UXB On the Home Front at Rufford Abbey 26-27 Sept 2015

ARP wardens and Police are keeping the crowds back from the UXB in the middle of the Long Meadow. One ARP warden in the raid was sure she saw three bombs fall, but only heard two explosions, and after a search, the third bomb was found. Remarkably, it had come down on a very low trajectory, and had skimmed the ground. If it had fallen straight down, it would have been buried some 15 to 25 feet deep. The NFS K2 is nearby.

As is usual practice, officer makes an initial assessment, and estimates where the bomb is likely to be, and where to start digging. The sappers in the section then arrive with picks and shovels, and a number of sandbags, and start digging. Their job is simply to expose the bomb and its fuze, to allow the officer to defuze it.

The officer then determines the Safety Point, which is behind a few more sand bags a good distance from the bomb. (Actually close to the Salvation Army mobile canteen). Another sapper runs out a telephone cable from the safety point and the bomb. A box of tools is also taken to the bomb in preparation for defuzing it. (The box actually contains the pyro charge. The telephone wire is attached to the charge)

Once the digging is complete, the sappers all retreat to the Safety Point, and the officer tackles the bomb. A microphone is attached to the bomb, so that a sapper at the Safety Point can listen for ticking. (The telephone wire is actually connected to the firing box). The women of the WVS come over with a tray of tea from the nearby Salvation Army.

A Crabtree device is used to try to discharge the capacitors which store the firing current. One officer calls back that it is a ‘type 17’ which means that it has a timer.

Option A
The officer prepares to remove the fuse, but the sapper listening at the safety point hears ticking. He shouts as loud as he can, but the officer doesn’t hear him. A sapper runs over to tell him, and they quickly decide to get out of the way. As the two run towards the crowd, the bomb explodes. The two men running are hit by the blast, and land face down, still and quiet.

Option B
The officer prepares to remove the fuse, but the sapper listening at the safety point hears ticking. He shouts as loud as he can, and the officer calls for the clock stopper. Another sapper runs out a coil of wire, and the magnetic coil draped over the bomb. ‘Clock Stopper On!’ is called. The ticking gets faster, rather than stopping,and the Sapper at the Safety Point calls out that something is wrong. The officer and the sapper decide to run away. As the two run towards the crowd, the bomb explodes. The two men running are hit by the blast, and land face down, still and quiet.

(This is artistic licence. The type 17 fuze in reality had a timer which could be set for anything from 30 mins to 3 days. Although if it had been ticking for the 30 mins of digging, it could go off at any time)

As soon as the dust has settled, the shaken sappers go out to see what has happened. The ARP wardens come running with a First Aid bag, and decide that they need medical help. The ARP warden on a motorcycle sets off. The others start removing the battledress uniforms from the casualties, who are not far in front of the crowd. One doesn’t have a mark on him, and in fact gradually comes round. The second is in much worse shape, as when the battledress is removed, there is a large piece of shrapnel in his back, and his shirt is covered in blood. Some blood comes out of his mouth. (The man is made up in advance. The shrapnel folds flat, and is covered in blood. As he walks out, he wears a greatcoat or BD, and walks round to behind the bomb so he is facing the crowd. He then takes off the coat, but the crowd cannot see the injury as it is away from them. Likewise when he is running towards the crowd. It is only when he lies on his stomach that the crowd first see his back)

The NFS K2 arrives followed by the ambulance, and the officer is put onto a stretcher, and the ARP and firemen carry him to the ambulance. The stretcher is brought back for the injured man, who is carried to the K2. As there are no blankets to cover him, the crowd are able to see the wounds as he is carried along the crowd line to the ambulance. The ambulance then leaves.

About lowdhamstation

I am a director of a small (and very technical) business, a committed Christian, a Reader (and preacher) in my local village church, husband to my dear Frances, am interested in heritage railways, and heritage fire engines. I currently run a group that displays wartime and early post-war fire engines at 1940s re-enacting events and steam engine rallies. O yes, and vintage cars and motorbikes, and we live in a Victorian railway station.
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