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Mine blown up at Melness beach

By SPP Reporter

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The tranquillity of Achininver beach in Melness was disturbed briefly this week when a Naval bomb disposal team blew up the remains of a wartime mine which had emerged from the sand a few days before.

Three bomb disposal experts, Leading Seaman Diver Derek Cooper and Able Seaman Diver Stephen Bradley, led by Petty Officer Diver George (Joe) Gow, were assisted by Station Officer Alan Findlay and Depute Station Officer Stewart McPhail from the Melness Coastguard Unit, who helped with the retrieval of the mine and the cordoning off of the surrounding area.

The bomb disposal team, whose responsibility encompasses any ordinance found below the high water mark and twelve miles out to sea around the whole of Scotland and a substantial chunk of the North of England, arrived by Landrover from their base at Faslane in response to a Police request following reports of a threatening looking object on the beach.

The weapon, of World War 2 vintage, was of the buoyant type which would have been sown in a field of mines, each tethered to the seabed, either as a defence against incursion by submarines or surface vessels or in harbour approaches in order to damage enemy shipping.

The spherical shape is characteristic of both German and Russian designs and this was a fairly small one, suitable for a charge of around 250lbs of high explosive or about half the quantity used in standard British mines of similar age.

This particular mine was actually well known to the folk of Achininver as it first turned up on the beach in the 1940s and has been exposed to the elements on several occasions over the intervening years as the Achininver Burn has periodically changed its course and either eroded the sand away from it or covered it up.

According to Station Officer, Alan Findlay: “My father told me it was first reported to the authorities because the croft horses were running round it on the beach and people were afraid that it might explode. That would be shortly after the end of the war and someone came up and disarmed it. I was quite worried just hearing about it myself as a toddler in the fifties!”

When the team freed the object from the sand it was clear that not much hazard was left in the casing but the remants were destroyed with a controlled explosion just to make assurance doubly sure.

Petty Officer Gow, who has spent a lot of time on the road throughout his vast area said: “We are frequently called out for objects that present no danger whatsoever and the people reporting them are often very apologetic. However, there is lots of live ordinance out there and people should not hesitate to report suspicious objects – it is better to be safe than sorry as even a small amount of explosive can cause injury or death.”

What is absolutely certain is that the Melness mine will not return to worry anyone any more, although, as Joe pointed out, there could be two or three more buried in the sand next to it for all we know.

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