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Parachute mine related items


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ChrisR

I’ve got a few parachute mine related bits.

My Gran always referred to them as ‘land mines’, but they were actually ‘sea mines’. (Try telling her that, as one destroyed the street in South London she lived in, which was some distance from the sea!)

This is the end cap I have from one that was recovered from the Thames Estuary. The cap was jettisoned as the mine fell, releasing the parachute which was designed to break its fall in order to protect the delicate magnetic influence components within. –

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I have some bits of the parachutes and chords –

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I did pick up one piece of parachute that I am a bit sceptical about as it is of a different type of material from that normally seen, like that above. –

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I acquired this from somebody in America. They didn’t know anything about it and were not aware of the significance of the writing on it –

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If the writing is to be believed, then this was from the first magnetic mine that the British successfully recovered, thereby learning the secrets of how they worked. As a result, degaussing of ships could be developed into an effective counter-measure. At that time Britain’s supply lines were being choked off by these mines, so it was a major turning point, so not just related to acts of extreme bravery, but a major historical event in WW2 – hence I framed it with signatures of the men involved in its recovery. I’m always a bit dubious about ‘fake’ provenance, but I paid absolute peanuts for this. Like I say – jury is still out as to its authenticity, but worth a chance as it is documented that the parachute was recovered from that mine.

I also acquired the condolence slip that was in the medal box, (no medals unfortunately!), and some photographs relating to CPO Baldwin who was one of those involved with the recovery. CPO Baldwin was killed attempting to recover another mine a few months later.

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Below is a hydrostatic clock from a German mine.

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As I understand it, if the mine reaches a depth of around 24 feet or more, water pressure going in the small hole you can see in the above photo, causes a switch to operate that energizes a fuse delay switch. The clock in this unit runs down until the point is reached when battery current is applied to the magnetic firing circuit. Basically it makes the mine become live after a set time in suitably deep water.

These bookends were made using the brass ring that held one of these clocks in a parachute mine. The bookends are written on stating the ring came from a mine that fell at Newton Green, Sudbury, Suffolk.

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Another item I have is a clicker unit and a photo of the mine it apparently came from. This unit could count the number of times the magnetic influence occurred. So, for instance, a ship could pass the mine 11 times without it going off. But the 12th time it would go off. This meant it could be set to catch a big ship in a convoy rather than the little ones that went before it. Also the same stretch of water would have to be swept numerous times.

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The guy who disarmed the mine was Lt Crane, (back to camera). I’ve not been able to find a good photo of him. Here he is looking through a telescope somewhere on the Norfolk Broads with other RMS, (Rendering Mines Safe), personnel, with his hand in front of his face. Anyone would think he didn’t want to be photographed! –

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Below are some fingerless gloves and text book that belonged to a Lt Cdr Hodges. He got the George Medal for working on parachute mines.

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Every day as I drive to work I go over a railway bridge at North Sheen, S.London.

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Hodges worked on a mine that fell unexploded on this bridge, along with Lt Spiers.

As they worked on it the fuze started ticking. These fuzes only ticked for up to 17 seconds – might be the full 17 or just tick for 1 second. Both men made a run for it. Spiers got further away and took cover behind a fence. Hodges decided not to run so far, but instead lay down in the gutter hoping not to be upright when the mine detonated. Referring to the subsequent explosion, Hodges said ‘It hit me hard, tore my coat, half wrenched off a shoe, seemed to fill me with black grit and left my ears bleeding.’

You’ll notice some of the houses around the bridge are newer!

As I said earlier these mines were meant to blow up ships but the Germans realised how effective their blast was in cities. They were actually fitted with a self-destruct mechanism that would blow them up should they fall in shallow water, or on land, thereby protecting the secrets of how they worked. This self-destruction would occur around 17 seconds after the mine struck, unless in the meantime the pressure of surrounding water over-rode the self-destruct switch. These mechanisms often failed, however, when the mine hit a hard surface, despite the parachute, (which was really meant for a water impact). The mine would then remain unexploded, but further disturbance, even the slightest vibration from a nearby vehicle, or a man attempting to defuse it, could re-start the self-destruct mechanism running down the final seconds to detonation.

Last item that’s mine related is this cup. I picked it up at auction for literally the price of a burger.

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It is engraved ‘In appreciation from the Officers of SS Salvestria 27th July 1940.’

I was fascinated to know the story behind it.

Found a photo of the Salvestria –

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I located the Court of Inquiry record at The National Archives.

The ship was en-route from her South Atlantic base to Grangemouth with a cargo of oil. Along with other ships it steamed in line up the narrow safe channel marked by buoys at the entrance to the Forth Naval base.

On its final turn to approach the gate ships of the boom guarding the entrance to the port, a mine exploded beneath her, killing 10 of the crew of 57.

The ship was on fire, with the stern sinking first, the bows settling in the shallow water. HM Drifter Betty Bodie went along-side and took aboard surviving crew. The Norma also came to the rescue, picking up men who were in the water. Many were injured, suffering from burns.

The water was thick with oil, one of the men on the recue ships described it as ‘so thick, on going through it, was just like churning through butter’.

The Inquiry concluded that the cause of the explosion was a magnetic mine.

The Salvestria is one of the largest wrecks in the Forth.

 

 

 

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Richard Auld

What a fantastic and focused collection you have, I shall keep my eyes open to see if anything turns up 'sausage side', I have a friend that is liquidating his ammo collection, he might have something in your area, do you speak any German?

Best 

Rich

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Davejb

I have to agree with Rich thats a great part of history you have there and well presented , I have a mate who lives in South Sheen who is a part time historian , of all things military, I wonder if he has any idea of this, I will let him no and see if he has any more info on this

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ChrisR

Dave, I'd like to find a photo of the aftermath - it must have taken the bridge out. 

I do know a little bit more about the incident, in that a local resident, teenager R.Bennet went with his Dad to the bridge thinking it was a parachutist, but found what they thought was a cannister leaning against the parapet. Thinking it might be a container used to supply German spies, they wondered how to open it. At that point a local eccentric retired Naval Officer appeared brandishing a sword and shouting obscenities about the Nazis. Fortunately a policeman quickly arrived on the scene and pointed out it was actually an unexploded mine and the area should be evacuated.

This is a photo of another mine rendered safe just a short distance away from that one. It came down on 139 Sandycombe Road, Kew, its parachute getting tangled in the roof. - Made safe by Lt Gidden -  His first mine.

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The house it came down on still stands today, albeit with a new roof. -

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I like seeing the places as they are today - brings history to the present. For example another mine that fell unexploded just outside Charing Cross Station, that was also rendered safe by Lt Gidden, you can still see the damage to the masonry where it struck. (Top right of photo). Its by the now extended Platform 1. -

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Richard - Can't speak German unfortunately. To be honest as much as I like collecting items, I probably get just as much enjoyment researching the background to the stuff. I guess we all like to know the story behind the things we collect. They all have a story.

Here are a bunch of photos I've acquired that unfortunately have no who, where or when, but its obviously the Germans dealing with one of their own parachute mines. Get the idea of how big the explosions could be. -

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Norrie

A Fantastic collection, I love it, and really enjoyed reading it, awesome photos too.....thanks for sharing..:)

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