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Navy experts blow up old torpedo during four-day operation in Scapa Flow

Navy experts blow up old torpedo during four-day operation in Scapa Flow
12 July 2022
Navy bomb disposal experts safely blew up an old torpedo in Scapa Flow which could have damaged underwater infrastructure.

A specialist team from the Royal Navy’s Diving and Threat Exploitation Group travelled to Orkney after survey ship MV Athena found the aged device while scanning a route for underwater cables between Flotta and South Ronaldsay.

The Coastguard was alerted to the device and a 100-metre exclusion zone set-up around the location, before the highly-trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from Charlie Squadron – previously the Northern Diving Group until a shake-up of all divers and the creation of the new Diving and Threat Exploitation Group.

The five-strong team made an almost 400-mile trip from their headquarters in Faslane to reach the scene in Scapa Flow, which served as the principal base of the Royal Navy in both its 20th Century conflicts with Germany.

“It was a challenging task,” said Charlie Squadron’s Chief Petty Officer (Diver) Roy Edwards. “The suspected ordnance was located 210 metres from an oil pipeline and the weather was also an issue with a sea state 2-3 and wind gusting at 20 knots.

“The torpedo was very degraded, and we needed to move it to a safe location, away from the pipeline, before it could be safely disposed of. It was a delicate job.”

The three-day operation was broken down into several phases. After diving, locating, and marking the torpedo, the team next attached straps and used underwater lifting equipment to raise it carefully to the surface. 

The torpedo was then towed some four kilometres to a new location well away from underwater cables, pipelines, and fish farms. 

Finally, just after 5pm on Sunday the divers carried out a controlled underwater explosion to dispose of the ordnance.

Unfortunately, the condition of the torpedo was poor and could not be definitively identified, although it was thought to be a Mark 8 torpedo, a type which first entered production in the 1920s.

The task at Scapa Flow is the third which Charlie Squadron have attended on Orkney this year. 

In total the team have tackled 63 conventional munitions disposal tasks and three improvised explosive device tasks throughout their area of operation.

They are held at ten minutes’ notice to provide Explosive Ordnance Disposal support to Police and Coastguard across a vast area from Liverpool to Hull, then northwards to encompass Scotland, including all the outlying islands.

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