Bomb disposal technicians from RAF Wittering restored normality to a village today after safely demolishing a massive, decades-old bomb
The device, estimated to have weighed up to 10,000 pounds, was discovered in a sand quarry less than 2000 metres from the village of Corfe Mullen in Dorset.
5131 (BD) Squadron is the Royal Air Force’s explosive ordnance disposal capability and the MoD’s lead unit for the safe disposal of air weapons. The Squadron’s conventional munitions team was sent to Dorset when the big bomb was found on Tuesday.
From the outside it was impossible to tell whether the bomb was still dangerous. Taking no chances with public safety, the technicians chose to treat the device as though it were live. The safest and quickest way to return the situation to normal was to demolish the bomb in situ.
The bomb lay unseen for over 70 years and, despite some evidence of damage to the casing, it was in pristine condition. There was no way to be sure of the bomb’s contents without opening the casing and explosives do not improve with age.
Warrant Officer Phil Hunt was the senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer at the scene. He said: “Safety drives everything. In situations like these you must always assume the worst case; that means getting everyone away to a safe distance. The Dorset police and the other emergency services have been absolutely great and assisted us wherever we’ve needed it.
Fortunately the layout of the quarry provided some natural protection for the controlled explosion, although how the bomb came to be found there is not known. Dorset police put an exclusion zone in place and evacuated everyone within.
Superintendent Caroline Naughton of Dorset police said: “While I appreciate that the evacuation and road closures will have an impact on residents, we believe this is the correct precaution to take while the ordnance is dealt with.”
Once the dust had settled Mr Hunt requested that the Dorset police helicopter direct its thermal cameras to the site to ensure no concerning heat signatures remained. After the controlled demolition it was clear that the device was filled with concrete and posed no actual threat although, of course, it is impossible to tell this just by looking.
Group Captain Rich Pratley is Commander of the RAF A4 Force, of which 5131 Bomb Disposal Squadron is a part. He said: “I am very pleased that 5131 (BD) Squadron has restored the situation to normal in Corfe Mullen; it’s absolutely right that we work with the civilian authorities to achieve public safety.”
Group Captain Pratley continued: “Time and again 5131 Squadron has proven itself to be a key military capability. Operationally speaking, their expertise is invaluable and at home, as we have seen today, their skills are irreplaceable.”