Divers stop wartime self-destruct bomb wreaking havoc in Hampshire

Naval experts today safely blew up a ‘self-destruct bomb’ designed to prevent HMS Daedalus falling into German hands during the Battle of Britain.

A bomb disposal team from Southern Diving Unit were called to the former naval airbase after a six-metre-long ‘Canadian pipe bomb’ was discovered by builders working on a new electricity sub station near the Stubbington end of the site.

Lt Cdr Jonny Campbell and a team from Southern Diving Unit 2 on Horsea Island were called and immediately agreed with police that some of the roads around the bomb’s location should be closed for safety reasons and nearby homes evacuated.

The bomb disposal experts then set about recovering the bomb, using metal detectors and ground penetrating radar, working through the night to safely remove what turned out to be a six-metre section, which has now been blown up on a range.

The mines were originally laid around the airfield at the height of the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 when the country was threatened with Nazi invasion.

Since the Canadian pipe bombs are known to be potentially hazardous, a cordon and evacuation plan was implemented while trying to minimise disruption but maximise public safety.

Lt Cdr Campbell

The idea was to detonate the pipe bombs if Germans stormed, or even occupied, the air station. The explosions would render the entire base and its infrastructure useless – and take the Nazi attackers with them.

According to official records more than 250 sections of pipe bomb – each about 18 metres long and containing 55kg of explosive (slightly more than a modern Stingray torpedo) – were laid around Daedalus.

The mines should have been removed at the end of World War 2, but many at the Lee-on-the-Solent base were evidently forgotten because 20 were found during construction work on the site a decade ago.

“As Canadian pipe bombs are known to be potentially hazardous, a cordon and evacuation plan was implemented while trying to minimise disruption but maximise public safety,” explained Lt Cdr Campbell, Officer in Charge of SDU2 and team leader for this delicate operation.

He said his divers had worked “safely and quickly in order to restore normality, re-open the roads and allow evacuated residents to return home.”