Since the Second World War, specialist Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) support has been provided by the military to the emergency services on a Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) basis – the same arrangements as the military’s current work to support efforts to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
The vast majority of the approximately 2,500 EOD jobs every year arise from people finding old bombs and ammunition, but service personnel also support the police responding to criminal and terrorist threats – both false alarms caused by suspect packages and, the rare, genuine incidents.
The Army’s UK EOD tasks fall to 11 EOD & Search Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, part of 29 EOD & Search Group (29 EOD&S Gp) who are also responsible for providing all of the Army’s EOD, Search, Military Working Dog and specialist C-CBRN Capability both for UK and overseas operations. The UK response is supported by Royal Navy EOD teams trained and equipped to a common standard, with Royal Navy Clearance Divers providing underwater EOD capability.
On Sunday 5 April, a farmer raised the alarm after finding a large aircraft bomb while digging over fields just outside Drayton near Abingdon. Thames Valley Police requested EOD support and a specialist team was scrambled from 621 EOD Squadron, 11 EOD & Search Regiment RLC. The item was initially identified as one of the RAF's Medium Capacity 500lb Bombs, believed to have been dropped on the fields when they were used as a bombing range during the Second World War.
After sappers from MACA Troop, 29 EOD&S Group Support Unit built a large sandbag structure around the bomb to contain the blast, it was destroyed in a controlled explosion on the following Tuesday morning.
Examination of the debris showed that the bomb had in fact contained no explosives, but given its size and condition, destroying it in situ was considered the safest approach.
supporting the emergency services to protect the UK is business as usual for the military Commander 29 EOD&S Gp
Commander of 29 EOD&S Group Colonel Daniel Reyland said: “While the discovery of a bomb this large is relatively unusual, supporting the emergency services to protect the UK is business as usual for the military and this is an excellent example of the EOD jobs we are called out to around the country on a regular basis.
At the beginning of the month, a phased draw down of the Royal Air Force’s bomb disposal capability saw 29 EOD&S Gp take on responsibility for all land EOD activity, with support from the Royal Navy’s Fleet Diving Squadron. RAF teams had provided support for UK incidents until April 2019, and maintained involvement in incidents involving crashed aircraft and overseas operations until standing down on 1 April.
Col Reyland said: “As the Group takes on full responsibility for EOD response, I would like to thank the RAF’s 5131 (Bomb Disposal) Squadron for their sterling service alongside us over the years.”