Remus set to search for lost bomb

A HIGH-tech device which could have come straight out of a James Bond movie was today en route for Felixstowe to help the search for the lost bomb.Royal Navy experts, who say they have “temporarily misplaced” the 1,000lb bomb, are bringing in Remus - an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) - to scan the seabed inch by inch.

Richard Cornwell

A HIGH-tech device which could have come straight out of a James Bond movie was today en route for Felixstowe to help the search for the lost bomb.

Royal Navy experts, who say they have “temporarily misplaced” the 1,000lb bomb, are bringing in Remus - an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) - to scan the seabed inch by inch.

The computer-operated torpedo-shaped vehicle will be programmed with satellite co-ordinates from a tracking beacon and then sweep across the seabed off the coast at Felixstowe, taking photos which will help the diving team find the German Second World War weapon.

Despite more dives this morning, the team have still not managed to find the missing bomb - though they are confident they will do.

Warrant officer Robin Rickard, who is overseeing the diving team, said more dives would take place today along with an operation in which boats will use a dragnet to scour the seabed.

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The 5ft 8in long UUV is set to arrive tomorrow morning.

“We are using technology to try to find the bomb and later on we may use something a bit more agricultural when we drop a chain down and drag it along the seabed,” he said.

“We are throwing everything we have at this and I am fairly confident we will recover this bomb in the near future.”

Both the dragnet and Remus would work well off Felixstowe because the area where the bomb is believed to be - about two miles offshore in ten to 12 metres of water - is hard, flat and featureless.

“When the chain snags on something we will take a short dive down and check it and confirm or deny if that is the bomb,” he said.

Warrant Officer Rickard said no GPS signal device had been attached to the bomb, only the lift bags and strops, one of which broke allowing it to go free.

“GPS is not an exact science. Some of the best systems will put you within ten feet of an exact position but on the seabed with a slowly drifting object and nil visibility, ten inches would not be easy out there,” he said.

“We have temporarily misplaced the bomb through mechanical and technical mishaps but we are making huge strides to reacquire it and a lot of work is taking place.”

With the strong tidal streams beneath the surface, poor visibility and less than favourable weather conditions, it was not an easy task and there were only short periods when the divers could dive.

There had been four operations in the past 24 hours using GPs and sonar but each only allowed up to 90 minutes' dive time.

“It is a little bit embarrassing but these things happen and we are at the mercy of the sea. We are not going to give up,” said Warrant Officer Rickard.

The team carried out 14 dives yesterday - 12 in the afternoon and two in the evening - and still believe the bomb is safely contained within 200 metres of its original position.

Once they find the bomb, a German SC type shell from 1942, they will attach an indicator line as a locating marker. Then, if all goes well, an explosive charge will be made up and the bomb will be exploded

Petty officer diver Dave Moore said the bomb was mostly TNT dynamite but mixed with about 30pc aluminium powder to make it particularly fierce.

When it goes off it should shoot a plume of water 150 to 200 ft into the air and noise should be heard across the town.

Lt Cdr Heather Tuppen, a spokesperson for the Royal Navy, stressed there was no longer any danger to the public and finding such devices is a regular occurrence and routine business for the team.

The bomb was found on the beach at Felixstowe at 6am on Monday and around 1,200 people were forced to leave the areas between the Ordnance, Beach Station and the seafront by police, with evacuated families asked to spend the night with relatives or friends or to bed down on mats and airbeds at Brackenbury Sports Centre.

Royal Navy experts said the bomb was powerful enough to flatten a large area of the seafront and cause collateral damage up to about half-a-mile inland.