UK: Major Maritime Exercise Ends With Bang


A major maritime exercise recently ended with a bang, when minehunter vessels participating in Exercise Joint Warrior 2011, hosted by the Royal Navy off the northwest coast of Scotland, encountered two pieces of Second World War ordnance.

The Mine Counter-Measures (MCM) force, consisting of minehunters from the UK, Netherlands and Norway, discovered the unexploded ordnance lying on the seabed, while taking part in the biannual Exercise in the waters around Loch Ewe.

After neutralising a US Mark 12 mine, the force finished off the exercise by disposing of a WW2 German mine, conducting a controlled explosion of the 70-year-old piece of ordnance.

Commander David Bence Royal Navy, who headed the Mine Warfare Battle Staff (MWBS) during Joint Warrior, said:

“The Exercise has been a gratifying period of training for my staff, who have proved themselves ready for operational deployment abroad.

“Working with our international partners is of great benefit to all involved, and dealing with real ordnance alongside a well-developed, complex exercise scenario is always satisfying. It certainly underlines how cohesive and capable we are as a Mine Counter-Measures community.”

During the Second World War, Loch Ewe was used as a departure point for submarines working in the Atlantic, and as an assembly point for convoys heading to West Africa, North America and Russia.

“Port A”, as it was then known, would have been a valuable target for the enemy, and the Royal Navy used anti-submarine nets to protect its assets.

It is thought that the German GN-class mine encountered during the exercise could have been laid by the submarine U-31, operating from Wilhelmshaven under the command of Johannes Haberkost.

In December 1939, U-31 was repelled by the anti-submarine nets, and it is believed that its cargo of mines was laid across the entrance to the Loch. That same month, mines there damaged HMS Nelson, and later caused the losses of HMS Promotive and HMS Glen Albyn.


Dutch vessel HNLMS Willemstad was given the honour of disposing of the German mine during the exercise, a task which Dive Supervisor, Petty Officer Anke van der Velde, took to with relish.

“It was extraordinary to be able to touch this ordnance,” he said. “It is staggering to think that it was last handled by the armourer of a German U-boat.”

Source: mod, April 21, 2011;