Engineers are preparing to blow up scores of unexploded Second World War bombs and mines, so a huge wind farm off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast can be built.

Energy company ScottishPower Renewables will start offshore construction of the East Anglia THREE wind farm - the second largest in the world - in the North Sea later this year.

But before work on the turbines, some 40 miles from the coast, can begin, the company needs to make sure there is no unexploded ordnance beneath the waves to endanger vessels and equipment during the scheme's construction.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: The East Anglia THREE wind farm is due to be built some 40 miles off the Norfolk and Suffolk coastThe East Anglia THREE wind farm is due to be built some 40 miles off the Norfolk and Suffolk coast (Image: ScottishPower Renewables)

The company has applied for two marine licences, which would allow engineers to scour the sea for bombs and mines scattered across the sea during the war by German and Allied forces.

Years after the end of the conflict, they can still pose a danger to boats.

In 2020, crew members on a crabbing boat off the coast of Cromer suffered injuries after a crab pot string disturbed a German bomb which had lain dormant for eight decades.

And last year, a bomb caused hold-ups to another infrastructure project nearer to home, when work on Great Yarmouth's Herring Bridge was delayed by the discovery of a German Second World War device on the riverbed nearby.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Offshore work on the East Anglia THREE wind farm is due to start later this yearOffshore work on the East Anglia THREE wind farm is due to start later this year (Image: ScottishPower Renewables)

Should the bid for licences succeed, then ScottishPower Renewables would carry out technical surveys and then use remotely operated vehicles and divers to identify unexploded ordnance.

There are then a range of options, including detonating the bombs and mines, routing cables around them or relocating them, if deemed safe to do so.

Efforts to identify the unexploded ordnance is due to start next month, with the power company estimating there could be about 80 bombs and mines that would need to be cleared.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Bombs from both Allied and German aircraft were dropped in the North SeaBombs from both Allied and German aircraft were dropped in the North Sea (Image: Press Association Archive)

They could vary in weight from 50kg German bombs to 987kg German parachute mines.

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Techniques would be put in place to protect mammals in the vicinity of the clearance operations, including 'bubble curtains' and acoustic deterrent devices.

A ScottishPower Renewables spokesman said: "Safety is our number one concern and, as a responsible developer, our priority is to minimise the potential impact of any unexploded ordnance on both the seabed and the sealife around our windfarm while we work to deliver more clean energy to the grid.

"We look forward to progressing these essential works before starting the offshore construction for East Anglia THREE – which will produce enough green electricity to power more than one million homes – later this year."

 

THE DANGERS IN THE DEEP

On the morning of December 15, 2020, the Galwad-Y-Mor was crabbing 20 nautical miles north of Cromer when a blast, caused by old munitions on the sea bed, threw the boat out of the water.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: The Galwad-Y-MorThe Galwad-Y-Mor

Five crew members were knocked to the deck, with the boat deluged with sea water.

Captain Mulhearn, in the wheelhouse, took a strong blow to the head. He also suffered three broken vertebrae, a broken sternum, knee damage, a broken orbital bone and multiple face lacerations.

Despite this he found the emergency handheld VHF radio amid the debris and sent a distress message to both the coastguard and the boat's sister vessel, Ingenuity.

Realising his crew was still in danger and with the help of a crew member, Mr Mulhearn launched the vessel’s life raft, before ordering the crew to change from their personal floatation devices into lifejackets and prepare to abandon ship.

Great Yarmouth Mercury: Damage to the Galwad-Y-MorDamage to the Galwad-Y-Mor (Image: MAIB / Crown copyright)

All six crew members were eventually picked up by two boats operating from an offshore support vessel, the Esvagt Njord, which services Equinor's Dudgeon wind farm north of Cromer.

RNLI Cromer’s all-weather Tamar class lifeboat was also called in to help.

The crew included two UK nationals and five Latvians - all of them were hurt in the blast, with one of the crewmen losing sight in one of their eyes.

Courageous Mr Mulhearn was presented with the Emile Robin Award by the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society. Tragically, he died two years later.