the resort's West End area and cause damage as far as half a mile inland.

Around 1,200 people had to be evacuated from their homes - spending the night at friends and relatives, and Brackenbury Sports Centre.

On Tuesday the bomb disposal squad towed it out to sea - but lost it about two miles out in ten to 12 metres of water after a strop broke on the tow.

Despite a succession of dives it was not possible to find the weapon, which divers said had been “temporarily misplaced” due to technical and mechanical failures.

Reinforcements were summoned - a remote controlled vehicle, extra divers and Remus, a computer programmed unmanned underwater vehicle which sweeps the seabed and photographs every object it finds.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter