A heroic performance at the London Palladium!
This is an article kindly provided by Steve Richards
RMS (Rendering Mines Safe) was a specialist unit within the Royal Navy. Dealing with parachute mines was a part of the organisation’s responsibility.
Bomb descends on the Palladium
During the major air raid upon London on the night of 10/11th May 1941, it was reported that a parachute mine had descended onto the roof of the London Palladium Theatre without detonating. An RMS team was dispatched to investigate. After a prolonged search over the roof tops, the mine was located through the slates of a gable, and it was obvious that it would have to be approached from inside the building. It proved to be jammed in the girders and rafters of the roof immediately over the stage.
By the light of a torch...
Sub Lieutenant Wright found and climbed a damaged ladder to a girder which crossed some eight feet below the mine, and from there, by light of a torch, observed that the fuse was masked by a 9ft rafter which had fractured under the weight of the mine. Wright lashed himself in a position from which he could work, and Able Seaman Bevan came up to hold his torch. Then, with a small saw, which was all the cramped conditions would allow, he cut through the rafter, exposing the fuse, and fitted a ‘gag’. During this period they were in imminent danger. He then turned his attention to the screw-threaded ring which held the fuse in position. Hardly had he touched it when the clockwork fuse began to run. Both men made every effort to escape. Wright succeeded in freeing himself and then jumped on to one of the ropes used for scenery, and slid to the floor. Bevan slid down the ladder and took a 10 foot drop in his stride. Having waited outside for 30 minutes, the gag held – and the mine did not explode. They returned to the mine, not knowing the condition of the fuse, and decided to go on with the process of extracting it. This was successfully accomplished. To remove the detonator, Wright had to lie on the mine, while Bevan held on to his feet. The mine was rendered safe.
Further help arrived and the mine was lowered to the floor and taken outside to a waiting lorry. It was driven to the bomb and mine graveyard, located in the marshes to the east of London, where it was blown up.
Sub Lieutenant Graham Maurice Wright was awarded the George Medal for this action. The Welshman was 29 years old and had married the previous month. He died at sea three months later. Able Seaman William Bevan had already been awarded the George medal for an earlier assignment in Manchester and now was to receive a bar to his medal. He survived the war.
© Steve Richards
The Parachute Mine (or Aerial Torpedo)
These weapons were capable of destroying a row of houses with a single blast. The civilian population held the parachute mine in contempt because it was obviously indiscriminate, as it was impossible to aim them onto a given target. As with other German bombs, a sizeable proportion failed to explode.
The Germans adapted anti-shipping sea mines in order that they could be dropped by parachute. These were not the familiar spherical mine with spikes sticking out, but were akin to torpedoes. The parachute allowed little, if any, penetration and, together with the impact fuse, guaranteed maximum blast effect. These Luftminen were either 500kg or 1,000kg, designated LMA and LMB respectively. The LMA was 5 feet 8 inches long and the LMB 8 feet 8 inches.
As the parachute mines which the Luftwaffe dropped on British towns and cities were essentially naval weapons, it fell to the Royal Navy to deal with those which failed to explode. A naval unit operating under the name of Rendering Mines Safe, allowed careful examination of their design to be carried out. In this way, development of countermeasures could be pursued in order to frustrate the effect of those dropped in the sea lanes around Britain’s coast and in her river estuaries.
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