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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Garden trowel used by bomb expert
Prince Rock residents
Residents were allowed to return home in the early hours
A Royal Navy officer has spoken about his most difficult challenge - to defuse a bomb in Plymouth.

About 1,000 residents were moved from their homes after a 154lb (70kg) bomb was found on a building site in Brentor Road, Prince Rock, on Tuesday evening.

The device was taken out to sea and a controlled explosion was carried out.

Lt Mark Northcote said until specialist equipment arrived he borrowed a garden trowel from a local resident to begin excavating the World War II bomb.

"This was the first time I had to deal with an explosive in-situ with the potential to detonate at any time," he said.

I had to defuse it by drilling into the fuse box and hoping it would not set off an explosion
Lt Mark Northcote

The 31-year-old officer from Plymouth is part of the Southern Dive Unit from Devonport Naval Base.

He was called in from leave to deal with the World War II bomb because the unit's duty watch was in Wales dealing with another alert, which turned out to be a false alarm.

Because of its location in the middle of a residential area, there was "devastating potential damage".

"We had no option but to deal with it there because the fuse had been corroded and we could not remove it.

"Therefore I had to defuse it by drilling into the fuse box and hoping it would not set off an explosion."

Training scenarios

Decades of weathering and water corrosion had made the fuse unpredictable and unstable and water had to be regularly poured on it to reduce the risk.

Lt Northcote said dangerous scenarios were created for training purposes, involving houses, roads, railways and schools.

"We nearly had them all in this real-life situation which is rare, but it all passed off safely," he added.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes at about 0100 BST.

The site where the bomb was found

Bomb find is 'no surprise' - historian


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