Lookout! Unexploded Bomb!
Since I have been doing watch duty at Worms Head lookout I seem to have developed a reputation for attracting trouble, so much so that watchkeepers that are put on the roster with me seem to want to swap with someone else. Some incidents carry great sadness and I have had one of those, others are just embarrassing like the time a young lady had crossed over to the Worm an hour before we came on duty and had not checked the causeway closing time. She appeared on the path some half an hour after flooding and was clearly distressed. We called the coastguard who organised the inshore lifeboat to bring her off but these incidents tend to attract a big audience – and on that day it was she who was the attraction.
Yesterday I was on watch with Tony who told me he had been a member for three years and never had an incident, I thought if anyone would keep me safe, he would. It was an afternoon watch and the morning watchkeepers had had a very quiet time so I was not really expecting any fireworks. Some people came and asked about the seals so we invited them in to look through our telescope. An excited oriental gentleman popped his head through the door to ask if there was enough time to cross over. “Two hours” we said and he repeated it loudly and went away full of joy to lead his family through the parted waters.
And then it happened.
“Hello” said a voice and I turned round to see a man leaning on the half-door. He had a strange gleam in his eye. I got up and said “Good afternoon, and what can we do for you?”
“I’ve just found an unexploded bomb on the Worm, it was stuck in the rocks by Devil Bridge.”
I wasn’t sure whether he was to be taken seriously or not but I was rather concerned that he had used the past tense.
“Are you serious?” I said.
“Yes” he said “I’ve brought it back. I’ve put it on the ground in front of your window.”
I went to have a look and yes, there it was – a missile head neatly placed in an east-west orientation. I went out with him to examine it, he, of course was a bit of an expert on this particular creator of devastation.
“See on the front there’s this rod, that must be a kind of trigger” he said.
“Don’t touch that!” I said.
“Well, do you want it, cos if you don’t I’d like to take it home.”
“No I don’t think that would be a good idea, it might be better if you leave it with us.”
And somehow he disappeared.
I ‘phoned the coastguard, explained, and they said that they would send a team down to examine it. As soon as the phone went down we heard the blips of the pagers as the local coastguard team were rounded up. Presently the blue flashing lights came into view and the Land Rover and a car came trundling down the unmade track towards us.
The object was soon surrounded, coastguards were photographing it from the north, south, east and the west. Images were sent to the bomb experts and we awaited a decision.
There was a technicality, you see if the bomb is below the shoreline it is the responsibility of Portsmouth whereas above the shoreline it is Hereford. This had been one but now it was the other so the bomb disposal unit from Hereford would deal with it.
Do you know, it had been quite a misty and drizzly day with not much to look at but suddenly there was so much to see, we had a crowd of coastguards sheltering in the Landover, we had a neatly taped off area and, in the middle of it all – an unexploded bomb! Doesn’t get more exciting than that. Tony started on the Incident Report – his first ever, I had broken his duck!
We get a lot of radio chatter in the lookout some of it totally indecipherable but then we heard our coastguards calling Swansea HQ. “Do you still need us here” they were asking “or can we stand down!” The answer came that they could stand down and we wondered what our position was, we had only half an hour of shift to do and we don’t get overtime! Anyway there was no need for us to stay over so we stared at our bomb for a bit longer.
Time came to pack up and we bade fond farewells.
On the way home we spoke of many things, the bomb was almost forgotten. We had driven through Kittle and had just reached the top of the hill at Bishopston when we saw a white lorry coming towards us, two blue lights flashing – could it possibly be? Yes there it was, painted on the front Bomb Disposal Unit!
I dropped Tony off at the meeting place and set off for home, I had got to the bottom of Mayalls and just joined the traffic on Oystermouth Road and realised that the Bomb Disposal Unit would have come all the way from Hereford along the motorway and through Swansea with its lights flashing and sirens on. So many people would have wondered where and what was this incident and none of them knew.
But Tony did – and so did I.
Click here for the official Incident Report 019