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Royal Navy Blows Up Ancient Torpedo in Scapa Flow

royal navy
Royal Navy divers hoisted the torpedo off the seabed using airbags (RN)

Published Jul 15, 2022 3:19 PM by Royal Navy News

Last wekend, Royal Navy bomb disposal experts safely blew up an old torpedo in Scapa Flow which could have damaged underwater infrastructure.

A specialist team from the Royal Navy’s Diving and Threat Exploitation Group traveled to Orkney after survey ship MV Athena found the aged device while scanning a route for underwater cables between Flotta and South Ronaldsay.

The HM Coastguard was alerted to the device and a 100-meter exclusion zone set up around the location. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from Charlie Squadron (previously the Northern Diving Group until a shake-up of all divers and the creation of the new Diving and Threat Exploitation Group).

The five-strong team made an almost 400-mile trip from their headquarters in Faslane to reach the scene in Scapa Flow, which served as the principal base of the Royal Navy in both its 20th Century conflicts with Germany.

“It was a challenging task,” said Charlie Squadron’s Chief Petty Officer (Diver) Roy Edwards. “The suspected ordnance was located 210 meters from an oil pipeline and the weather was also an issue with a sea state 2-3 and wind gusting at 20 knots. “The torpedo was very degraded, and we needed to move it to a safe location, away from the pipeline, before it could be safely disposed of. It was a delicate job.”

The three-day operation was broken down into several phases. After diving, locating, and marking the torpedo, the team next attached straps and used underwater lifting equipment to raise it carefully to the surface. 

The torpedo was then towed some two nautical miles away to a new location, well away from underwater cables, pipelines, and fish farms. 

Finally, just after 1700 hours on Sunday the divers carried out a controlled underwater explosion to dispose of the ordnance.

Unfortunately, the condition of the torpedo was poor and could not be definitively identified, although it was thought to be a Mark 8 torpedo, a type which first entered production in the 1920s.

The task at Scapa Flow is the third which Charlie Squadron have attended on Orkney this year. In total the team has tackled 63 conventional munitions disposal tasks and three improvised explosive device tasks throughout their area of operation, including all of Scotland and northern England. 

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.