Royal Navy bomb disposal divers have destroyed a massive German bomb (a Luftmine B) after it was discovered in the wreck of a warship off Essex.
The weapon was found near Southend Pier, by civilian divers exploring a 17th century shipwreck.
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This was a very complex task in difficult weather conditions. It took the team six days (216 man hours and around 20 dives) to carefully remove the mine from the wreck. It was towed to the offshore military range at Shoeburyness, where it was blown up in a controlled detonation.
Such Landmines were not designed to penetrate the ground and therefore unexploded examples found on land are extremely rare. However, such UXO could conceivably remain on an inland riverbed or lakebed in the UK.
In recent years, at least two examples of the RAF’s equivalent weapon have been encountered in Germany.
The German Luftmine B
During WW2, the Luftwaffe developed a range of parachute retarded influence mines for use against both marine and land targets. Originally used as sea mines, it was quickly discovered that they were effective on land as devastating “blast” bombs. When used on air raids inland, the British Civil Defence organisation called them Landmines.
There were two sizes of magnetic parachute mines. Luftmine A (500kg) and Luftmine B which weighed almost 1000kg and measured 8′ 8″ in length. This find is an example of the larger type and contained as its main charge, 697kg of high explosive. These mines were constructed of aluminium with a domed parachute housing containing a large green or red parachute.
They were fitted with the Type 34 fuse and were detonated either by impact or by a disruption to the magnetic mechanism. British bomb disposal teams used a variety of bronze (anti-magnetic) tools to deal with unexploded Landmines.
It is not clear whether this mine would have been dropped as a sea mine in a shipping lane, or as a Landmine. Parachute mines had a tendency to drift great distances in windy conditions. Southend was frequently raided by the Luftwaffe and therefore this weapon could have been dropped as part of a raid on the town.