You can contact me at rogercdavies(atsquiggle)

This blog has evolved into a review of historical and modern explosive devices, and responses to them. Links are drawn between historical activity and similar activity in the world today. Mostly I focus on what are now called IEDs but I have a loose personal definition of that and wilingly stray into discussions of more traditional munitions, the science and technology behind them, tactical employment and EOD responses. Sometimes it's just about interesting people in one form or another. Comment is welcome and encouraged but I do monitor it and reserve the right to delete inappropriate stuff. Guest posts are always welcome. Avoid any stuff that makes the enemy's job easier for them.


Entries in 1950-1960 (2)


Early equipment for X-raying IEDs

The use of emerging technology to counter IEDs appears to be a theme of the moment.  But like many of the themes in countering IEDs, this is another that is not new. In 1895 Rontgen developed our understanding of what are now called X-rays and made public his findings on 28 December 1895. This technology was seized upon with alacrity for a number of purposes, including medical applications and non-destructive testing. There was much discussion about the use of "Rontgen images" in court as forensic evidence. But one of the other applications, implemented in early 1896 in Paris, barely more than weeks after the publication of Rontgen's studies, was the use of both portable and permanent systems to x-ray suspect packages and other contraband. At that time there was a signifcant threat of IEDs used by anarchists, revolutionaries and criminals.

I have posted before some of the x-ray images of IEDs at the time, here. But now I have found some images of the systems themselves.

The Paris Bureau de Post seems to have had a permanent system emplaced in an office in Paris for examining suspicious items of post by about June 1896, image below:

And the Bureau de Doaunes appeared to have two portable systems operating, one at Gard du Nord (below) at about the same time.  Thus, within just a few months the technology was being commercailly exploited in C-IED roles.

I think nowadays you wouldn't get quite so many people crowded around the operation. By comparison modern systems such as AS&Es excellent MiniZ technology still uses the X-ray concept (but in the much safer backscatter application)  - but it's doing exactly the same job as the systems above, it's just a lot smaller and more portable. Take a look at the guy on the right in the image above and the guy on the right in the video below - spookily similar!


Bombs in lavatories

The conviction of a team of radical would-be terrorists who discussed planting IEDs in the lavatories of the British Stock Exchange  reminds me that lavatories are a theme in many IED attacks, which I think is curious.  Here’s a range of previous “bombs in the bogs”"

Only a couple of days ago some sort of apparent explosive device was found in the lavatory of a Libyan plane in Egypt    For what its worth I don’t think it was an IED but the story is pretty cloudy for now.

In May 2008 there was the very peculiar incident in Exeter, UK, where a decidedly odd individual detonated a device while he was in the lavatories of a fast food resturant.

In 1957 an elderly man blew himself up in the lavatory of a passenger aircraft over California. A good investigation report is here    The device was constructed by dynamite and blasting caps with the blasting caps initiated by matches and burning paper.  Only the perpetrator was killed.

A similar dynamite IED functioned in the lavatory of an aircraft in 1962 over Iowa, this time killing all aboard.

A Canadian passenger aircraft  blew up after a device exploded in the lavatory over British Colombia in 1965. The crime was never solved.

In 1939, as part of a significant Irish terrorist bombing campaign in England a bomb was planted in a public lavatory in Oxford street. Disaster was averted when the lavatory attendant dumped the IED in a  bucket of water (not a good response, but a brave man).  Several other incidents in this campaign were IEDs left in lavatories. The attendant was awarded £5 for his bravery

In 1884, during another Irish bombing campaign in England, (yes there have been a few) the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, Scotland Yard, was severely damaged in an explosion caused by a large IED being left in a public lavatory next door to the police Headquarters.  Here’s a picture. 

There’s an interesting aspect to this story. Several months earlier, in 1883, an Irish revolutionary organization , the Irish Republican Brotherhood sent a letter to Scotland Yard  threatening to 'blow Superintendent Williamson off his stool' and dynamite all the public buildings in London on 30 May 1884. The Met Police largely ignored the warning, and then on the very day promised the explosion at Scotland Yard occurred, as did two other explosions elsewhere in London.  The failure of the Met Police to protect their own headquarters, as well as the occurrence of several other IED attacks across London embarrassed the police severely and led indirectly to the formation of Special Branch.

There are numerous other IED attacks on lavatories, too many to list.