On Saturday a suspected WWII anti-shipping mine was discovered at a north Cornwall beach. The Coast Guard were alerted and EOD experts from the Royal Navy were dispatched to the scene.

The UXO turned out to be a harmless training weapon, previously identified as such, a number of years ago.

The fact that this object was known to the Coast Guard and a Bomb Squad still attended the scene, highlights the significance of a live anti-shipping mine find.

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anti-shipping mine WWII Cornwall
A very convincing training weapon, easily mistaken for the real thing.
Can a WWII Anti-Shipping Mine be problematic?

Most historic sea mines are encountered on beaches. They do not come into contact with areas of dense population and therefore are not as problematic as unexploded bombs buried under cities and towns. For example, when a live German sea mine was found at a Sussex beach last month, disruption was minimal.

However, if mines wash up close to port infrastructure the ramifications can be significant. In 2015 two mines encountered close to Calais caused the closure of the port and cancellation of multiple ferry crossings.

A Royal Navy bomb disposal team was sent to check this mine even though they had been told by the Coast Guard that it was a training weapon. You can’t be too careful when dealing with suspected UXO of this size. Had it been a live air-delivered mine, there would have been a very large associated hazard.

British WWII air-delivered mines measured approximately 9 feet by 17 inches and weighed in at around 680kg. Half of this weight was the amatol or minol HE charge; a very large quantity of explosive.

anti-shipping mine RAF WWII
An RAF Lancaster bomber is ‘bombed-up’ with air-delivered anti-shipping mines during WWII