Unexploded wartime shells dredged from seabed

A Royal Navy diver on Lowestoft Lifeboat, as he prepares to board the dredger.

A Royal Navy diver on Lowestoft Lifeboat, as he prepares to board the dredger. Picture: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI - Credit: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI

A lifeboat crew helped Royal Navy divers after two unexploded wartime shells were brought up from the seabed by a dredger.

In testing sea conditions, the Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat assisted Royal Navy divers in dealing with the wartime shells over the weekend.

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat returns from taking Royal Navy divers to deal with ordnance.

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat returns from taking Royal Navy divers to deal with ordnance. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

The unexploded ordnance had come up with sand and silt from the seabed into a dredger working off the east coast.

The Hopper Dredger that dredged up wartime ordnance.

The Hopper Dredger that dredged up wartime ordnance. Picture: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI - Credit: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI 

The Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat crew was initially called out on Saturday, February 13 to escort a team of Royal Navy divers in a Rib.

With a south easterly wind blowing at near gale force seven, temperatures just above freezing and seas with a two to three metre swell, the vessels set out in the early evening to rendezvous with the dredger.

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat taking the Royal Navy divers to the dredger to deal with wartime ordnance.

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat taking the Royal Navy divers to the dredger to deal with wartime ordnance. Picture: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI - Credit: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI


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However the conditions proved to be too dangerous for the Rib and a second attempt was planned for the following day.

Lowestoft Lifeboat Coxswain John Fox said: “On Sunday morning the weather and sea conditions had not improved so we decided to take the two navy divers to the dredger in our lifeboat ‘Patsy Knight’.

The Hopper dredger that dredged up wartime ordnance off the east coast.

The Hopper dredger that dredged up wartime ordnance off the east coast. Picture: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI - Credit: Thomas Rashbrook/RNLI

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"The 100-metre long Belgium registered Hopper Dredger had travelled from Ijmuiden in the Netherlands to work in a position 42 miles off the east coast when they realised that they had brought up some wartime ordnance."

Royal Navy diver Bryant said: “We travelled from our base at the Royal Navy Southern Diving Unit Two in Portsmouth after the UK Coastguard alerted us to the situation.

The Royal Navy divers at Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat station.

The Royal Navy divers at Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat station. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

"The crew of Lowestoft Lifeboat kindly took myself and a colleague to the dredger which had moved to a position seven miles due east of Lowestoft.

"Once on board the dredger we were shown the two projectiles that were four inches in diameter and 16 inches long.

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat returns from taking Royal Navy divers to deal with ordnance.

Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat returns from taking Royal Navy divers to deal with ordnance. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

"They were on top of sand in the main hopper bin and appeared to be in poor condition.

"We decided to put them into sand bags with extra sand to give weight and safely lowered them to the seabed with a marker attached.

Royal Navy divers at Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat Station.

Royal Navy divers at Lowestoft RNLI Lifeboat Station. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

"We recorded the position and intend to come back at a later date to deal with them.”

The dredger was then able to continue its journey to Amsterdam.

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