Lowestoft man plays key role in detonation of Second World War bomb found in Thames
PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 February 2018
A Royal Navy diver with roots close to home had a prominent role to play in the detonation of an unexploded Second World War bomb found near a London airport.
Andy Waller, who grew up in Lowestoft and still lives in the town, works as an able seaman clearance diver - a bomb disposal expert in civilian terms - for an on call navy unit based in Portsmouth, which responds to reports of potential explosive devices.
His duties stretch as far north as Grimsby and the unit is called out roughly every 18 hours.
Mr Waller, who joined the navy in 2002, was pressed into action on Sunday, February 11, when a 500kg device was discovered during planned work at London City Airport.
As part of a four man team, he was called to London at 9am on Sunday morning before spending the afternoon investigating the nature of the device alongside able seaman Alex Bonato.
Mr Waller and Mr Bonato worked from the King George V Docks to dive down towards the bomb, plunging 15 metres into the depths of the Thames three times each, armed with only their sense of touch due to the zero visibility.
“When we’re working nobody is around us,” said Mr Waller. “You’re on your own, underwater, in the dark. It’s very hard for the public and even other people in the military to visualise, understand and appreciate what is involved.
“Despite that, it’s the best job in the navy. The variety of tasks; the intensity of the jobs that we do; the inter-agency work - it’s phenomenal.”
Having ascertained the nature of the device, the pair worked tirelessly overnight to dig away clay from the edge of the bomb to attach a strap and remove it on Monday evening. In the meantime, all flights from the airport had been cancelled.
The bomb was taken two miles offshore to an MOD base at Shoeburyness in Essex for detonation, but the clearance divers faced further delays due to weather conditions that made for dangerous diving.
It was eventually placed on the seabed and detonated on Wednesday afternoon, leaving Mr Waller with a welcome opportunity to spend some time at home.
“We’re feeling very pleased and satisfied that everything came together,” he added. “Things worked well and we obviously achieved the successful detonation of the bomb.”
“Due to the intensity of the work that we do, I’ve not been in Lowestoft since early January, so I’m quite looking forward to some time at home this weekend.”