While diving around Falmouth Bay recently, looking for the old WWII degaussing field he had seen before, Mark Milburn came across what he thought was a possible bomb. He had seen a similar one before, which he had reported to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit (EODU), who then came to detonate the device. The co-ordinates were stored, there was no way of acquiring an exact position without attaching something to the device, with a straight line to the surface. Mr Milburn returned with some volunteer divers, to help re-locate the suspected bomb. They would also film, photograph and measure it. Then the images could be shown to the EODU, in the hope they could identify it.
They waited until some favourable weather came along. Conditions were not ideal, but the divers descended to look for the object. The device took a while to relocate, due to the in water visibility. Once relocated, the remaining dive time was short, the visibility wasn’t great and the surface conditions were worsening. The dive was called off, they would have to return.
A few days later, the weather forecast was good, so they planned their returned. On arrival, the surface conditions were greatly improved compared to their last visit. Mr Milburn and his buddy, Sue Barnes, descended to the sea bed. Within five minutes they were on the device, they photographed and filmed the object before Mr Milburn marked the site with a buoy. After their dive, the second buddy pair of David Gibbins and Katrina Mace, went down, to take even more photographs. After the dives, they all discussed what they had seen. They all believed it was highly probable that it was a parachute mine, possibly a type GC with it’s end cap still in place. They arrived back late that evening, so waited until the following morning to contact the authorities.
Early Wednesday morning, Mr Milburn called the MCA, they requested some photographs. The MCA then passed them onto the EODU. On seeing the images, the EODU contacted Mr Milburn and stated that it needed looking at, to see if it was indeed a potentially dangerous device. They were loading up and would be down within two hours.
The EODU arrived at Maenporth Beach, the closest place the device to launch their boat. After some starting issues, they made their way out. One of their divers went in. We all waited to find out what the device was. Time passed slowly on that cold afternoon. Eventually the diver came up, the boat returned. The C.O. stated that it was in fact a parachute mine, type GC. There was not enough daylight to continue with a disposal, they would have to return the following morning.
On Thursday morning, the EODU left Falmouth on their boat, followed by the RNLI, the harbour master and the harbour pilot. The EODU sent a diver down, while the other boats kept all other vessels at bay. On the shore at Maenporth, several dozen people waited patiently for the detonation. The EODU’s boat moved away. A small column of water shot up, followed a few seconds later by a short bang. Everyone looked at each other, “was that it?” was heard echoed amongst the onlookers. Surely not? Compared to the last detonation five years ago, this was a bit of a damp squib. Everyone kept watching and recording. The EODU returned to the location, a diver descended. Fifteen minutes later, all the boats were off, that was it. The MCA told us, that the EODU had declared that it was now safe.
Bemused about the events, we discussed what had happened. We can only assume that the mine came down so fast, without the parachute deploying, that it damaged the internal working and cracked the watertight casing. Seventy five years of salt water ingress, may have caused the explosives to be harmless.
After the detonation Mr Milburn said “I suppose I should now go and look for the other two I have previously seen now”.