During the troubles in Northern Ireland, republican terrorists were well known for using car bombs to assassinate political enemies and British servicemen. These devices were fitted to the underside of a car whilst it was parked up at night and came in a number of forms. Some were linked to the ignition system so that they exploded when the car was started, others used a mercury tilt switch so they would go off when a car went up a hill and was no longer perfectly level. The best way to defeat these car bombs was to check your vehicle every time you went to use it. Whilst exterior checks were fairly straightforward, checking under the car was more problematic. The underside of a car is dark and low to the ground so to visually check it would mean lying down and sticking your head under the vehicle with a torch- hardly practical on a daily basis! The solution was to issue a special inspection torch attached to a large mirror:
The user turned on the torch and held it in his hand, whilst positioning the mirror so that the light of the torch reflected off it an shone up onto the underside of the vehicle:
This then allowed you to get a clear view of the car’s chassis whilst remaining stood up and it was far easier to spot any unwanted devices. This particular inspection torch dates from 1990 and so the torch itself is a chunky Ever Ready design that was popular at the time. It is made of rubber that helps waterproof it and takes a couple of large D-Cell batteries:
The inspection torch’s markings are to be found on the metal bar, where an NSN number date and /|\ mark can all be found:
The visual checking of vehicles was not a panacea and as the British became better at spotting potential bombs, terrorists became better at concealing them, but there is no doubt that this simple and cheap device helped reduce the number of car bomb casualties during the Troubles and is an iconic reminder of this disturbed period of history.