Monday, 17 October 2011

German weapons found in Medway!

Heinkel HE 115 -one of the types used for mine laying.
 On the out break of hostilities the Luftwaffe began a campaign of laying anti-shipping mines of different types in the Medway and Thames Estuaries.

The Royal Navy and local trading ships suffered losses and a real concerted effort was made to clear these hazards from the shipping lanes.

Mines were layed by U-boats, Heinkel He 115's, Heinkel He 111's, Dornier Do 18 floatplanes, Junker Ju 88's and Heinkel He 52's usually at night or in the early days when RAF fighter control was not what it became in 1940. The types of mine used included Magnetic mines, contact mines and even the Buoyant mine - which was designed to float beneath the surface and detonate on the underneath of a vessel's hull.

One such mine was found by fishermen off the isle of Grain last week, [ Medway Messenger 17th October reports] and was brought back to Grain for the Royal Navy
demolition team under Lieutenant Dan Herridge began defusing it. The mine was taken to the sea bed and a controlled explosion carried out. Even though the water would have slowed the explosive blast a thousand yard cordon was put in place just to be certain.

“We don’t often find these types of buoyant mines – they are quite unusual. But it was in good condition so this was quite a delicate operation.” – Lt Herridge.

The Royal Navy have been able to disarm German sea mines since a fluke in 1939. A Luftwaffe bomber dropped its payload on the mud flats, on a piece of land owned by the Army who quickly dismantled it and dispatched it to Portsmouth for study.

The exact number of mines dropped by the Luftwaffe and indeed laid by the Royal Navy during World War Two is unknown and although the vast majority were swept and retrieved there is still an unknown number still lurking in the depths, age may have caused them to degrade but others, like this one may still be armed and dangerous.

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