Pipe mines on WW2 Airfields

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Algee, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. Algee

    Algee Very Insignificant Member

    It may be of interest to members of the forum to know that, during the battle of Britain, most of the runways at air bases were rigged with pipe mines in case of an airborne invasion.
    The grass airstrips were dug up and cast iron pipes were laid across the runway filled with explosive (PE 808) The charges were linked and a firing device was placed in the control tower. In the event of enemy aircraft trying to land the traffic controllers could destroy the runway in seconds.
    At the end of the war the charges were left in place but the ends of the pipes were capped with concrete, this job was done by Canadian Engineers.

    In the years since the war the Royal Engineers have been conducting "Operation Crabstick" Locating the pipe mines with ferrous metal detectors and using remote control excavators to dig up the explosive filled pipes and flushing the explosive cartridges out with water.
    I was involved in Crabstick at Goodwood race circuit which surrounds the old runway a few years ago, other old airfields cleared while I was with the unit were Rochester and Eastleigh.

    There are still a few low priority left to clear. I found a report mentioning the clearance in the Shetlands a quite few years ago Scatsta Airport - Shetlopedia - The Shetland Encyclopaedia and another at HMS Daedalus Remote control Army digger gets to work on WWII mines
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  3. slaphead

    slaphead very occasional visitor

    Hi Algee,
    Yep this is of interest, thanks for posting. I often wondered if such a thing existed in the Channel Tunnel what with it being made in the era of Thatcher and Reagan and all.
  4. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    Cheers Algee, never knew that.

    I always find defensive ideas like this interesting. Like setting fire to the sea in the event of an invasion.

    Setting fire to the sea? Madness, but ingenious.

  5. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    I believe that there was a passing reference to the subject quite a while ago and I find this sort of information from your post excellent.

  6. Fireman

    Fireman Discharged

    I learn more and more every day. With hindsight it now seem an obvious thing to do. I amaze my friends with my knowledge of the 2nd WW little do they know that gems like this one I purloin from WW2 Forum. The information on this site is quite staggering. Thanks.
  7. Algee

    Algee Very Insignificant Member

    Hi Adam

    No, this is a commercially available piece of equipment, It's a standard excavator with some up-armouring of the exposed hydraulics and fitted with radio controlled actuators for the hydraulic valves.
    The operator watches via monitors and there are cameras fitted to the boom of the excavator.

    The explosive used in the mines is nasty stuff, there can be an amount of absorbtion of nitroglycerin through the skin when handling it and even wearing gloves it can still happen. The result is an almighty headache and several dozen Sappers with sore heads on the pop later that night. Not a good combination when added to us staying in transit accommodation at the RMP school in Chichester!

    The bonus of that Goodwood job was having the race track to ourselves but I won't go into too much detail lest I incriminate myself
  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  9. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    Interesting report!

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