- Turner, Mike
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Mould’s RMS procedure was based on a basic drill that he had rehearsed on a dummy unit from a damaged acoustic mine. He used a short movement of less than a second’s duration followed by a pause of at least three seconds duration. The procedure was:
- Disarm the bomb fuse using a pneumatic ‘gag’.
- Unthread the primer disc keeper ring with one hand, keeping pressure on the primer disc with the other hand as the ring was removed.
- Snatch the primer disc and spring out in a single rapid movement.
- Fish for the primer using a wooden plug with two little claws.
- Unscrew the detonator.
Mould’s intense concentration during the removal of the primer and detonator was apparent from the following conversation on their removal.
Mould: Geoffrey, what are you doing here?
Turner: I’ve been here all the time.
Mould: What the hell have you been doing?
Turner: Handing you the tools. How do you think you got them?
The German GG bomb-mine (‘George’) was developed by the Luftwaffe to improve the accuracy of minelaying to that of bombing, and so reduce the probability of mine recovery. It was laid without a parachute, and was stabilised by a long ‘Bakelite’ tail with fins. It detonated as a bomb if laid on land, self destructed after 90 seconds if laid in less than 7.3 m of water or acted as an influence mine if laid deeper. Detonation of the mine’s 550 kg explosive charge on land would devastate a large area.
The GG bomb-mine had unique features. The primer and detonator were bolted together, and they could only be accessed by removing the heavy watertight tail dome. This removal exposed selenium photo-electric cells that detonated the main charge when exposed to light. These cells were under two 76 mm diameter glass windows.
Lieutenant Mould was the first to render safe a live ‘George’. It was in mud in a confined space 6 m below the surface at Stepney, London and was rendered safe on the night of 18/19 May 1941. Mould was assisted by Lieutenant Syme. Just after the two glass windows were covered with glued black paper there was an air raid with its attendant blaze of light from enemy flares, searchlights and gun flashes.
Near the RAF Station Pembroke Dock five nights later Syme was the second to render safe a live ‘George’. He had just removed the tail dome when lightning suddenly struck very close to him. Syme placed his hands over the two windows to prevent an ‘eternal’ sixty second electrical storm operating the photo-electric cells.
‘P’ Parties were used by the Royal Navy to clear European ports after the Allied invasion. A party comprised approximately forty ratings and two officers, all volunteers for ‘a hazardous operation’. About half the party were young ratings trained as divers, and the other half were older men trained in the maintenance of the complicated gear, and also acting as attendants to the divers.
Lieutenants J.S. Mould, RANVR, G. Gosse, RANVR and M.S. Batterham, RANVR (Sp.) served with ‘P’-Parties in Europe. Lieutenant Batterham dealt with nearly a hundred mines before and during ‘P’ Party operations.
On failing his passing out exam as an Acting Sub Lieutenant at the RN College Greenwich, Gosse was discharged from the RAN in July 1933. Reenlisting as an Ordinary Seaman in October 1940, he was promoted to Sub Lieutenant in April 1941. He was posted to HMS Lanka for RMS duties at Bombay, and on his return to England in November 1944 he joined ‘P’ Party 1571.
He was the first to render safe an armed pressure mine, a German GD mine. This operation was on 9 May 1945, and was part of ‘P’ Party 1571 operations at Ubersee Haven, Bremen. Gosse dived to a depth of 12 m after other diving had finished for the day. Visibility was zero so he located everything by touch. He had not used a ‘Vernon suit’ on a mine task before, and had trouble with his buoyancy. So he took a turn around his neck with the marker buoy rope that had been secured to the mine by Able Seaman Fawcett, who had located the mine (on top of a corpse). This rope held Gosse’s head and shoulders in place. Gosse overcame the considerable water pressure force acting on the primer disc using a special forked lever and two wedges. He removed the primer disc and then the primer, but did not want to disturb the detonator lest the ingress of water fired the mine. Gosse was just about to untie the rope around his neck when the detonator fired. This was due to water leaking past the detonator after the primer was removed, and causing an anti-recovery hydrostatic switch to function.
Gosse rendered safe two more pressure mines underwater, and each time the detonator fired (as he now expected) about 20 minutes after he commenced rendering the mine safe. He was awarded the GC for these operations. Gosse ‘souvenired’ one of the ‘Oyster’ pressure units from one of these mines.