16th August 1969

Divers move 70 primed bombs

When 70 bombs were found in a sunken German freighter just outside the shipping lane into St Helier Harbour, the Royal Navy was called in to move them.

The bombs were primed to explode and, having been in the water since the Arnold Mask sank in 1943, were unstable, which gave the dangerous mission an additional edge. Nonetheless, Navy specialists assured islanders that the chance of them all exploding simultaneously was very low, and that work to remove them from the vessel, take them further out to sea and detonate them would take around three weeks to complete.

St Helier safe

“Because of the position they are lying in and the depth of the water, there is no truth in the rumours that half of St Helier could be destroyed if the bombs were to explode,” the Navy spokesperson, quoted in several papers, assured locals and visitors alike.

The three-week projection was later extended to a month but it actually took much longer. The following year, the International Herald Tribune reported that “a 200 foot high column of water was blasted into the air… by a Royal Navy underwater bomb-disposal team that detonated eleven 1,000-pound World War II bombs in the hold of the Arnold Mask… the bombs were the last of 36 in the wreck. The rest were exploded last year.”


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