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Naval Obituaries A collection of notes on those who have crossed the bar.

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Old 06-03-2017, 14:39
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Default Eric Worsley GM, Wartime Bomb Disposal Officer

He made it to 102, not bad after what he got up to.
Collingwood gets a mention, and the line about the Wrens lifting their legs to let the bomb slither through was interesting.


Eric Worsley, decorated for wartime bomb disposal work – obituary

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Eric Worsley at Buckingham Palace with his parents in 1941
Eric Worsley at Buckingham Palace with his parents in 1941
24 February 2017 • 11:36am

Eric Worsley, who has died aged 102, was twice within eight months decorated for his bravery in dealing with unexploded bombs.

On October 19 1940 Worsley was on a routine patrol during an air raid over Portsmouth harbour, when at 13.30, after the “all-clear” sounded, he was called to the naval training establishment at HMS Collingwood, where 4,000 trainees were sheltering from a 250 kg bomb which was buried nose-down in an open space between buildings.

Worsley later recalled in a memoir that “the tail fin was just visible above ground. The fuses were not visible but I knew that German clockwork fuses had a time delay that could be between about an hour and up to 96 hours. It wasn’t an option to attach a rope to the tail fin and yank the bomb out of the ground because the Germans had a nice combination of clockwork and anti-disturbance fuses. I decided to dig while everybody was in the shelters.

“When a driver and his mechanical excavator volunteered to help, in less than half an hour a circular moat was excavated around the bomb and at least a good yard away from it. I could now work away with my spade – wondering all the time what the position of the fuses would be. More earth had to be removed before they could be identified by reading its number.
Eric Worsley
Eric Worsley

“As soon as there was sufficient room to feel the head of the fuse, I ripped off one of the tubular struts from the tail fin, placing one end on the fuse and the other end to my ear. Was there a sound of ticking, or was it my imagination? I doubled over to the nearest shelter, hoping to find a doctor with a stethoscope. I was lucky, the stethoscope made the tick sound like that of an alarm clock.”

By 15.30, more earth had to be removed to allow the fuse to be withdrawn. Another problem presented itself: what if the fuse should drop out on the removal of the locking ring and there was an anti-withdrawal device fitted?

To solve this, Worsley borrowed a reel of cod-line, and held the fuse in position with a stick after unscrewing the locking ring. He attached the end of the line to the stick, and carefully unreeled the line out to the shelter of some sandbags 50 yards away. “Then pull smartly on the line. Hoorah – no booby trap!”

Feeling more relaxed by 16.00, he removed more earth to get at the second fuse, expecting it to be an anti-disturbance type. After another hour the second fuse was ready to be identified using a piece of broken mirror. Applying the stethoscope again confirmed the presence of a second timed fuse.

“I know what to do, but it’s now 1700. Still feeling sick in the stomach – feet like lead – fingers clumsy from the intense effort needed to stay and finish the job, but thankfully the cod-line method works again, and there’s the indescribable relief of unscrewing the primer. What a glorious relief to report to the senior officer, accept a tot of whisky, and watch all hands emerging from the shelters. The clock setting was for seven hours. Hallelujah.”

Worsley was awarded the George Medal for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty.

Eric Worsley was born in Nantwich on April 9 1914 and educated at Winsford Verdin Grammar School and Queen Mary College, London, winning scholarships to both. He was a science master at Thetford Grammar School when in late June 1940 he was recruited into the Navy as a bomb disposal officer.
Eric Worsley excavating a UXB at Admiralty House, Portsmouth, 1941
Worsley excavating a UXB at Admiralty House, Portsmouth, 1941

On the night of March 10/11 1941, the second Blitz on Portsmouth at about 20.00 hours, a 250 kg bomb crashed through the roof of a shelter, where numerous Wrens had taken cover.

The girls reportedly raised their legs to let the bomb go by and slither to rest without exploding. It was the easiest of jobs to defuse, but Worsley remembered the sweat shining on the face of the assistant holding the torch.

In the morning he investigated a bomb crater outside St Ann’s church in the dockyard. He was able to give a warning but the bomb was buried too deep to tackle, and at 13.30 it exploded without causing any loss of life. Meanwhile, another bomb in the dockyard was buried about 15 ft down and Worsley and his team dug a shaft, shoring up the sides as they burrowed. Worsley was appointed MBE for his bravery and devotion to duty.

He was rested by being sent to a desk job in the Admiralty, but rapidly became bored and volunteered to retrain as an aircraft direction officer. He completed his war in the cruiser Royalist and the carrier Glory.

Post-war, Worsley lectured in Physics at Hull University, settling at Hessle, Yorkshire.

A staunch Methodist, in 1947 he married Sheila Hoskin, who survives him with their son and two daughters.

Eric Worsley, born April 9 1914, died December 30 2016
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Old 06-03-2017, 15:01
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Default Re: Eric Worsley GM, Wartime Bomb Disposal Officer

RIP Eric Worsley, could not read the full obituary in the Telegraph (you have to subscribe), but the MCDOA has a fuller obituary here - scroll down to 25th February 2017

Jim
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Old 06-03-2017, 19:44
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Default Re: Eric Worsley GM, Wartime Bomb Disposal Officer

Telegraph are a pain in the butt, sending a link to an article does not work eithersince they updated their site.
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Old 07-03-2017, 07:59
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Default Re: Eric Worsley GM, Wartime Bomb Disposal Officer

I have always wondered at the special courage of these men, not the gung ho up and at em sort but knowing that if you cut the wrong wire you will blow you and your mates to bits.
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Old 07-03-2017, 14:16
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Default Re: Eric Worsley GM, Wartime Bomb Disposal Officer

Yes johnny quite agree, truly brave men.

There is a great book on the subject, well worth a read if you can get your hands on it.

UXB Malta, Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal 1940-44

By S.A.M.Hudson
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Old 07-03-2017, 15:39
johnny07 johnny07 is offline
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Default Re: Eric Worsley GM, Wartime Bomb Disposal Officer

Yes I would think that they got more employment there than any where else on the planet at that time.
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