You can contact me at rogercdavies(atsquiggle)  If you have a comment and the system won't let you post it, ping me using the @ for (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.

A note on moral perspectives. Throughout this blog there are descriptions of all sorts of people using IEDs, explosives, or suffering the consequences. Some of the people using IEDs are thought of as heroes by some and terrorists by others. One person's good guy fighting for a cause is another person's evil demon.  It's complicated, and history adds another series of filters too. All of us too live in a narrative made up around however we were brought up, what we were taught and what we learned along the way, rightly or wrongly. So if you sense moral ambivalence, one way or the other, well, I'm guilty and I'm not perfect.  By and large though, I have unapologetic sympathy for those dealing with the devices, whether they be soldiers, cops, or whatever, even those who are part of Nazi or other nasty regimes. That's the cool thing about EOD techs - we don't really care who the enemy is.


Entries in EOD Equipment (14)


EOD Vehicles for moving IEDs

I have written before about French EOD capabilities developed in Paris in the latter part of the 19th century. One of their techniques was to recover IEDs to one of 4 laboratories scattered around Paris. It was a practice copied by Col Majendie in the UK for a while but fell out of fashion here for a number of technical reasons.

Here's a reminder of Majendie's hand cart used to transport IEDs to Duck Island in St James's Park in about 1880. At other times Col Majendie (the UK's first official bomb disposal expert), simply hailed a cab and told the driver to drive carefully. 

I've just found this picture dated 1906 of the French EOD vehicle in Paris used to transport the IEDs (called "engines" in this picture)

A few years later this vehicle here was used by the Paris bomb squad. Note the container on the floor, which was loaded onto the back

The concept remained in use in a number of places, not least the USA. In 1941, following a bomb incident that killed two detectives at the World's Fair, Mayor LaGuardia funded development of a bomb containment unit made from woven steel cables. Vehicles like this remained in service for a number of decades, and indeed a vehicle delivered to the NYPD Bomb squad in 1965 was identical in terms of the containment structure, albeit mounted on a modern truck.

Modern vehicles look somewhat different. 


Detecting tunnellers with dried peas

In an earlier post I wrote about a peculiar technique allegedly recommended hundreds of years ago to detect buried explosives   I have been on the hunt for more very early explosive devices and EOD techniques.  I'm currently deep into a startling book published in 1590. Forgive me but I'm going to keep the name and author of the book to myself until I've finished working out what it says.

For now here's an intruiging technique from the book for detecting sub-terranean tunnelling such as was used for mining the ramparts and walls of fortified castles. Tunelling is of course still used by all sorts of terrorists, and others. Apologies if I have mistranslated any of the description from quite archaic (for me) language. For ease of reading here's my explanation of a couple of the words which may not be familiar to you, followed by the full description:

"lattine bason"  = tin basin, or tin pan

"peason" = dried peas

"woll" = wool

As touching thus for to know whether there be any undermining in the ground, and where that they be, it is thus knowne: - Take a lattine bason, and goe unto the place that you doo suspect that underminers may bee, and set that bason uppon the ground, and then put five or sixe peason in that bason, and if that there bee any underminers neere at hand, then at everie stroke that they are in the ground doo make with their tooles, the pease will make a jarre in the bason; and also the effect will the more appeare, if that you doo binde a sackfull of woll as hard as you can, then setting the bason with pease uppon that, you shall heare every stroake that is made in the ground, and this is one of the best things that may be devised to be placed in any place, for to knowe where that underminers be.

I find the counter-intuitive idea of tightly bound wool to aid the "coupling" of the tin pan with the ground to be very interesting. If I had anything other than tinned peas in the house I'd do an experiment right now...

More to follow on other fascinating matters from this book in weeks to come.


EOD Equipment 1573 and 1971

I have finally found a picture of a wheeled EOD shield from 1971 - courtesy of RLC Museum. Compare these two largely similar tools, the first from 1573, and the second from 1971 - 402 years apart. I believe the shield was used operationaly in Hong Kong in the sixties, and quickly went out of service after limited use in Ulster in the early seventies.

circa 1573circa 1971

My earlier post on the subject of historical ROV's is here. 




If I had a hammer

....i'd use it to explode an IED.  Lots of Birmingham Screwdrivers being used here. Bizarre.



Historical ROVs

Recently I had a dialogue with some colleagues as I researched modern versions of this very early piece of EOD equipment from 1573.
A remarkably similar piece of equipment was in operational use only 45 years ago and I was seeking a photo of the equipment in use in the 1960's/1970s. I'm still digging on that. 
Anyway the dialogue with a few modest practitioners of the art of EOD in the 1970s took me in an interesting direction, and I’ve turned up some interesting stuff from much earlier on the subject of ROVs.  The general perception of the world we live in is that the tracked ROV as used in EOD is a very modern invention. Manufacturers produce glitzy videos showing these twin-tracked vehicles performing tricks as the operator remains a safe distance behind, secure from the hazards that their robotic buddy faces. All very High-Tech.  I used to work for one such manufacturer, and we have all seen the videos showing the technological prowess of a wide range of differing modern ROVs.   Like many, I assumed that the tracked ROV was essentially invented for the purpose of EOD in the dark days of the early 1970s.  But it appears that ROVs were around for a considerable time before the 1970s.  This does not to lessen in any way the significant innovative effort that went into the development of the “wheelbarrow” series of ROVs and all subsequent EOD “robotics”, but there are some fascinating precedents.
I began by searching for images of the first ROVs in Northern Ireland in about 1972, in the hope that they might also show images of the protective screen I was looking for so I could do a visual comparison. Suddenly I came across a picture in some archives that made me sit up.  You should understand that my operational experience was largely in the 1990s so I’m most familiar with Mk8 “wheelbarrow” ROV.  But I came across the image which at first glance appeared to show a number of Mk 8 Chassis…. but from WW2… How could that be?
British soldiers with captured Goliaths
US Navy examine captured Goliaths on Utah Beach 11 June 1944
For comparison here’s  a picture of a Mk 8 wheelbarrow - note that the main body of the Mk 8 is remarkably similar to the images above in terms of shape and scale.
The WW2 item turns out to be of a system called Goliath. It's not an EOD ROV, but rather its a remotely controlled demolition vehicle. 
When you think that probably there were only a couple of hundred Mk 8 wheelbarrows produced in the 1980s and 1990s, but there were many thousand “Goliath” ROVs produced.  The Goliath ROVs were initially electrically powered but later used a small two cylinder engine.  Here's a great shot from the top, showing the engine and the wire spooling from the rear. 
I also found reference to a Japanese tracked ROV, also used a a remote demolition tool - called the "I-GO” developed in 1937. How strange that the nomenclature predates the “I-Robot"
Japanese I-GO ROV from 1937
Now in the early 1990s some of the Northern Ireland EOD units developed a deployment technique called the “Rapid Deployment Trolley”.  This was a cobbled together wheeled trolley on which we placed the Mk 8 wheelbarrow ROV to transport it rapidly to and from a small helicopter in emergency situations where a full deployment requiring a large helicopter wasn’t possible. So it was with delight I saw that Germans in WW2 also had such a “trolley” for the Goliath - and actually theirs looked much better engineered!. Vorsprung Durch Technic.
Wheeled Trolley for moving Goliath ROVsA Goliath being moved on its wheeled Trolley, Warsaw
Then as I was researching the provenance of the German Goliath I came across reference to the genesis of this equipment… It turns out that the German Goliath was based on an ROV developed by the French in the years running up to WW2….  Supposedly, as the Germans advanced on Paris the inventor, Adolphe Kegresse threw the prototype into the Seine, but somehow the Nazis got wind of this, reverse-engineered it, and ended up building the Goliath.  I have also found reference to the Germans recovering , later, Kegresse’s blueprints for the ROV and reverse engineering their ROV from that. 
The French Kegresse ROV, 1940
I then found details of  British tracked ROV, developed in 1940 by Metropolitan Vickers, again as a remote demolition tool. Here’s an image - note the interesting inwardly facing track extensions.
Vickers MLM ROV, 1940
50 of these Vickers MLMs were built before the project was suspended in 1944.  I have a copy of a Canadian officer’s trial report if anyone is interested.  The ROV had a range of 1100 yards and could carry 120lbs of Ammonal. Initiation was either by a command signal or a contact switch (which had a command safety override). 
I then found a reference to an American ROV from WW1. This is the Wickersham Land Torpedo, built in 1918, possibly 1917 but patented in 1922. Here's the link to the patent. They were manufactured by the Caterpillar company, I think.  
Wickerhsam Land Torpedo
This ROV looks similar in size shape and design to a modern day Talon EOD ROV, or a Dragon Runner. The Wickersham and the Kegresse ROVs look pretty similar.
I kept digging and encountered 2 more tracked ROvs that predates the American one - both French.
The first of these was the “torpille terrestre electrique”  (electrical land torpedo), developed by M. Gabet and M. Aubriot in 1915. It could carry 200kgs of explosive and was wire guided of course.  I’m intrigued that the single lever track at the rear looks a little like the lever track on some modern robots.
The second of these was the “Schnieder Crocodile” also developed in 1915 and trialled by many Allied nations, including the British, Belgian, Italian and Russians.
"Crocodiles" Schneider type B.
It could carry 40kg of explosives and looks similar in size, shape and scale to the Allen-Vanguard ROV
So it seems that next year will be the centenary of the tracked ROV...