When the Turkish attacks on Cyprus began with the invasion in July 1974. Chief Technician Fred Knox (Our Chairman) was the SNCO in charge of EOD at RAF Akrotiri. The EOD team was supplemented with members of the Weapon Engineering Squadron some of whom had EOD training. The teams were assembled and kitted out with what equipment they had (which wasn’t a great deal). The team had to be ready to deal with a variety of UXB’s delivered by a variety of aircraft of the Turkish Air Force which included F100 Super Sabres, F104 Starfighters and F84 Thunderjet/Thunderstreak/Thunderflash whatever they were called at the time!
The weapon loads were a mixture of 500lb & 750lb bombs along with 2.75 inch rockets of HEAT (high explosive anti tank) variety. The aircraft also carried 20mm ammunition rounds of differing varieties. The teams were readied and knew what sort of things to expect.
On July 27th a preliminary cease fire had been arranged to enable the evacuation of civilians. The EOD team was requested to deploy to the Larnaca and Famagusta areas of the island. The team members were Flt Lt Ted Costick, Fg Off David Wilson and Chief Tech Fred Knox. They found three major UXB’s which were causing concern for the Greek National Guard. The main reason that worried the Greeks was the lack of their own EOD qualified personnel. This meant that the RAF EOD team had to carry out the work to render safe the UXB’s.
Turkey invaded Cyprus on Saturday, 20 July 1974. Heavily armed troops landed shortly before dawn at Kyrenia (Girne) on the northern coast meeting resistance from Greek and Greek Cypriot forces. Ankara said that it was invoking its right under the Treaty of Guarantee to protect the Turkish Cypriots and guarantee the independence of Cyprus. The operation, codenamed 'Operation Atilla', is known in the North as 'the 1974 Peace Operation'.
By the time the UN Security Council was able to obtain a ceasefire on 22 July the Turkish forces were in command of a narrow path between Kyrenia and Nicosia, 3% of the territory of Cyprus, which they succeeded in widening, violating the ceasefire demanded in Resolution 353
On the 28th May news reached the Unit that the Parachute Regt had captured Goose Green and its airfield. A decision was reached after consultation with Wg Cdr Traverne, the RAF LO on HMS Fearless, to move to Goose Green to clear the airfield for possible Harrier Operations and to assist in the clearance of the settlement. All equipment, except the vehicles were flown into the settlement by helicopter. RE search teams swept the area for UXOs, which included ammunition stocks, minefields and large quantities of “home brew” napalm in weeping containers both in the settlement and on the airfield. These were moved to the airfield and WO D. Trafford organised demolition. Fuzing units from cluster bomblets were removed , the cluster bomblet attached to the napalm container, and the whole linked with a Det Cord ring main. The ensuing explosion lifted a fireball some 500+ in the air.
The Team left the UK on 7th May joining the LSL Sir Bedivere at Ascension Island on the 10th May 1982, sailing with elements of the Task Force and arriving in San Carlos Sound on 24th May
The largest bomb ever tackled by the RAF and probably the largest ever rendered safe by any BD Unit was one of their own. This 12000 pounder known as Tallboy was found in the silt and mud at the base of the Sorpe Dam in 1958 after the dam was partially drained.
The bomb was fitted with three No 47 Half-hour delay fuzes which work by an ampoule of acetone dissolving a celluloid disc retaining a striker. The thickness of the disc determines the delay time and the delay can be set for 72 hours in some cases.
WEST GERMANY: 'TALL BOY' BOMB DISPOSAL
About 650 people were evacuated from the small West German town of Langscheid Jan 6 before the defusing of the 'Tall Boy' bomb found in a nearby reservoir shortly before or about Christmas 1958.
When the evacuees were in safety, RAF Flight Lieutenant James Waters the Officer Commanding 6209 Bomb Disposal Flight and German bomb disposal expert Walther Mitzke set to work. Aided by Corporal Al Mouat and Corporal Frank Smith the smartly and carefully they removed the three fuses - one by remote control and two by hand - of the 12,000 lb bombs designed by Barnes Wallace dropped by the RAF during a raid on the Sorpe Dam in October 1944.
Said Flight-Lieutenant Waters: "It went just as we thought it would go - easier than pulling teeth." The 12 ft bomb was the first of its kind to be dismantled in Germany.
There were many other tasks undertaken by the EOD teams in Cyprus during the conflict and after but only so many can be mentioned here but one stands out from the rest as being most unusual. It was a call to Paphos where two UXB’s had been sighted in the harbour. One was in about 6ft of water and the other at about 15ft.
The team comprising of Flt Lt Ted Tout, Fg Off David Wilson and Chf Tech Fred Knox liaised with the Greek army to find a method of raising the bombs once they had been rendered safe. A small portable crane was spotted on the harbourside and this was used to joist the bombs out. The crane operator offered to train Fred to use the crane but then volunteered himself to join the team.
Fred and Dave donned trunks, masks and flippers and decended into the water to fix an IGOL to the bomb fuzes and remove them. The area had been evacuated and even a pelican had been taken away by a the local café owner.
According to the areas of responsibility regarding UXB’s etc that were promulgated during WW2 “All bombs, mines, munitions etc found below the high water mark are the responsibility of the Royal Navy” Fred relates that in this incident, the involvement of the RAF EOD was probably due to “clerical error”.
Click an image to enlarge it
The OC and WO departed by helicopter to Stanley, the rest of the Unit plus vehicles sailing around to Stanley on MV Elk, a container ship, offloading in Stanley on the 19th June. The OC and WO had procured both accommodation and rations for the Unit and had contacted the other EOD Teams in the area. As there was no central control it was decided to commence the clearance of Stanley Airstrip as per the Units initial Orders. All enemy aircraft were checked for booby traps, and ejection seats operated for reasons of safety. As no central control was in operation access to the airstrip was open for all!! A visual clearance was carried out some 50mtrs either side of the runway, all discovered munitions moved to stockpiles and suspect areas of cluster bomblet UXBs were cordoned off. Work continued in the same way. Many areas were not accessible due to minefields. Once the local tasks were completed EOD responsibility was handed over to No1 Sqn EOD personnel and arrangements made to return to the UK. The 11 man team received 1 QGM, 2 QCBC, and an MID plus several Commander Task Force 317 Commendations.
The airfield was cleared with numerous demolitions, a considerable quantity of ammunition and pyrotechnics removed from the settlement, and many cluster bomblets cleared from surrounding areas, including 2 1000lb bombs from Darwin. The team remained at Goose Green until 16th June when they returned to Ajax Bay.
RAF Bomb Disposal Unit Deployment to the Falkland Islands as part of Operation Corporate 1982
Following the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentinean Forces RAF Bomb Disposal was tasked to provide a team to sail with the Task Force, Command and Control being vested in OC No1(F) Sqn Harriers. The team consisted of Flt Lt A.Swan, WO D. Trafford, Flt Sgt D.Knights, Ch/Tech Hankinson, Ch/Tech M.Sidewell and Sgt P.Herrington and their respective No2s, J/T A.Thorne, SAC.P.Grace, SAC.D.Fields, SAC A.Moreton and SAC K.Soppet-Moss.
Falkland Islands 1982 (Operation Corporate)
Doodle Bugs & Buzz Bombs
In July 1941 a chain of incidents happened near Aldergrove in Northern Ireland which resulted in the unnecessary deaths of two BD Personnel when it was decided to re-open a shaft to establish whether some fragments were a German bomb or just a tail fin. On July 21 at about noon, Cpl. Burton was working in the shaft when the soil collapsed around him and he disappeared into the cavity created when a bomb explodes beneath the ground but doesn't break the surface known as a camouflet.
Cpl. Burton tried to climb out but was overcome by the residual fumes and Carbon Monoxide from the explosion of the bomb and fell back into the cavity. Sgt. Boulden climbed down to attempt a rescue but he was overcome as well and could not be pulled out in time to save him. Following these deaths a modified parachute harness was developed to be worn by men in the shaft where a camouflet was suspected.
The Sorpe Dam Tallboy
Click the button for a link to Wikipedia and the full story of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus 1974
These pictures show some of the other items dealt with in Cyprus in 1974. Note the damage to the buildings and the cache of arms and ammunition from Episcopi. Fred Knox is pictured bottom right leaning on the RAF BD Land Rover. Probably thinking "What next?"
Please click an image for a larger picture
These 5 photos show from left to right: The only surviving Chinook at the time of the conflict, A captured Oerlikon Gun. The front fuselage of a damaged Pucara Aircraft. Parked Pucara's and one of the many Ammunition dumps.
The refrigeration plant building at Ajax bay was used as accommodation by Commando Logs Regt and the RAF BD Team, and was the location of the Mobile Surgical Unit nicknamed the “Red and Green Life Machine”.
Surrounding the area were numerous stock piles of ammunition and fuel awaiting helilift to the front line.
On the 27th May the rear of this complex was bombed by two Skyhawk aircraft who dropped 6 bombs only one of which exploded causing 5 deaths and 26 injured, two of the bombs fell in the sea, one exited the building over the medical operating area and two remained UXB in the building. These were SAMP 400kg with an unknown fuze, and it was assumed were dropped too low for the arming sequence to be completed. After consultation with the SMO Cmdr Rick Jolly, it was decided to take no further action.
At that point HMS Antelope was seen burning following the explosion of a 1000lb during efforts to defuse it. During repeated air attacks that day Bedivere, Galahad and Lancelot were hit and holed by similar weapons. Lancelot receiving the bomb that exited Bediveres fo’c’sle. Both weapons in Galahad and Lancelot were UXB’s. Additionally a further bomb was lodged in the magazine of HMS Argonaut. All ships were visited by an RAF SNCO to provide identification of the pistol, and appropriate Render Safe Procedures(RSPs) were given to the RN Bomb Disposal Team. On 25th May the RAF BD Unit was disembarked at Ajax as Bedivere was sailing to rejoin the Task Force. The Team was kept occupied with a number of requests to deal with unexploded ordnance near various units, whilst the whole area was subjected to numerous air attacks, some 36 Air Raid Red warnings given during the week from arrival in San Carlos Sound.
On the 29th of August 1944, British troops in France, led by General Sir Bernard Montgomery, destroyed the V1 launching sites in the Pas de Calais. The first phase of the German V-weapon attack was over.
In total, 6,725 flying bombs had been seen over Britain, almost all of them over London, Kent and Surrey. Nearly 3,500 had been destroyed by fighter planes, A.A. guns or barrage balloons. 2,340 had hit London causing 5,475 deaths and injuring 16,000.
This V1 flying bomb crashed without exploding! But nearly wrecked a barracks full of polish airmen A UXB V1 was a very rare thing as the vast numbers which were sent over from the Continent usually did their job of terrorising the population of the home counties. The V1 worked by employing a ram jet engine into which was fed neat petrol (Gasoline). Once the engine was running, the bomb was launched from a ski slope towards London and the The weapon guidance was by a gyro and a pre determined amount of fuel, usually just enough to get to London where the fuel ran out causing the bomb to fall to its target. The V weapons were indiscriminate in the destruction of our cities and very few were ever found unexploded.
See where bombs dropped on London by clicking this link.
Other incidents included UXB’s at Nicosia Airport, an arsenal of weapons near Episcopi, a box labeled “Sweet Pickles” containing hand grenades etc.
There was no let up in this tasking and the team worked from dawn til dusk. July in Cyprus is hot! OK if you are on holiday but not if you have to work with little shade and have to rely on “minders” to supply water and chilled water melon. This was undertaken by a couple of Australian Police attached to the United Nations Brigade something which the team were forever grateful.
One of the Paphos Harbour bombs Click for a bigger image
Task three was situated in the Venus Beach Hotel on the sixth floor. Strangely, the bomb, another 750lb GP was lying on a bed without its fins and the fuze exposed. The render safe procedure was decided upon and a piece of equipment known as an “IGOL” was used to remove the fuze by unwinding a long cable to spin the fuze out of the bomb. The procedure was successful and a block and tackle was then used to lower the bomb to the ground and onto the back of the Land Rover. The series of pictures below show the situation in more detail and also the height from which the bomb had to be lowered after rendering safe.
The first item dealt with was the rocket pod pictured here. It was complete with 2.75 inch rockets. As they hadn’t been fired they were considered safe and transported to an area set aside for demolition. The second item was a 750lb General Purpose bomb situated under a church in Famagusta. The item was fuzed in the tail and a partial detonation had occurred. The reason was unknown but the bomb case had split from front to rear. The bulk HE was still there. As there wasn’t any danger this was left for a second team to take away for destruction later.
Bomb Disposal in Cyprus 1974.
The RAF BD Team set up blast corridors, shored the ceiling up and completed sandbag blast walls. As a result of the bombing the pre-positioned stocks of fuel and ammunition caught light, the ammunition and pyrotechnics sporadically exploded or initiated throughout the night. A full scale clearance operation was carried out in the morning to clear the remaining UXBs and debris to allow the helilifts to resume.