During the German Occupation of the Island of Jersey the Germans used a lot of Roll Bombs around the coast of the Island. One such place was Gorey Castle. These Roll Bombs were in fact French shells 27cm shells dating from the 19th century. When the Germans overran France large amounts of these shells were captured.
The shells varied in weight from 335lbs to 365lbs with an explosive charge weight of 70 to 90lbs. In the guise of a Roll Bomb they would be placed into wooden chutes which when needed could be used to roll the shells down onto the target. They were held in position by a cable looped around the shell with a further cable attached to a pull igniter which was put in place rather than the normal nose fuse. When the shell was released it would drop, and as it did on reaching the end of the cable attached to the igniter the safety pin would be pulled out which in turn would initiate the explosive charge in the shell.
19 of these Roll Bombs were found in 1979 on the Grand Battery at Gorey Castle. They were removed and destroyed in a joint exercise carried out by the States of Jersey Police Bomb Disposal Unit and the Army.
On the 29th of March I had a email from our local BDO who back in 79 was a member of the Police team but is now a private Explosives Technician/Consultant. He called and asked if I could give him a hand with yet another Roll Bomb that had turned up at Gorey Castle. So on the 30th March we climbed the many steps leading up to the Grand Battery to inspect the Roll Bomb and check the area for any others. After detecting the area we came up with a dozen possible places that needed checking. We checked them all and thankfully they were all clear. Left with our one known Roll Bomb we dug around it and established it had had the igniter removed from its nose. After a bit of further digging it was removed from the ground where it had lain since the Occupation.
Now the hard work began for our BDO, he had to sort out all sorts of paperwork and try and keep everyone happy whilst trying to plan the ultimate diposal of the Roll Bomb.
Needless to say he achived all this in record time and yesterday morning we returned to the Castle and removed the bomb. Under Police escort we took it to the slip way leading down to Seymour Tower..... built during the war with France as a lookout post about 1.3 miles out to sea. We drove the bomb out to the Tower and placed it some 100 yards or so away from the Tower. We rigged it ready to go and awaited the incoming tide.... we wanted a good water coverage to limit the possibility of debris flying all around.
At about 6.30 last evening with the weather deteriorating rapidely the decision to blow the bomb earlier than expected was made as the sea was really rough and there was a danger it would fracture the detcord making it impossible to destroy the bomb and then having to wait until the tide went out to fix the cord and then wait again for the returning tide before we could try again. With a fantastic plume of water that must have been over 200 feet in the air the bomb exploded with out a hitch. Unfortunately I did not manage to get a picture of the explosion itself....not because I was undercover.... I wish I had been, but we were being covered by sea water breaking over the walls of the Tower soaking us to the skin. My camera would just not have survived. I am sure if we had waited much longer we would have been in real trouble. It was a lot of work but being allowed to help was worth all the trouble caused at home with me being "Out" for a long time its not everyday you can get to do this. Once the tide had receded far enough we went to inspect our handy work and found a hole in the sand some 15 foot across and about 5 foot deep. As well as being able to pick up some souvenir pieces of schrapnel, that stuff is really nasty. I was pleased to see the hole already had a number of crabs walking around it looking for food.
It was a great honour to be allowed to take part in the exercise, such a shame the weather was so bad but the whole thing was carried out perfectly.... text book work.
All the best from Jersey.