Aerial bombs removed from site of papal mass
By Capt. Christine Bazarin
First published June 13, 2003
On May 27-29 the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team
from Multinational Brigade Northwest was in Petricevac, assisting
local authorities and Civil Protection Agency (CPA) with the
removal of 21 World War II aerial bombs from the site where
the Papal Mass is to be held on 22 June.
Petricevac - With approximately 70,000 pilgrims, high church
dignitaries and VIPs from across Bosnia and Herzegovina and
neighbouring countries expected to attend the Papal Mass and
an unconfirmed number of bombs of questionable stability buried
on site, local authorities in charge of security turned to
SFOR for assistance.
Experience and technical assistance
"The CPA are the lead on this project; but we were asked
to assist in ensuring this area was safe from improvised devices
and the iron bombs that were reported to be here," said
Captain Dave Hemmings, head of the Bomb Disposal Team. "Our
Regiment was founded to dispose of World War II bombs and
we're more than happy to give our experience and technical
assistance to the CPA in this relatively difficult task."
A local priest, who was a child when German troops occupied
the site, remembers that approximately 20 bombs were buried
near the cathedral when the trenches were filled in 1944.
The cathedral was destroyed in the violent years that followed,
and replaced with a new church in 1999. Those who were present
during its construction claim that four of the bombs were
removed and destroyed at that time, leaving, in theory, 16
The UK Bomb Disposal team spent most of Tuesday, May 27 locating
the unexploded ordnance (UXOs) with a metal detector and cordoning
off the search area before they began to dig. By the end of
the first day they had dug an area approximately 10 feet wide,
20 feet long and 4 feet deep beside the church, and unearthed
three badly corroded bombs.
A total of 21
By Wednesday, a total of six bombs had been located in a pattern
alongside the church water pipe. It now became evident that
the remaining bombs were likely buried beneath the newly laid
footings and metal supports put in place for the Pope's platform.
A construction company was called in to remove the structure
on Thursday, 29 May, and the digging continued. By late afternoon
the team's efforts were rewarded with the discovery of 15
more bombs, bringing the total to 21.
The munitions, which were identified as 50 Kg, SD50 aerial
fragmentation bombs, were inspected to ensure their stability
before being transported by the Bomb Disposal Team to Manjaca
Range for disposal.
"We're assisting the CPA with the transportation of these
bombs because they don't have the equipment or the explosive
licences required to move them," explained Hemmings.
After the area has been cleared, construction on the Pope's
platform resumed and was completed by June 7.
In this way, SFOR continued to provide support to the local
authorities to ensure a safe and secure environment, this
time for the Pope's visit. It is one of its contributions
to the papal message of peace and tolerance to the people
of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Related links: SFOR
Nations of SFOR: UK