A rather unusual type of unexploded ordnance (UXO) was recently encountered on a beach in Somerset.

The two unexploded torpedoes were spotted by a local in Middle Hope Bay near Sand Point. A Royal Nany EOD team was soon dispatched to the scene.  

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Due to the incoming tide it was decided to attach a marker buoy to the torpedoes and return at low water. A 1.5km exclusion zone was then put into force by the Royal Navy team. The incident caused some disruption to flights in / out of Bristol Airport.

Coastguard teams returned to the site in the early hours at low water to ensure no members of the public approached the UXO. The tide then returned and covered the site.

One of the torpedoes was more exposed and consequently had largely corroded. Only the tail end was visible. The other one was buried in the mud and was therefore largely intact.

A controlled explosion of the wartime devices was carried out. When the detonation occurred, the UXO did not ‘high order’, indicating a lack of a high explosive charge. The most likely reason is that these torpedoes were ‘test’ or ‘practice’ weapons. Practice torpedoes from WW2 were usually filled with sand or concrete.

Torp1 Practice torpedoes found sticking out of the mud near Weston super Mare
The more heavily corroded of the two devices.
Historic military activity

During WW2 the coastline near St Thomas’ Head was used as a practice gunnery range. Like many historic coastal firing ranges, many different types of weapon were tested and trained with here. UXO incidents in the area are therefore not uncommon.

During 1967, six inert ground mines and one inert buoyant mine were discovered and disposed of on the foreshore of Weston-super-Mare. By 1968, twelve inert ground mines had been discovered and similarly disposed of. In addition, during 1967 and 1968, 39 depth charges and other projectiles were dealt with.

In January 2017, Brimstone reported on another unexploded torpedo find in the same area.

Aerial torpedoes

First used in WW1, air-dropped torpedoes were used extensively in WW2, and have remained in limited use. Aerial torpedoes are generally smaller and lighter than submarine-launched and surface-launched torpedoes. Since the advent of anti-ship missile technology, aerial torpedoes have been reduced to anti-submarine warfare.

The standard British airborne torpedo for the first half of WW2 was the 18-inch Mark XII, a 450mm design weighing 702 kg. It had a TNT explosive charge of 176 kg. These UXO finds appear to be significantly shorter in length than live versions of air-dropped torpedoes.

torp2 Practice torpedoes found sticking out of the mud near Weston super Mare
An RAF plane drops a torpedo during WW1.