An explosive ordnance disposal team from the United Kingdom found and destroyed more than 800 kilograms of unexploded World War II munitions during Operation Render Safe in the Solomon Islands.
The from 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) based at Carver Barracks in Saffron Walden, Essex, worked with the Royal Solomon Island Police Force to locate the explosive remnants of war in the jungle and waters in and around Russell Island.
They found more than 680 individual items in the first 10 days of the operation, ranging from grenades and 37mm projectiles to 75mm anti-tank heat rounds and 105mm high explosive projectiles.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operator Corporal Scott Millin said the demolition of the items will have a big local impact. “Ultimately it’s made the Solomon Islands a lot safer because there’s a big problem out here with locals using explosives to make fish bombs,” he said.
“The big problem is the people who find the explosives don’t really know how to deal with them, so in essence they’re hurting themselves, so every one we take away just makes it a lot safer.”
Crucial members of the team
The team found many of the munitions after engaging with the local community and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operator Sergeant Lee McCarthy said children were a good source of information.
“We went to one of the villages in the south, bumped into some local kids, started talking to them and within a few minutes they had pointed out to us where an item was and we went round dealt with that item and got rid of it,” he said.
He said the Royal Solomon Island Police Force, with their experience and intelligence gathering capabilities, also proved invaluable.
“Their recognition of ordnance and understanding of the dangers is far past what I expected them to be. They’ve been really crucial members of the team,” he said.
The British Army team operated in tough conditions, having to machete their way through overgrown jungle in 30 degree temperatures and high humidity. Still, the team had high spirits.
“I’ve never done anything like this before to be honest. It’s a lot different to the usual operations we do in the UK so coming over here and getting to do more humanitarian sort of stuff has been a very good experience,” Corporal Millin said.
Operation Render Safe is an ongoing Australian Defence Force led commitment to explosive ordnance disposal in the South West Pacific. More than 180 personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom are involved in the 2016 operation.
“It’s been really good collaborating with the Australian forces, the Canadians and Kiwi contingent as well, passing experiences and knowledge from nation to nation, learning about their equipment and different people’s techniques and procedures,” Sergeant McCarthy said.