By Cpl. Rob Knight
First published in
SFOR Informer#110, April 4, 2001
Srbac - Srbac in the RS is a sleepy little town
situated on the southern bank of the Sava River. Apart from some
haphazard construction work going on in the town, nothing much
disturbs people at the weekends. Crows nesting in the tall poplar
trees in the town square caw noisily in the still, warm air on
what would appear to be a typical day in early spring.
On the southern outskirts of the town, on a hill not far from
the town's water reservoir, the pace of life is somewhat different.
Here, troops from the UKBG, part of the SFOR presence in the Republika
Srpska are conducting a cordon and search operation in response
to an anonymous tip-off.
In the scrubby woodland just a few hundred metres from the nearest
houses, lies another forgotten relic of the war: an underground
ammunition bunker containing as much as five tons of explosives
At first light, following a period of observation by reconnaissance
elements of C Squadron, The Queen's Dragoon Guards, sappers from
the Royal Engineer EOD detachment based at Mrkonjic Grad Bus Depot,
began the dangerous and laborious task of clearing and emptying
Sgt. Jim Duckworth, RE EOD, led this phase of the operation.
found evidence that the bunker had been opened recently: scattered
packaging around the entrance and some mine detonators on the
floor of the bunker just inside the doorway. These detonators
contain enough explosive power to blow a man's foot off, so my
men and I are being very cautious at the moment."
The clearing of the entrance to the bunker progressed well into
the afternoon, but after that, work proceeded more quickly. Initial
estimates that the bunker contained up to five tons were confirmed
as the day wore on.
Items removed included grenades, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle,
anti-tank mines of various types and a large assortment of anti-personnel
mines. All of the ordnance removed was in its original packaging
and immaculately preserved.
The task of cataloguing the various types of ordnance and making
it safe to be moved to another location fell to Cpl. Craig Appleby
we're finding is all kinds of grenades and mines, mostly consisting
of the older types found in the inventories of the Armed Forces
in BiH." Some of the munitions found here are inherently
dangerous, even to the user.
"The BRK M-79 is a hand-thrown anti-vehicle grenade that
even the locals didn't like using as they had a habit of exploding
prematurely, injuring or killing the man doing the throwing."
Several cases of these were found at Srbac.
Despite evidence that the bunker may have been opened and used
during the recent war (a large minefield is located less than
one km from the site), speculation grows that this may have been
one of a series of pre-positioned arms caches along the Sava River,
placed there by the former Yugoslav Army (VJ) as part of a soviet
defence programme. Paperwork found inside the bunker indicated
that some of the munitions found might have been placed there
as long ago as the 1950's. In that event, we can expect many more
discoveries of this kind.
Nations of SFOR: UK
SFOR at Work