The History of 49 Field Squadron EOD (Eeplosive Ordance Disposal).
Supplied by 49 EOD Squadron.
1899 .... The British Government was fighting a costly war against the Boers in South Africa. The military tasks in the Boer War were Sapper intensive and most Engineer units were deployed to South Africa, leaving a few reserves for home defence. More Engineer Squadrons were therefore raised, by order of the Secretary of State and the Squadron was "Born".
1899 .... 49 Fortress Company was 'born' and based in Chatham, prior to moving to Gibraltar, to strengthen the defences of one of the smallest bastions of the British Empire.
1902 .... Re-titled 45 Fortress Company.
The growth of the German Fleet and the potential threat to the British coastline, resulted in the formation of the Coastal Battalion, which consisted of Royal Engineer Sections, based on the Forth, Clyde and Tay.
1905 .... 49 Coastal Battalion (Clyde) Company was formed, consisting of 16 Fortress Company and 3 (Clyde) Company. The Sections remained on the Forth, Clyde and Tay.
Its role was engineer work for the defence of strategic ports and military key points.
1910 .... Unit strength reduced, when the Tay Section was withdrawn.
The Coastal Battalion continued throughout the Great War.
The Company work included: Construction of coastal artillery batteries, camps, warning systems, electrified POW camps and aerodrome landing lights.
June 1918 .... Re-titled 49 (Forth) Fortress Company, based in North Queensferry, as Searchlight Specialists.
The Anti-Aircraft Searchlight role moved to the Ciovilian Home Defence, leaving 49 without a role. The 44 men on establishment were absorbed into 4 Fortress Company.
1947 .... 49 Railway Squadron was established, based at Longmoor as part of 5 Railway Training Regiment.
The Regiment was formed from elements of the railway depot, field works training and technical training wings of the Transportation Training Centre.
1948 .... The Regiment was Re-titled 16 Railway Training Regiment, with the newly named 49 Railway Training Squadron as its only sub-unit.
1961 .... The Squadron amalgamated with the Railway Depot Squadron and Re-titled 49 Railway Training Squadron.
1964 .... Re-titled (back to) 49 Railway Training Squadron.
July 1965 .... The Railway was transfered to the Royal Corps of Transport. The Squadron was disbanded.
Background to Bomb Disposal Role.
April 1948 .... After WW2 ended , bomb disposal units were reduced from 27 Companies, to only 9 Squadrons, with a further 3 Squadrons disbanded at the end of the year.
Civilians, mainly former Ukrainian prisoners of war, took on an increasing responsibility for Battle Area Clearance (BAC), under Military management.
Jan 1950 .... All Indep Bomb Disposal Units were disbanded, except for Bomb Disposal Unit - Royal Engineers, which was restructured with 5 Operational troops and a Plant troop.
1960 .... HQ plus 2 Operational Troops were based at Broadbridge Heath Camp, Horsham, following further reductions.
Re-titled HQ Bomb Disposal Unit RE.
1 Troop was based at Whetstone Camp, N. London
2 Troop was based at Fort Widley, Portsmouth.
Both troops covered all Bomb Disposal in the UK.
1962 .... Royal Engineers assumed responsibility for all Army BAC and absorbed a third Troop - HQ BAC (UK) based at Newhaven,Sussex.
3 BAC Troop consisted of: A Captain, a Sergeant Major, 3x Staff Sergeants, 3x Corporals and 113 Civilians.
1965 .... HQ BDU RE was re-titled 49 Bomb Disposal Squadron, with its 3 troops.
1966 .... HQ 49 Bomb Disposal Squadron moved from Broadbridge Camp to Lodge Hill Camp, Chattenden, Kent. The three troops remained in their locations
Tasks at this time included: Location, Excavation and Disposal of known German bombs, clearence of wartime training areas, coastal and airfield defensive minefields and un-reported bombs routinely dug up during civilian construction tasks.
Lodge Hill Camp also housed : the Civilian BAC Operators and the Joint Services Bomb Disposal School.
Under the newly formed NATO Agreement, Bomb Disposal Units were re-titled Explosive Ordance Disposal (EOD), to fully describe the Unit's role.
Dec 1969 .... Re-titled 49 EOD Squadron RE under HQ EOD Unit RE.
1970 .... Joint Services Bomb Disposal School is Re-titled Defence Explosive Ordance Disposal School.
1970 .... Deployment to Sardinia.
May 1973 .... HQ EOD Unit RE was Re-titled to 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD), which consisted of: SHQ, 49 EOD Squadron, plus 2 x Civilian Troops.
1973/74 .... Deployment to Cyprus.
1974 .... 49 EOD Squadron consisted of: SHQ and 4 Troops:-
1 Troop based at Felixstow
2 Troop based at Tilshead, Salisbury, then Cove 1974-1977 and finally at Minley.
Support Troop and 3 Troop at Lodge Hill.
Support Troop held and maintained the Heavy & Technical EOD equipment.
3 Troop carried out EOD tasks and provided "Crash Crews" to support the Duty Bomb Disposal Officer.
Deployment to West Germany....Regularly.
1974 .... Deployment to Malta.
1975 .... Deployment to The Falkland Islands.
1978 .... Deployment to the Solomon Islands.
1979 .... Deployment to Jersey.
1960 - 1969 .... Unexploded bombs dealt with in the UK amounted to 101.
1970 - 1979 .... Unexploded bombs dealt with in the UK amounted to 155.
During this period, Major GR Fletcher and WO2 SD Hambrook were awarded GM's.
1960 - 1980 .... RE Bomb Disposal personnel were awarded:- 6 x GM's, 1 x OBE, 4 x MBE's, 1 x QGM and 5 x BEM's.
1981 .... Sqn Commander Major AS Hogben QGM Re retired in July 1981.
Custodian of the EOD Technical Information Centre for 14 years, affectionately known as "Uncle Arthur", he was the EOD Guru for many young BDO's carrying out tasks in the UK and abroad.
1982 .... Falkland Islands War.
This conflict was the catalyst to change future War role's of the Squadron.
Only 2 Bomb Disposal Officers were deployed with the Task Force - WO2 Phillips and S/Sgt Prescott.
21st May 1982 .... They successfully disposed of a 450kg (1000lb) bomb in the boiler room of HMS Argonaut - a Leander Class Frigate.
23rd May 1982 .... On board HMS Antelope, they tried to remove a damaged fuze, on the fourth attempt to extract the fuze, the bomb detonated, killing S/Sgt Prescott and seriously injuring WO2 Phillips.
WO2 Phillips was awarded the DSC and S/Sgt Prescott was posthumuously awarded a very rare Naval Award - the Conspicious Gallantry Medal (CGM).
49 EOD Squadron commanded by Major Lucas, deployed to the Falklands after the Argentine Surrender, to assist in the clear-up of: Booby traps, Un-exploded bombs, stockpiles of Ammunition and defensive locations.
An EOD detachment from 33 Engr Regt (EOD) has remainded at Port Stanley to this present day.
Following lessons learnt on the Falklands, 3 Commando Brigade and 5 Airbourne Brigade, both wanted their own Integral EOD assets.
1985 .... Both Brigades were pleased to have their own trained men:-
1 (AB) Troop - Commanded by Capt. T. Curtis and 18 Para-trained personnel
2 (Cdo) Troop - Commanded byLt. TD Vaughan and 16 Commando & Artic trained personnel
3 Troop - was tasked to support ACE Mobile Forces (Land).
The Squadron further supplied Search support for Special Forces, to cover Maritime Counter Terrorism & Land Operations.
Oct 1990 .... Op.Granby (Gulf War)
The Squadron deployed under command of Major NH Larkin, in support of 7 Armoured Brigade and 1 (UK) Armoured Division, preparing for convential & chemical EOD tasks.
The EOD problem did not materalise, as the Iraqi Airforce was destroyed in the early stages of the campaign.
2 (Cdo) Troop took part in clearing the British Embassy in Kuwait.
May 1991 .... The newly formed 21 EOD Sqn RE, took over EOD duties in the Gulf.
1992 .... The Squadron was Re-titled 49 Fd Sqn (EOD), to better reflect the wider role of Combat Engineering within the specialism of EOD operations.
1993 .... The Regiment 'out-grew' Lodge Hill Camp and moved to Carver Barracks, Saffron Walden.
1995 .... The Chemical skills, although not used in the Gulf, was put to good use on Bramley OPeration Cornelius, clearing another part of the House Building Site.
1995 .... Operation Resolute
The Squadron deployed under command of Major RJ Marsh, to Bosnia (Balkans), as part of NATO Implementation Force.
The Squadron cleared Mines, Booby traps and stock piles of munitions.
The Squadron was replaced in theatre by 21 Fd Sqn (EOD).
1997 .... With demise of AMF (L), 3 Troop commanded by Lt Morris, took over the Airmobile role in support of 24 Airmobile Brigade.
Jan 1997 and March 1998 .... 1 (AB) Troop and 3 Troop deployed on 6 month tours respectively.
EOD involvement in Bosnia continues to Present.
Nov 1998 - April 1999 .... Winterbourne Gunner, Salisbury. Operation Abbott.
The Squadron commanded by Major TD Vaughan, deployed to clear Private grounds and the Defence NBC Centre Training grounds, of Chemical munitions. The area covered was 140 hectares of training grounds.
A total of 1072 munitions from WW1 vintage, were excavated.
In a former dump and burning pit, 156 Glass Phials (US Origin) containing Phosgene, mustard, Lewisite and chloropicrin were found. Luckily the contents were missing.
March 1999 .... Centenary Dinner - Winterbourne Gunner, Salisbury.
Grace for the meal, written by Troop Officers read:-
With wine and beerr, in our Centenary Year,
We gather to give our thanks.
Always with a differing role,
Fun and Laughter was the goal.
From Railways and Castles we did rise,
Now bombs and missiles are the prize.
Finally, we thank those who serve and feed us,
But from indigestion, Lord preserve us! Amen.
June 1999 .... An 'Open Day' was held at Carver Barracks, Wimbish, for Serving and Former members of the Squadron, which included a Barbeque and Party.
Aug 1999 - Dec 1999 .... Op. Descant - Northern Ireland
Under command of Lt Hawkins, 1 (AB) Troop deployed for a High-Risk Search role to Northern Ireland.
Due to the Cease-fire, taskings were considerably reduced.
Around this time, the crisis in East Timor - Indonesia, reached critical point and a UN muti-National, Australian led, peacekeeping force deployed.
S?Sgt Firkins and Cpl McMahon of 49 Fd Sqn (EOD) were deployed as part of that force, under OPCOM 1 RGR. They provided the initial EOD capability for the whole force, then shared the work with other EOD Teams form other nations. When EOD work dried up, they switched role to become Combat Engineer Advisors.
July 1999 - Nov 1999 .... The Squadron (Less 1(AB) Troop, deployed to Bramley, Oxfordshire, commanded by Major GJ Whitty, for Operation Apple.
This was a former WW1 Ammunition depot, now handed over for Civilian house building.
Stock piles of buried munitions, including buried chemical munitions were found, the Squadron was tasked with clearing the area.
Major Whitty was subsequently awarded the MBE for the task completed.
Throughout this busy period, the Kosovo Crisis escalated.
The threatened NATO invasion did not take place, but the occupation of Kosoo, heralded many EOD tasks, much of this to clear remnants of the NATO bombing.
Initially, 21 Fd Sqn (EOD) led the busy schedule and after 6 months, they were withdrawn and replaced by a Troop sized detatchment from 49 Fd Sqn (EOD) in Dec 1999, including members of RAF EOD. The BDO's were Lt Davies and S/Sgt Cinderey. The Squadron 2IC Capt Clee deployed with SO3 EOD, into the HQ at Pristina.
The busy 6 months saw a steady reduction in tasking. The detachment carried out Humanitarian tasks, including some tasks of exhuming or removing bodies.
The detachment handed back to 21 Fd Sqn (EOD) in Jun 00.
Apr 00 .... 3 Troop commanded by Lt Hawkins deployed to Batlisk in Kenya.
The troop was tasked to provide Explosive Ordance Cleartance, this involved clearing Live Firing Ranges, uised by Kenyans and Americans, these had never been cleared before. It was only after the tragic death of some Kenyan children, that EOD was called in.
The troop cleared two firing ranges (used yearly), in addition to clearing Un-exploded ordance in the Archers Post area.
They also provided a UXO briefing team, which viosited remote villages, to make children aware of the dangers in touching suspicious objects.
May 00 .... Under command of Capt Brogan (2 (CDO Troop, an 8 man detachment, deployed to the Falkland Islands. The team provided the South GHeorgia Logistic Support Detachment, for a 5 month period, throughout the Antartic Winter.
The detachment provided a variety of Trades and boat Operator skills.
Handing responsibility back to the British Antartic Survey.
There is now no longer any military presence in S. Georgia.