Monday, April 4, 2011

Starting with a Bang!

When I look back, it seems that there has been one of these on every sea front I have ever walked along, right back to the time when I was a 10 year-old, 50 years ago, walking along the seafront at Southsea with my grandparents. It's a British naval sea sea mine (a 1940 mark XX as far as I can see, from the brass plaque) and ironically this is one of many such weapons of destruction that have been converted for peaceful purposes, as a collecting point for donations to the Shipwrecked Mariner's Society. This one is on the sea front at Sunderland, near the Seaburn lighthouse, and may well have been part of the northern barrage of tens of thousands of mines laid in the North Sea in WW2 to protect east coast shipping. There's an interesting history of British naval minelaying here, more information on mines in general here and a spectacular illustration of their devastating power here.

My grandfather's brother ('Uncle Norman') was a docker in Portsmouth naval dockyard during WW2 and I can recall overhearing him tell the tale of how he had the grisly job of removing bodies of drowned sailors in dry-docked mined ships that had limped back to port, with casualties that had been trapped when water-tight doors had been closed to save the ship. I had nightmares for months after hearing that... 

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