Parachute mine disposal - HMS Mirtle

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by ChrisR, Dec 6, 2009.

  1. ChrisR

    ChrisR Senior Member

    HMS Mirtle was a chalk quarry near Buriton in the South Downs where experiments and steaming out of explosives was done. There were two quarries there. One has since been used as a rubbish landfill site - all filled up with rubbish and grassed over. Here is a comparison shot then and now taken from what I think is around the same spot from the tree line in the background and general lay out of the geography. The other side of the road is another quarry where you can still see sleepers from the narrow gauge railway that accessed the site.
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    The entrance to the site I believe was just down this hill on the left - There was a case of a mine being delivered to Mirtle falling off the back of the lorry on this hill and rolling all the way down. Place was called Mirtle as they were looking for a name starting with MIR for Mine Investigation Range.
    Here are some more photos from the time - Notice the Army are also present as they often helped the Navy with the recovery operations.
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    Smudger Jnr likes this.
  2. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Very interesting and thanks for posting. Shows how big these were and how many were dropped as I'm sure only a small percentage failed to explode. Were these the "land mine" bombs used during (and after) the Blitz?

    They seem to be a bit too relaxed steaming the explosives out with so many in the near vicinity, it would only need a fuse to trigger and more than one could have exploded. Part of the text is visible, talking about the first US Navy mine disposal expert being killed, so they were still dangerous. Were there many explosions and casualties there?
     
  3. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Thanks for posting Chris, I'd not heard of HMS Mirtle before.

    Regards
    Peter
     
  4. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Chris,

    An excellent post and very informative.

    A very dangerous job these people had. Utmost respect for the Bomb disposal personnel.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers for posting Chris
     
  6. Stig O'Tracy

    Stig O'Tracy Senior Member

    Environmentally a disaster. The quarry was likely for limestone (just guessing) which can often be quite porous. Steaming out the explosives probably means dissolving them with very hot water. It would appear that there was no attempt made to retain the waste and it was just run off. Probably alot of nitrate contamination of the water table. Subsequently using the same site as a landfill has compounded the problem and the site will leach and contaminate the water table for years to come.
     
  7. ChrisR

    ChrisR Senior Member

    Kevin, yes these were used in the Blitz.
    The Germans accidentally dropped a mine on a coastal town instead of in the sea, (think it was Clacton if memory serves me right), and the British press made mention of the devastion caused by the bomb. Apparently the Germans got wind of this and decided the mines could be dropped on land deliberately. They were fitted with a self destruct mechanism that activated should the mine not be dropped in water. Often the timer jammed - bit like a clock work toy - you think its run it's course but as soon as you disturb it it starts again. The clockwork would run for up to 17 seconds - maybe 1 second or maybe 17. Trying to disarm them often caused the fuze to start running (and the mine disposal officer!) Sometimes the clock would stop again and the officer had to return to it to have another go. If they had to return three times to the same fuze there was little point in running away a fourth time.
    Some mines did not come down by parachute and looked like a 'traditional' bomb. These had photo-electric cells inside that would detonate the mine should a BD Officer expose it to light.
    The American pictured at Mirtle was killed along with a British Officer by a booby-trapped sea mine found on the beach at Corton Sands, Garton. It is believed there was a wire, a bit like the cap in a Christmas cracker, connected from the access plate to a detonator in the mine. As the access plate was pulled away from the mine, it detonated.
    Some brave men worked on mines and a number were killed.
    See - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennett_Southwell
    Reginald Vincent Ellingworth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    This site mentions many of those involved who were awarded medals -
    WW II Awards for RN Bomb and Mine Disposal
     

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