A two-week hunt for the dangerous relics of World War 2 led to 18 bombs and mines being found by British Royal Navy HMS Grimsby in the approaches to Oslo. Ships from five nations – currently attached to a NATO minehunting force – scoured stretches of the 60-mile fjord leading to Norway’s capital in the latest mission to ensure the waters are safe, 75 years after the war’s end. During the German occupation of Norway, the inlet was heavily mined – and bombers also dumped their payloads into the fjord.
NATO’s Standing Minecountermeasures Group 1 – charged with safeguarding northern European waters and ensuring they are mine-free – regularly conducts concerted ‘historic ordnance disposal’ operations, both in Oslofjord and off the coast of the Baltic States whose waters were similarly heavily mined and peppered with bombs during the conflicts of the 20th Century. In the fortnight-long effort in Oslofjord, the NATO force – flagship FGS Donau, BNS Bellis, HNLMS Willemstad, HNoMS Otra plus Grimsby – located 38 pieces of ordnance, 18 alone by Grimsby: 15 British air-dropped mines, plus three British bombs.
Despite near freezing temperatures above and below the waves, the Faslane-based ship’s divers still plunged into the water to inspect and identify objects located by Grimsby’s sonar and its expert operators. Unfortunately for them there was no boom accompanying the location of the old ordnance – the sites in which they were found meant detonating them, even in controlled explosions, wasn’t safe; instead their locations were pinpointed and passed on to the Norwegian authorities who will update their charts and issue warnings accordingly.
The group met up last month in the English Channel and made its way into the Baltic via the Kiel Canal. The first task was to practise together and fully integrate – serials such as rafting together with flagship tanker FGS Donau, refueling on the move, force protection and joint manoeuvres – before heading into Oslo for a visit (the force is led by Norwegian Commander Henning Knudsen-Hauge Quick) and then focus on the detritus of war.