It is the mid-1960s and this soldier is training to clear mines using the No4C Mine Detector. Mine clearance was a slow and exacting process and always carried a degree of risk. Techniques in the 1960s had been established in the Second World War and not really advanced much by this point. The mine detector was used to identify possible contacts under the ground, which were then marked with the small white tent like markers ready for investigation by other members of the clearing party who would then dig them up and if they were indeed mines defuse them. Clearing mine fields was a tortuously slow and nerve wracking process and few can have enjoyed the task. Protective clothing was minimal and if a mine were to accidentally go off close by, the chances of survival were slim. Despite that, it was an essential military task and the men trained in its execution were also being increasingly used in the escalating situation in Northern Ireland to look for improvised bombs that were appearing in growing numbers- indeed the inspiration for this impression comes from some footage of an Army search team in Belfast in 1968.
Our soldier wears the 1960 Pattern combat uniform over a woolen shirt, with a green scrim scarf at the neck. He wears the DMS boots and short puttees typical of the period and wears the Mk IV helmet. His webbing is the early pattern of 1958 Pattern webbing, with vertical Mk 2 pouches and the early yoke without loops for the pack. The other pouches of the webbing have been removed to make a stripped down set, and the back of the belt has the control box for the detector and the pouch to hold his blast protection goggles attached. The goggles themselves are being worn, although their actual utility in a mine blast is questionable! The headphones for the set are worn under the helmet and attach to the cable coming from the control box. The mine detector itself is the No 4C which is a slightly modernised version of the design that had been developed in World War II.
- 1960 Pattern Combat Smock
- Mk IV steel helmet
- Green woollen shirt
- Anti-blast goggles
- Scrim Scarf
- No 4C Mine Detector
- 1960 Pattern trousers
- 1958 Pattern webbing set with control box and goggles pouch attached
- Short puttees
- DMS Boots
- Mine Marker
- Headphones for the Mine Detector
About 85% of a blast goes upwards, the chance of survival, especially from small AP mines which might only be a few ounces of explosive, is pretty good if you’re not directly over it or in the frag zone of a bounding mine ( aka ‘bouncing betty’ ), especially if you’re lying flat which the disposal operator normally does. Bounding mines usually go off at 4-6 feet above ground and they’re designed to spray frag outwards more than straight down so there’s an advantage in being closer 🙂
The goggles are very useful for keeping dirt thrown around by the blast out of your soft squishy eyes and more than a few people have had their sight saved by them. Most kit is issued because it works, and if it doesn’t then eventually the powers that be hear of it and if there’s a penny to be saved by not issuing things people won’t use then they usually stop.
I was an EOD operator for almost 20 years and while I had some training in mine detection and disposal, I never did any live work on them, it wasn’t our main concern in the Airforce and we very likely wouldn’t encounter them (until Afghanistan, where we worked alongside Field Engineers who were mostly responsible for them, but I was retired by then). I did however have some discussions with others in the trade who had extensive hands-on experience assisting other countries and they all said the same thing: “wear your goggles and you’ll probably come out in reasonable shape”. Luckily I never had to test that 😉