A 35 mile round trip to assist two trawlers which had collided and entangled their nets and an unexploded Second World War bomb kept the volunteer crew of Eastbourne lifeboat at sea for almost 11 hours today.
At 06.44 Eastbourne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat (ALB) was requested to launch by Dover Coastguard when it was reported that two trawlers, one from Holland and one from France, had a near collision 17 miles offshore which resulted in their towed fishing gear becoming entangled. As a precautionary measure the lifeboat was tasked to assist if required. The two trawlers eventually managed to disentangle their gear without assistance. When a later routine call from Dover Coastguard resulted in a failed communication with the Dutch vessel ‘Zuiderkruiz’ another alert was raised. Once more the volunteer crew of Eastbourne lifeboat was re-tasked to investigate. Back on scene it became evident that despite slight damage from the collision all was well aboard the trawler and the reason for their lack of response to Dover Coastguard was that all crew members were on deck repairing their damaged fishing gear.
Before the ALB crew had returned to harbour they were re-tasked to another incident three miles off Beachy Head when the beam trawler ‘Joanna C’ dredged up what was described as a torpedo in its nets. Once photographs were taken and transmitted to the appropriate authorities the object was identified as a British 500lb World War Two bomb, apparently in good condition with detonators intact. The trawler was requested to set anchor and a tense few hours ensued whilst a bomb disposal unit was dispatched from Portsmouth. Several hours later the team had arrived in Eastbourne and were transported to the trawler by the ALB where the decision was made to set a controlled explosion of the device.
At 15.35, with explosive charges attached, the bomb was transported aboard ‘Joanna C’ to shallower water in Pevensey Bay and lowered to the seabed where a controlled explosion was detonated. Much to the surprise of onlookers onshore at least a mile from the explosion the power was felt underground. Eventually, having spent nearly 11 hours at sea, the ALB returned to station and was made ready for service.