The Northern Diving Group team coordinated the lowering of the ordnance to the seabed and blowing it up in the Firfth of Clyde at Ettrick Bay, near Rothesay.

By Democrat reporter

THE ROYAL Navy’s bomb disposal experts based at HM Naval Base Clyde, sprang into action yesterday after a fishing boat trawled up a suspected mine off Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde.

The team of explosive ordnance disposal experts from Northern Diving Group (NDG) were called after the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was alerted to the situation around 11.20am on December 1.

Seven fishing boat crew members were evacuated by Troon Lifeboat and Rothesay Coastguard Rescue Team while the vessel, with the suspected ordnance onboard, was sailed to Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute to meet with Northern Diving Group.

After examination, the item, which was described as being in “pristine” condition, was confirmed as being a Second World War German submarine-laid, moored influence, mine.  Staggeringly it still contained around 350kg of explosives!

The Northern Diving Group team coordinated the lowering of the ordnance to the seabed off Ettrick Beach and on December 2 they carried-out a controlled explosion to dispose of the mine.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Shaw, Commanding Officer of Northern Diving Group, said: “The mine was trawled in the vicinity of Ailsa Craig, near Girvan.  Considering it had been in the water for around 80 years, it’s condition was remarkable.

“From the initial pictures we were able to easily identify the Mine Type and importantly determine that the explosive fill was intact and therefore presented a significant hazard.

“The vessel was diverted to Ettrick Bay and met by my team, led by Petty Officer (Diver) Robert McCann who safely dealt with the situation.”

He continued: “Items of this size are relatively uncommon, however, NDG are approaching 100 call-outs this year supporting civil authorities with all types of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, ranging from mines and torpedoes to hand grenades and improvised devices.  On average, across the UK, Royal Navy Clearance Divers are tasked once a day for EOD assistance.

“This highlights the remaining presence of historic ordnance.  Even small items can be unstable and present an explosive hazard; carrying-out a controlled explosion is the only safe way of dealing with them and neutralising the hazard.

“If anyone comes across a suspected piece of ordnance they shouldn’t interfere with it and immediately contact the emergency services.”

The Northern Diving Group is one of two Fleet Diving Squadron area diving groups whose mission is to provide diving, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and In-Water Maintenance and Repair to the Fleet.

Comprising more than 40 Royal Navy clearance divers and support staff, NDG is located at HM Naval Base Clyde.

Members of the Northern Diving Group from Faslane in action last year.

To aid civic authorities, NDG provides a perpetual high readiness team of Maritime Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or bomb disposal, experts.  They cover an area that starts from the high water mark in Liverpool and stretches 12 nautical miles out to sea, clockwise around the coast to Hull, encompassing Northern Ireland, the Scottish Western Isles, Shetland and the Orkneys.

This vast area was exposed to many bombing raids in World War Two both on land and at sea, and the team continues to find and deal with hazardous historic ordnance that could still pose a threat.

In September this year, when he was appointed to take command of the NDG, Lieutenant Commander Shaw said; “It is a career highlight to be given command of Northern Diving Group. It has a long and respected history and I’m humbled to be responsible for protecting that reputation as we move forward.”

The Clyde-based Group is responsible for providing military aid to civil authorities in the form of Explosive Ordnance Disposal throughout Scotland and Northern England. The team also support the Royal Navy’s ships and submarines with in-water maintenance and engineering. The Group also supported HMS Prince of Wales during her visit to Liverpool earlier this year and have been deployed oversees to Canada, Norway and Sri Lanka.

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