Navy’s ‘unsung heroes’ risk their lives every week destroying bombs

Explosive Ordnance Disposal units from the Royal Navy dispose of a CT-500 500lb bomb from Second World War
Explosive Ordnance Disposal units from the Royal Navy dispose of a CT-500 500lb bomb from Second World War
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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ELITE Royal Navy divers who are due to destroy a deadly bomb discovered at an airport are called upon almost three times a week, The News can reveal.

Explosives experts from Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 (SDU2) tackled 146 missions between October 2016 and 2017.

Figures released through a Freedom of Information request showed the small squad of 25 divers regularly destroyed lethal bombs across the region.

Their latest successful mission in the capital has garnered praise from politicians and naval top brass.

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP and foreign development secretary, hailed the team as the Royal Navy’s ‘unsung heroes’.

She said: ‘I want to say a huge thankyou to this amazing team – they keep us safe often in very dangerous circumstances.

‘When people think of the navy they tend not to think about this sort of work, it is a unique capability and has a huge positive impact on so many people.’

The News’s investigation today reveals the extent of work carried out by the team – and the startling number of times the divers from Horsea Island risk their lives to protect the public.

Between October 2016 and October 2017, SDU2 was called out 146 times, with their south coast colleagues in Plymouth, SDU1, being dispatched 135 times.

They dealt with everything from bombs and hand grenades, to chemical weapons, mortars and artillery shells.

During their most demanding month, in November 2016, Portsmouth divers were dispatched almost once a day, notching up a total of 22 missions – with jobs spanning across the south from Shoreham in the east to Poole and Bournemouth in the west.

The calls included missions to destroy a 500lb Second World War bomb and a fused cannon ball in Portsmouth.

Divers also scooped up 70 rounds of 9mm ammunition left in Langstone Harbour.

In total, divers from SDU2 had to use their demolition skills 82 times, with the rest of the devices either being taken back to the unit or found to be inert and free from explosives.

Figures revealed they attended 19 missions in Portsmouth, with many seeing the team destroying ordnance found in the city’s harbour.

Havant and Gosport areas notched up seven calls each, with Chichester seeing three calls, while Waterlooville and Emsworth had two apiece and Hayling Island had one.

SDU2 was due to destroy the bomb found in London yesterday morning but the mission was postponed due to high winds. They were due to blow-up the device later today, the navy said.