Birds and Bunkers
In view of the expansion of the bird reserve ‘Zwin’ on the Belgian coast, Ruben Willaert carried out an archaeological survey in order to find hidden bunkers, among other things. At the onset, they found so much ammunition that DOVO advised them to get assistance from a specialized UXO company. Given our previous successful cooperations, it didn’t take them long to make a choice. In the sand and inside the bunkers, completely hidden under the dunes, we found hundreds of UXO items like (hand) grenades, mortars and fuzes. DOVO regularly passed by to pick up these items or, when they proved to be unstable, to destroy them on the spot, as shown in this video.
Monastery garden with bullets
Gelasius Vastgoed B.V. is tranforming the monastery of Koningsbosch, The Netherlands, into a luxury hotel. Before the start of the groundworks in the large monastery garden, an archaeological survey had to take place. Excavations involved some risks, since ammunition is regularly found in the region. Indeed, from January 14th till 27th 1945, Operation Blackcock scorched these parts, aiming to move the western front from the triangle Roermond-Sittard-Geilenkirchen to the Rur. Hence, archaeological and UXO research had to be combined, which is right up Bom-Be’s alley.
We started out with a surface detection, which revealed the presence of hundreds of anomalies in the soil. Then, our team of UXO experts and an archaeologist approached the suspect objects and assisted other archaeologists in their trial trench survey, which resulted in finds from the Iron Age. Evidence of heavy fighting during WWII was found in the form of thousands of items of small arms ammunition, but also explosive charges which were usually used in anti-tank mines, and a Mills hand grenade.
Safe wind farm construction
Bom-Be applies its expertise on land as well as offshore, e.g. in the construction of the offshore wind farm Nobel Bligh Bank Phase II. The project is now well under way, and the first phase consists of placing the foundations of the wind turbines, which is done by the jack-up vessel Vole Au Vent. This ship, owned by Jan De Nul, was recently christened by Queen Mathilde. In collaboration with Bom-Be, the Vole Au Vent can now safely install the wind mill foundations, on UXO-free locations.
Before the onset of construction activities, Bom-Be carried out an historical UXO survey, followed by a project risk analysis (PRA). Bom-Be also interprets the data of the UXO detection surveys on the project. Bom-Be carried out similar studies for the cable route and the Norther and Rentel windfarms (see below)
Tension at the sports centre
Sportoase NV Group contacted SubTerra Consult for a utility line detection in Lanaken. When installing a mechanical protection over a gas conduct, they discovered an unknown cable crossing at 2 points. The national grid plans didn’t indicate clearly what kind of cable it could be. Therefore, SubTerra called upon Bom-Be for a radiodetection survey. In less than an hour, we were able to mark the course of the cable, which was also registered by a land surveyor. It turned out to be a 10.000 V medium voltage cable.
New fire and police station in Hasselt
The local police, fire brigade, emergency call centre and several administrative departments of Hasselt will move to one brand new building complex near a railway bridge that was heavily bombarded during WWII. In January 2016, Bom-Be carried out an historical survey for this project, showing that at least five aerial bombs had impacted the project site. Since it was possible to encounter unexploded bombs as deep as 7 m, both Kumpen NV and THV Politie LRH ordered UXO surveys, each for their own construction area.
Given the specific circumstances, we worked in several steps. We surveyed the area for the future underground fire brigade garage with a multisensor surface detection, and carried out a depth detection for the locations of the foundation piles of the police station.
The surface detection showed that the soil was littered with metal objects, so our experts assisted in the excavation of the first 2,2 m (ground water level). After a well point dewatering was installed, two consecutive surface detections and excavations resulted in the finding of eight anomalies with possible bomb characteristics. We found a big piece of a water main, and mostly scrap. Some pieces were mixed up with rubbish that had been used to fill up bomb craters. After removing these items and a last check on the spot, we could declare the excavation zones UXO-free for further operations.
The depth detection with cone penetration showed that no suspect anomalies were present near the planned foundation piles, allowing for normal further operations.
Wind turbines in bombarded areas
Enercon will construct 21 wind turbines in 4 groups over the right bank docks of the Antwerp port area. At the outset, Bom-Be carried out an historical UXO survey. Over the years, we have put together a unique collection of historical source material, because our historians visit international war archives on a regular basis, e.g. in London (TNA) and Washington (NARA). In this case we used, among others, some unique German espionage aerial photos, taken after the liberation of Antwerp. We established that 4 turbines are planned in suspect areas with 500 and 1000 lbs bomb impacts.
Consequently depth detections were required, which Enercon also entrusted to Bom-Be. We used an auger to get through the hard top layers, and a cone penetration vehicle to perform real-time detections to a depth of 8,5 m. We detected an anomaly at 5 m depth on one of the locations, but it didn’t have the characteristics of an aerial bomb, so we could declare all locations safe for operations.
Shortly after, Enercon contacted us again for a depth detection on the location of another wind turbine in Wielsbeke, also in a suspect area. After swift detection operations, this locations could also be declared bomb-free.
Preliminary research can reduce costs
Aeres Milieu engaged Bom-Be to carry out an historical survey for a construction site in a neighbourhood in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, compliant with WSCS-OCE regulations. Indeed, during the last 6 months of WWII, the city had to endure heavy bombardments by the allied forces, and months of artillery fire by the Germans. Among other sources, we analysed aerial photos, war reports, and damage reports by the city civil servants. The number of houses in that emerged unscathed from the war was very small, and about 10% was completely destroyed. Nevertheless, based on the detailed analysis of the available historical sources, we were able to conclude that the area was not suspect concerning the presence of UXO, which is good news for the constructor.
At work for the military EOD
In order to replace the old installation for destroying toxic ammunition at the DOVO site, a new processing plant is planned by the beginning of 2018. The Swedish firm Dynasafe will carry out this project, and Franki Construct commissioned Bom-be to conduct a surface detection. This showed that the soil was littered with suspect objects.
The whole area was excavated layer by layer under the guidance of an ammunition expert, uncovering a British 60 lbs. artillery shell, among other findings. After removal of the top layers, we detected the field again. The approach of the anomalies of the second detection showed that they were mainly shrapnel, but our expert also unearthed three English artillery shells, one 15 lbs. and two 18 lbs.
Exploded ammunition trains from WW I
On November 11th of 1918 the Armistice was signed, putting an end to four years of horrific fighting. At the Luttre railway station (near Charleroi) 1300 German railroad cars, many with a cargo of ammunition, were waiting for their uncertain destination. Retreating German troops used explosives to destroy these cars on the 16th of November, thus avoiding that these war supplies should end up in the hands of the victors. S.A. Duchêne called upon Bom-Be to assist the groundworks, necessary for the construction of a new parking lot. Not only did we find a dozen of intact German large calibre artillery shells (15 and 17 cm), but also wheels and other parts of the exploded wagons.
Historical research for three windfarms
Bom-Be performed two historical studies in view of the construction of windfarms by Norther, Belwind and Rentel, in the North Sea. Researching sources such as The National Archives in London and the Narional Archives and Records Administration in Washington, we found relevant information to localise Allied and Axis minefields, suspect areas for the presence of artillery or aerial ammunition, and navy shipwrecks with the possibility of UXO on board. For Norther, we also studied the route of cables to the mainland, besides the future windfarm area.
Crosiers Monastery in the picture
At the request of Subterra Consult, Bom-Be performed a geophysical survey on the playgrounds of the Crosiersschool in Maaseik. With GPR we searched for the remains of the former Crosiers monastery. This method allowed us to accurately map out the old foundations of the vanished walls.
Detection of utility lines on Decathlon construction site
AT Osborne asked Bom-Be to map out the utility lines, in the run-up to the construction of a new Decathlon in Froyennes. KLIP plans(of the Belgian Cables and Pipeline Information Portal) had shown that some of the underground lines were situated dangerously close to the construction zone. This was the case for a high voltage line, gas line, telephone line and water pipes, so AT Osborne wanted to know their position in detail. While studying the plans, we had to take into account that previously e a Quick hamburger restaurant had been demolished on this site. Using our radio detection set, we were able to verify the course of the high voltage, gaz and telephone lines as well as an unknown line, not mentioned on the plans. This method didn’t allow for the detection of the water pipeline since it was made out of plastic.
Line detection – radio detection
Not all danger is explosive
Geonius entrusted Bom-Be with the assistance to an environmental survey in Geleen, The Netherlands. For that study, Geonius had to take bore samples and dig sample trenches in an area which was suspect for the presence of UXO from WWII. We performed an analogue detection of the drillings, sampling holes and trial trenches. We didn’t find any ammunition, but we did find asbestos. After this find, the area was demarcated and work was stopped until the arrival of a decon-unit. Further activities occurred in the provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for asbestos contamination.
Shells on private property in Stevoort
A lady from Stevoort called upon Bom-Be after she found an artillery shell during the demolition of an old farm. At a introductory visit with a short analogue survey we found a second piece right away. Ultimately we did a full survey of the site and approached the suspect anomalies, resulting in the find of another complete 75 mm artillery shell. The three pieces, probably buried after the war by the farmer, were taken away by DOVO.