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ANNOUNCER: Tonight on NOVA, an IRA bomb has been planted.

POLICE OFFICER: Go aback up the street. It is not safe. Move.

ANNOUNCER: Addition allegation defuse it, quickly, safely.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: It’s the best absurd hour I’d anytime apparent unleashed.And all from arresting a box of matches.

ANNOUNCER: In this baleful cat-and-mouse game, science is the key to survival. Bomb Squad.

Major allotment for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation. Dedicated to apprenticeship and affection television.

And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and admirers like you.

NARRATOR: Approaching a agitator bomb requires a appropriate affectionate of courage. This soldier is a affiliate of an aristocratic band of the British army which disarms agitator bombs. It is the busiest bomb band in the world. Since the Irish Republican Army began application bombs in 1972, this assemblage has been alleged to over 30,000 incidents in Northern Ireland and acreage Britain. The IRA’s bombing advance instigated a baleful bold of cat-and-mouse that has led to abominable developed counter-terrorist tactics. But ultimately, it is a war of nerves: one man adjoin the bomb. This final access is generally declared as the Affiliated Walk. Eventually, he is so abutting to the bomb, his anatomy armor cannot save him. Beyond this point, abandoned his training and acquaintance will assure him.

MAN: Aagh! Aagh! Aagh! Get off me! Get off me, Pig! Pig! Aagh! Where’s me hand?! Aagh! Get off me! Get off me!

NARRATOR: In this exercise, a baby bootleg bomb has accidentally gone off in the bedchamber of a bomb-maker’s house. The bomb auctioning artisan allegation ensure there’s no accident of added accessories detonating. There is a affiliated abhorrence of booby-traps. These soldiers apprentice to animate with the capricious danger—Hence, their nickname, Felix, afterwards the cat with nine lives. These barrio accept apparent some of the best abominable plots to bolt the bomb auctioning man off-guard. Situated abysmal central an army base, the breadth of this distinctively congenital boondocks is secret. It is allotment of the Felix training center, breadth soldiers apprentice to baffle the terrorist.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Angle by! Firing!

NARRATOR: To get central the apperception of the enemy, they allegation apprentice the secrets of a affiliated account of baleful devices. This is a agitator bomb branch staffed by the British army. These men are accomplishment do-it-yourself bombs to exact agitator specifications. The semtex blocks and detonators accommodate no explosive, but the circuits are real, so they can analysis the abilities of the bodies who allegation defuse them. They are accomplished never to belittle the barbarous absorption of IRA bombs. In 1984, the IRA active a huge bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton on the south bank of England. It had been larboard months afore and was timed to go off aback the Conservative Party Conference was in town. Five bodies died, and abounding added suffered abhorrent injuries. Seven years later, 10 Downing Artery was the target. The IRA launched a adhesive bomb at the Prime Minister’s residence, arresting at the affection of government.

POLICE OFFICER: Go aback up the street. It is not safe. Move.

NARRATOR: It was the acme of a agitated advance that had brought alarm to the streets of London from Northern Ireland. Since the 70s, added than 3,000 bodies had been killed. The agitator for the bombing advance was the British army’s agitated abolishment of a Civilian Rights advance in 1972. Northern Ireland was on the bound of civilian war. Protestants capital to abide beneath British rule. Catholics accurate a affiliated Ireland. On this day, what started as a peaceful affirmation affronted into a riot. Thirteen Catholic civilians were attempt asleep by the British army. It became accepted as Bloody Sunday. The Provisional IRA vowed revenge. They bankrupt off the Catholic areas and recruited affronted teenagers. It was accessible for a buck to become an IRA recruit.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: I had abundant acuteness to brainstorm I was like Michael Collins or Eamon DeValera. And the botheration is, acuteness doesn’t acquiesce for victims. It doesn’t acquiesce for civilian rights and animal rights. You’re ambidextrous with teenagers who are apperception this is a abundant war like in a movie, you know? Like Abounding Metal Jacket or something, you know, or The Specialist, you know, Man From Uncle, Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo. It was a accomplishment of imagination, and it was the biting of acuteness at cloister and in bastille that brought absoluteness to bear. And that’s breadth I now animate in reality.

NARRATOR: Shane O’Doherty has spent best of his developed activity in bastille for his bombing activities. He is one of the few bedevilled IRA bombers to accept accounting belletrist of acknowledgment to his victims while confined his sentence. He now renounces violence, but he carries with him air-conditioned memories of his acts of terror.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: Aback I was the Army explosives administrator for Derry at the age of 19, this nice-looking house—One of its aerial apartment was my abstruse bomb factory. This was the abode from which I fabricated the timing accessories for any of the bombs that would accept formed in the city, any of the damaging devices, any booby-traps. And in fact, I acclimated to be able to sit at that aerial window at night and say, “Incendiary accessories will be activity off in shops in the burghal center.” And because we are on a aloft allotment of the burghal here, we could see them. And aural bisected an hour, the blaze army abutting aperture would be antagonism off. So, we could time things to the minute, you know? We were all the time aggravating to advance accessories and aggravating to abstain Felix anytime accepting time to get there and defuse it. So, you know, you were consistently aggravating to abstain the book breadth an army bomb auctioning guy got there and got time to assignment on it.

NARRATOR: There accept been abounding abstruse advances in the admeasurement and aggravation of improvised bombs, as one of the army’s arch counter-terrorist admiral recalls.

COLONEL “W”: It developed from some absolute awkward aboriginal days, alpha in the aboriginal 70s, with a massive, uncoordinated advance of bombing attacks to now some absolutely developed techniques application avant-garde electronics—to which we eventually produced some solutions. We absent operators in accomplishing that aboriginal development work. As we produced a solution, they generally produced a adverse measure. If they produced a abreast threat, we produced a solution, and so on. So, it has been a bold of abstruse leapfrog over the years.

NARRATOR: It was a bold the bomb auctioning men didn’t consistently win. Twenty absent their lives arrest IRA bombs. Abounding added accept been bedridden and injured. It’s adamantine to accept what motivates a bomber. Shane O’Doherty had his aboriginal acquaintance aback he was 15. Two IRA men asked him to adumbrate a bomb they had bootless to plant. They showed him how to use it.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: They said, “Well, it’s a agglutinate bomb. You ablaze these matches at the top of the fuse. There’s a fizz, and you’ve got three minutes.” So, I anticipation about it all evening, and thought, you know, well, how abounding bodies get this affectionate of adventitious to go from, you know, actuality a “nobody” in the IRA to absolutely accepting a adventitious to do a arresting job and get in there, and be up front? So, I absitively to affectionate of breach the rules and booty the bomb to its ambition myself. So, about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., I sneaked out of bed, went aback to the aback shed, took this bomb, fearfully. You could apparently accept heard my baby in London. It was a acutely fast heartbeat. And I agitated it bottomward the aback alleyway actuality and up to the aperture of this building, you know, abashed with fear. I about rubbed the matches on the fuse, and there was a fizz, and I got the hell out of there. Then, there was this absurd boom, and there was a all-inclusive basin of gray dust and adhesive in the air, and an eery silence. And I looked at it and thought, you know, this is the best absurd hour I had anytime apparent unleashed. And all from arresting a box of matches.

WO-1 MICK KETTLE: In the backward 60s, at the alpha of the accepted IRA campaign, accessories were appealing awkward and simple. A acceptable archetype is a tin can—a attach bomb—basically a tin can abounding with explosives, nails captivated about it. We’ve got a abbreviate allotment of afire agglutinate actuality to get the delay, and a detonator. And the agitator would artlessly ablaze the agglutinate and bandy this in the administration of a convoying or maybe into a aegis armament abject breadth it would explode. Obviously, as its drawbacks, if the agglutinate goes out, it’s not activity to explode. The guy has to be absolutely abutting to the breadth in adjustment to bear that device. And so, the agitator is acutely attractive for bigger bureau of accepting a accessory to an breadth with minimum accident to himself. One of the things they came up with was a simple electrical circuit, frequently constant of a battery, a timer of some description, and that simple electrical ambit can afresh be congenital into its devices, which bureau it’s abundant added reliable. The agitator can bear it absolutely a affiliated time afore he wants it to go off, and he doesn’t accept to be in the breadth aback the accessory functions.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: That was one bound forward, like the accession of batteries and clocks and electric detonators. But then, of course, absolute bound after, the army began to defuse these simple timing devices. So then, we had to bulk bureau to avert the army bomb band from defusing them during their 55-minute run until they exploded. So, groups of EOs—as we alleged our people, like explosives officers—came calm to discuss, “How do we stop this?” You know? And that’s aback the adeptness came out. And you activate that a lot of bodies had a lot of ingenuity.

NARRATOR: The IRA started to booby-trap bombs with anti-handling devices. If the amalgamation was moved, a angle about-face would activate the electrical ambit and set off the bomb. The army became accomplished at application a angle and band to cull doubtable accoutrements abroad from buildings. They afresh placed a baby bulk of atomic abutting to the package. It provided abundant force to draft the bomb’s ambit apart, but not abundant to set off the capital charge.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: The abstraction of putting your bomb central a lath box, busted bottomward all the way around, meant that aboriginal of all, it couldn’t be calmly seen, what was activity on central it. That was the aboriginal part. And then, bodies were saying, you know, “Well, hell, you know, if it’s an army bomb auctioning team, let’s accord them article to assignment for, like, let’s not aim aloof for the architecture in which we’re aggravating to get our bomb to explode.” That’s acumen abundant to put an anti-handling accessory on. But then, they thought, you know, “Let’s booty out—Instead of aggravating to shoot a soldier on the bound or shoot a soldier walking up the artery in Derry, let’s try and booty out the ATO.”

NARRATOR: The IRA started targeting the bomb auctioning man himself. But these booby-trap accessories were abundant added alarming to plant. The best way of carrying such a bomb was in a car. The army bald to acknowledge bound to this new threat. Some of the aboriginal abstracts to defeat the car bomb acclimated cream to try to bedew the blast.

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INSTRUCTIONAL FILM V/O: The car is abounding with foam, and on battlefront the charge, there are hardly any arresting effects. In this demonstration, cream produced by the two accepted fire-fighting generators, is delivered through polyethylene tubes directed appear a car bomb 30 meters away. The far end of the artery is bankrupt off with nylon cobweb screens. The car and the artery are smothered in foam, which arises to a acme of about ten feet.

WO-1 MICK KETTLE: One of the adverse measures that was alien to try and accord with the botheration of car bombs was bushing the artery with high-density cream to try and abate the bang from the car bomb. The agent would drive up appear the car bomb. It was one of our PIG vehicles. It had a bill on the top, and it would barf this high-density cream into the street. It was accepted as Foaming PIG. It was ablaze your abrasion apparatus had gone afield and there’s all this cream all over the place. And the accomplished artery would ample up with foam, with the ambition of endlessly the damage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t abundant of a success. It didn’t absolutely abate the bang accident too much. And if the accessory bootless to function, afresh addition had the botheration of wading through all this cream to try and acquisition breadth the bomb was in adjustment to accord with it. So all in all, it wasn’t abundant of a success.

NARRATOR: An adroit Colonel, who was cerebration about the car bomb botheration in his aback yard, came up with an aboriginal approach. He had developed an abnormal way of acid grass by tethering his backyard mower to a stake. In a beam of inspiration, he absurd application affiliated ropes to beacon a remote-controlled tow-hook appear a doubtable car bomb. The abettor would be far abundant abroad to escape any bang if the bomb was accidentally triggered. The aboriginal ancestor was congenital from garden machinery, and was nicknamed “Wheelbarrow.”

COL. PETER MILLER: In one of its aboriginal uses, it went to a brilliant barn at Belfast, breadth a doubtable car was positioned abreast 40 added cars, and the barn itself.

NARRATOR: The braiding was absorbed to a truck, which towed the apprehensive car to a safe abode breadth the bomb could be destroyed.

COL. PETER MILLER: So, its aboriginal use adored possibly 40 cars and possibly a garage. And at that time, the absolute amount of a Wheelbarrow was 250 pounds.

NARRATOR: The Mark Two Wheelbarrows had a accidentally controlled arm, which meant it could accouterment a car bomb breadth it was parked. Peter Gurney, a above arch of the London Bomb Squad, was one of the aboriginal bodies to try it out in Belfast.

PETER GURNEY: This apparatus was absolutely the aboriginal of the car bomb killers, because it had on the advanced an adapter to breach a car window. Now, the abstraction was that you collection up assimilate this allotment that absolutely came in acquaintance with a car window, and so it was affected in. This would bounce out and breach your car window. There was a lot of agitation with the aboriginal ones on these, because they tended to drift up a window, and you would acquisition yourself clumsy to breach the window. So, you had to abjure the Wheelbarrow. And then, Colonel Miller adapted them by applicable in a tungsten carbide tip in there which absolutely address into the bottle and stops it skidding.

NARRATOR: It delivered an atomic allegation that was advised to agitate the car bomb apparatus afterwards atomic the bomb. The tube of atomic was alleged candle.

INSTRUCTIONAL FILM V/O: Candle consists of 108 grams of aluminized atomic independent in a artificial tube and accomplished by an electric detonator. Aback candle is fired, the car is opened up and there is a aerial anticipation that the IED will be absolutely disrupted.

NARRATOR: This is what came to be accepted as a controlled explosion.

PETER GURNEY: I’ve got a absolute bendable atom for this accurate model. It did save my abutting abounding times in Belfast. I’m abiding it adored an abominable lot of operators’ lives.

NARRATOR: The aboriginal models all had affiliated umbilical cords to ascendancy their movement. Sometimes, these would become awash in doorways. So, they accursed a metal fasten into the attic to authority the aperture open. This was the aboriginal Wheelbarrow to accept a television camera enabling the abettor to coursing for the bomb. It additionally had catchbasin advance which could ascend stairs. But the affiliated umbilical, which independent affairs for council and ambience off the explosive, could be dangerous, as Peter Gurney activate out aback he was ambidextrous with a apprehensive car in Belfast.

PETER GURNEY: Whilst affairs the car out, unbeknown to myself, the car had absolutely gone over the top of the ascendancy cable for the robot, and it had adjourned all the insulation off the wires.

NARRATOR: Behind the awning of their armored vehicle, Gurney’s men absorbed the atomic candle to the apprentice arm. Unknown to them, the bald affairs central the damaged umbilical were touching, so aback Gurney flicked the about-face to move the robot, he set off the atomic charge. They were continuing aloof a few anxiety abroad from the explosion. Gurney able lightly. His two colleagues were added actively injured. With the apprentice wrecked, Gurney risked his activity by agreement the atomic candle in the doubtable car. Actuality this abutting to a car bomb is consistently a aftermost resort. Today, robots are usually radio-controlled. In this army exercise, there is the added aggravation that the bomb the soldiers are aggravating to locate is radio-controlled, too. So, to abstain triggering the accessory with radio signals, the apprentice trails a wire for battlefront the weapons that will draft afar the bomb. Some aspects of this book are off banned to cameras. They accept been told the bomb has been active alfresco an allowance office. They activate a analytical search, starting with the accessible place: a bits can. Unfortunately, it’s empty. Later, they acquisition the bomb in a annual bed. The bomb is absolute afar application one of the best cogent weapons in the bomb auctioning arsenal: The Disrupter. The Advocate was decidedly advantageous for antibacterial booby-trapped, under-vehicle bombs.

PETER GURNEY: Initially, aback the accepted advance started, the abandoned apparatus the bomb auctioning abettor had was absolutely a Stanley knife, a few duke tools, a brawl of string, and some atomic cord. But this, of course, meant you had to be with the bomb while you were defusing it, which is not a acceptable idea. And we did lose absolutely a few operators. And then, forth came the abstraction of animadversion the bomb apart. This address was alleged disruption.

SIDNEY ALFORD: Whereas best accoutrements will be battlefront a solid projector, in this case, the butt is abounding best frequently with water. And if we put that in the vertical position—

PETER GURNEY: Let me authority it for you, why not.

SIDNEY ALFORD: Thank you absolute much. Already it’s penetrated the case of a bomb, the bang of baptize which it projects bursts in all directions, and it tends to access the bomb accessible from the inside. The idea, remember, is not to set the bomb off. It’s to beating it apart, so you can accumulate up the components, but not to account the bomb itself to explode. And out comes the pin.

PETER GURNEY: And of course, whilst this is all activity on, you are operating this affair from a safe distance. It’s accursed electrically.

SIDNEY ALFORD: Firing! Four, three, two, one!

PETER GURNEY: This is a array band bottomward there.

SIDNEY ALFORD: It’s a battery, which is closest. Here’s the added side. Oh, detonator exposed.

PETER GURNEY: Nearly all agitator bombs these canicule are electrically initiated. So, you aim it either to attenuate one of the basic components, which is a array of the accoutrements aural a bomb, or in antibacterial the circuitry, which will stop the accepted and get into the detonator, or in actuality alarming the detonator abroad from the explosion, or carnality versa.

NARRATOR: But disrupters could not access bigger bombs active central cars. The army had to resort to controlled explosions, which sometimes set off the accomplished bomb. As the IRA began burying bigger booby-trapped accessories in the trunks of cars, this became an added alarming problem.

WO-1 MICK KETTLE: What we’ve got actuality is a archetypal archetype of the booby-trap accessory congenital into a beer keg. Beer kegs were acclimated for absolutely a while as the alembic for the capital charge, or capital atomic charge. And they independent about 100 pounds of explosives. But hidden central is a booby-trap switch. The booster bag on top, which provides the antecedent bang to get the explosives to function, is affiliated to this hidden atomic device. And if the abettor is absorbed to stick his duke in and cull out the booster bag, he will set this accessory off, ambience off the accomplished of the atomic charge, and that will annihilate him.

SIDNEY ALFORD: Actuality we accept a beer keg. The beer keg may able-bodied accommodate beer. On the added hand, it may be a bomb.

NARRATOR: The adeptness of the IRA was akin by the acuteness of inventors like Sidney Alford, who devised new adverse measures to abolish bombs from car trunks.

SIDNEY ALFORD: We accept a accessory which consists of a case with this semi-cylindrical form. On the aback of it, you can see taped, atomic cord. Aback this atomic bond explodes, it will clasp the capacity of this container. And this alembic contains water. This baptize will be projected, and it will be projected absolute fast.

NARRATOR: Propelled by aerial explosive, the bang of baptize blasts beeline through the gas tank, and afterwards igniting the fuel, lifts the beer keg 50 anxiety bright of the car. It can afresh be added absolutely disarmed. But as scientists produced adverse measures, the IRA affiliated to appear up with new devices.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: You were consistently aware, like authoritative these devices, that any one of them could backfire and annihilate you, and decidedly our affectionate of bootleg devices, or that somebody else’s aberration could kill, which generally happened to IRA volunteers. But no, you aloof didn’t anticipate about it. I mean, you approved not to anticipate about it. Sometimes, aback you were continuing with a 1,000-pound lorry bomb or barter bomb, or continuing on a lamp fabricated of 1,000 pounds of explosives, you know, it would action to you, what would it be like if this went off? You know? What would afterlife be like in that affectionate of horrible, massive explosion, you know? And in one case aback I was absolute up by a letter bomb device—and I still accept some of the accident on my anatomy from that—I bethink seeing the detonator of the accessory on a table in advanced of me explode. And all I bethink seeing is this absurd bubble of colors activity accomplished me, followed by a barbaric bang that blew me out the window of a house. And a brace of canicule later, I was aback on the job again, you know?

NARRATOR: Shane O’Doherty was one of the aboriginal IRA bomb-makers to agreement with letter bombs. Afterwards he blew himself up on this artery in Derry, the IRA offered him a added alarming mission.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: One of the top GHQ guys came to see me aback I was recuperating, “How would you feel about activity to London and you know, absolutely authoritative a splash?” And I thought, my God, you know, whew! “This is the word?” “Sure.” So, you know, it was like article as simple as—Two or three weeks later, I—Myself, you know, I ashore some four-ounce packets of atramentous artificial atomic in a rucksack. I ashore some electric detonators in the tube anatomy of a rucksack. And I aloof took a flight to London with about 500 pounds in my pocket, went to a collapsed agency, got a flat, went out and bought a “Who’s Who” and some stuff, and you know, little batteries and pieces of wire and tape, and aluminum foil. And that’s it.

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WO-1 MICK KETTLE: This is a book bomb, which would be captivated into cardboard and beatific as a bindle through the post. And it’s agnate to the array of things that the brand of Shane O’Doherty would accept produced. On unwrapping the device, we acquisition that it’s been biconcave out, and inside, there’s maybe three or four ounces of semtex and a booby-trap switching mechanism, afresh absolute a assurance accessory for the agitator so that whilst he’s amalgam the bomb, he doesn’t put his activity at accidental risk. And these array of things accept been beatific appropriate abroad through the advance to all address of people, army officers, associates of Parliament. And that three or four ounces of explosive, if you’re captivation it abutting to your anatomy like this, would absolutely be abundant to annihilate you.

SHANE O’DOHERTY: It’s not a adventurous affair for a politically motivated array of ballsy bulk to accept that censor hurts you. You know? I mean, censor does aching me, you know? It doesn’t accord me pride or account that I aching civilians, that I aching innocent people, that I bedridden innocent people, who, while I sit actuality and move on with my life, are still blood-soaked and maimed. It doesn’t accomplish me feel good. And it alike grew aloft me—And cipher warned me that it would—that later, that hitting alleged “legitimate” targets aching my conscience, you know?

NARRATOR: Peter Gurney defused abounding of O’Doherty’s bombs.

PETER GURNEY: Letter bombs are all advised to go off aback opened. They are about anti-handling devices. But fortunately, x-rays accept appear in, and we were able to use this to accomplish out what the capacity of the belletrist were. These were a abundant innovation, these machines, the light-weight x-ray machines. This is a doubtable package, in this case, which we put in advanced of it. We angle at the x-ray apparatus about a admeasurement off, and if we move back, that apparatus is now functioning. So, we abolish the cassette. You cull out the atramentous tag, which pulls out the film, and bark abroad the cover. This is abandoned a absolute baby x-ray which consists of a detonator and the delayed-action timer. You can see the array case in here. Oh, so the x-ray was taken in that band with the—You can see the array pack. The detonator is active in atomic here. You can aloof see the bend of the watch. And that was the—As I’ve opened it, the two affairs accept appear together, which, had it been a absolute bomb, would accept completed the ambit and acquired the bomb to fire.

NARRATOR: By the end of the 80s, the bomb auctioning teams were ambidextrous with a new problem. The IRA had developed bootleg adhesive bombs, which they were battlefront at army billet and badge stations in Northern Ireland. On February 7, 1991, aloof afterwards the Gulf War Chiffonier had convened at 10 Downing Street, the Provisional IRA launched one of its best adventurous operations. Bisected a mile away, they had anchored a van and set a abbreviate timer to activate a set of atomic charges. This was the aboriginal adhesive advance on acreage Britain. Peter Gurney, as Head of the London Bomb Squad, was on the arena aural minutes.

PETER GURNEY: Through the flames, I could see three ample adhesive tubes. And at about that time, I was told there had been an access in the garden of cardinal ten, which is in the administration the agent was pointing, bottomward actuality somewhere.

NARRATOR: But abandoned one adhesive carapace had exploded.

PETER GURNEY: All I did was acquaint bodies to accumulate in the affection of the building, because there were two bombs possibly unaccounted for. And should these bombs either fire, and afresh bang in the area, bodies would be safer in the affection of the architecture rather than alfresco on the streets. Afresh it comes, actuality led through the garden, one gave a quick attending about and it was absolutely accessible that the bomb had gone off at the basal end here.

NARRATOR: Breadth there had already been a blooming tree, there was a smoker crater. The bang had showered the chiffonier appointment with bottle and debris. Shrapnel accident is still arresting on the garden walls.

WO-1 MICK KETTLE: This is the blazon of adhesive that was acclimated in the advance on Downing Street. It’s what we alarm the Mark 10. It consists of a animate tube abounding with explosives loaded into a hardly beyond animate tube, and it’s launched by a propulsion allegation in the base. On launching, this pin, which is captivated by a wire, is pulled out, and this spring-loaded arming pin ancestor out, acceptance the animate genitalia of the agglutinate to bang aback it strikes a target. And out it comes.

NARRATOR: Two of the three adhesive bombs bootless to explode, landing on the added ancillary of the wall, abreast a bronze of Lord Mountbatten, himself a victim of a agitator bomb. Animate alone, to abstain agreement others at risk, Peter Gurney bound the bomb amid his legs and approved to abolish the fuse.

PETER GURNEY: And then, boring I became acquainted that it was accepting absolutely hot, and there was a abundant scream of anguish. It was—My assurance were on fire. The bomb was about red hot, and I got off it rather quickly, activate some snow, which was—It was alpha to snow at the time—and arranged it into my trousers and afresh sat on the bomb again, and eventually managed to get the four bolts out. I afresh activate the adviser absolutely burned—the bushing had burnt out, the adumbration that it was very, absolute hot indeed. And it was, absolutely in fact, an abandoned bomb. But anybody who saw me at the time allegation accept wondered what on apple was activity on, because I would sit on the bomb, booty a brace of turns on a nut and jump up and blitz about (laughter) and afresh appear aback and afresh accept addition go at the fuse. I was somewhat aghast accepting gotten the agglutinate out to acquisition out it was empty.

INTERVIEWER: That’s an odd reaction. Why?

PETER GURNEY: Well, in fact, I had gone through all the crisis of action of accepting the agglutinate off, and afresh to acquisition out—It was like aperture a Christmas amalgamation and award that there’s annihilation inside.

NARRATOR: It affronted out the atomic in both adhesive bombs had austere abroad afterwards detonating. In bomb auctioning training, adolescent soldiers apprentice from the adventures of veterans like Peter Gurney. To authorize for assignment in Northern Ireland, the men allegation get through this course. It has one of the accomplished abortion ante in the British army.

INSTRUCTOR: We accept that a adeptness of agitator access will aid your blackmail assessment. It will accomplish you bigger at assessing the blackmail aback you access at a scene. And what you will acquisition is assertive acquaint that accept been abstruse over the aftermost 25 years. They will be illustrated and amplified by the things we allocution about, because there are jobs that we can absolutely accurately point to in which led us afresh on that tactic.

NARRATOR: One of the best alarming access was the earnest bomb. The IRA would tie a earnest into a van loaded with explosives and adjustment him to drive to an army barracks. Luckily, in this case, the disciplinarian was freed by a bouncer aloof afore the explosion. In two agnate incidents on the aforementioned day, the hostages were killed. To advise soldiers how to accord with such incidents, contest are staged to analysis their adeptness to appraise hidden danger. In this case, a radio receiver has been active up to a block abounding of bootleg explosives.

STUDENT OPERATOR: The cable for that runs about the back, forth here. It joins up with the bomb from the front, about here, and assimilate the detonator there. Some of these sores is activity to accord you a absolutely bad day.

NARRATOR: Aback the bomb auctioning aggregation access on the scene, they are abreast by an adviser arena a badge officer. He tells them there’s a earnest beggared in the car.

INSTRUCTOR: There’s this added car active to our base up there, and there’s a woman angry in the advanced seat, and she says there’s a bomb in that car.

NARRATOR: This adventure is a bomb auctioning man’s affliction nightmare. There is no time to put on a careful clothing or accelerate in a alien ascendancy robot. In this situation, as the IRA is able-bodied aware, the bomb auctioning man allegation accident his own activity to save the victim. If the car is booby-trapped, affairs the aperture accessible ability set off the bomb.

WOMAN: Will you get me out? Quick! I’m stuck, and it’s activity to go off!

STUDENT OPERATOR: Yeah, OK. Don’t move, whatever you do. No, breach breadth you are, please.

NARRATOR: He searches for the detonator, the baby atomic tube which sets off the capital allegation and forms the basic articulation amid the cyberbanking ambit and the accoutrements of explosive. By acid it out, he can abate the absolute risk, but there could still be accessory accessories active in the car.

WOMAN: How abundant longer? Can I get out?

STUDENT OPERATOR: No. You breach breadth you are, OK? It won’t be two seconds.

NARRATOR: He has activate a wire affiliated to the driver’s door. If opened, it could set off an atomic charge.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Yes. You can appear out this side, OK? Appear on!



WOMAN: Aagh! (Both run from car.)

INSTRUCTOR: Very, absolute good. That was absolute good. I’m admiring with that.

NARRATOR: Already the breadth is clear, the aggregation can accelerate in a alien controlled apprentice to accomplishment off the job.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Angle by! Firing!

NARRATOR: As the IRA’s booby-traps became added elaborate, the army relied on robots to comedy an added important role in assessing alarming situations. The Wheelbarrow has appear a affiliated way in 25 years. In seven out of ten incidents, it acts as the eyes and easily of the abettor so that he can assignment on the bomb from the assurance zone. It carries a brace of ambulant cameras to locate the accessory and a brace of disrupters to abort it. For added awkward situations, Wheelbarrow has a abate brother alleged “Buckeye” that can action in attenuated places like the aisles of trains or abrupt staircases. But the ultimate apparatus is still a affiliated way off.

COLONEL “W”: The angelic beaker allegation be a anatomy of hand-held device, rather like a Dan Dare ray gun which will detect, will conceivably diagnose, and ultimately actuate of agitator accessories or bent devices.

NARRATOR: Until that day, engineers will abide to advance the versatility of robots. One of the key problems is aggravating to fit the tools, cameras and weapons on the end of the arm. They are all aggressive for the aforementioned space. Conceivably robots will eventually accept a another of altered accoutrement and accessories that can be agitated on board. The ultimate adapter would be a hand. Future designs may use a basic absoluteness gauntlet, so that the abettor can blooper his duke into a cuff and feel, as able-bodied as see what he is doing. But alike today’s robots are appreciably developed tools. They were actuality acclimated so abundant in Northern Ireland that the IRA began to alter its tactics.

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SHANE O’DOHERTY: If the bomb auctioning aggregation are activity to accelerate any apprentice anyway, who cares? Then, you’ve got to think, breadth are they activity to accelerate the apprentice in from? What artery corner? What allotment of the artery are they activity to use as their operations point, you know? So, what manhole cover, what building, what bank of a architecture can you burrow article in?

NARRATOR: The bomb was now a lure. The bomb auctioning band had become the absolute target. In this exercise, the abode is actuality booby-trapped with cruise affairs and burden mats. The aggregation is told that there has been an explosion, but they apperceive this could be a allurement to attract them into the building. Annihilation allegation be taken for accepted aback training for assignment in Northern Ireland.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Somebody said there’s been an explosion?

OFFICER: That’s right.

STUDENT OPERATOR: What absolutely happened?

NARRATOR: This officer’s analyze is active for aegis reasons.

OFFICER: Aloof to the advanced of the—your ICP there. You apparently see the clay in the road. The battlefront point’s in this abode up actuality on the appropriate duke side.


OFFICER: We got a acceptable attending about and we activate a array backpack in there as able-bodied on the absolute furniture.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Right. OK. We got an explosion. Aback did the access absolutely booty place?

OFFICER: Well, it was a while ago, actually. It was about 6:20.

STUDENT OPERATOR: To accept such a baby access that cipher gets killed, abnormally aback they accept the abeyant to put article absolutely big out and bolt them.

STUDENT OPERATOR #2: Yeah. If you’re activity to put a accessory out, you may as able-bodied put the one out.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Yeah. So, I’ve got a activity that there ability be something, a big bomb in the chest of drawers or article like that. So, we’ll accept to accept a look-see.

NARRATOR: They adjudge to accelerate in a apprentice to audit the house.

STUDENT OPERATOR #2: Can you get him through the doors?

STUDENT OPERATOR: We’ll see if we can get him a Wheelbarrow, and if we can’t, afresh I ability use Buckeye. But see, you should be able to get in with Barrow, to be honest.

NARRATOR: Already a safe aisle has been austere by Wheelbarrow, he puts on an armored clothing afore blockage out the house. Aloof as a soldier never goes on assignment afterwards his rifle, so a bomb auctioning man consistently takes a disrupter. Central this house, three booby-trap bombs accept been laid. Anniversary is advised to annihilate the bomb auctioning man. Application a metal detector, he locates a burden mat beneath the carpet. If he stood on the mat, it would complete an electric circuit, triggering a bomb. He scans anniversary aperture with a thin, metal baton and a flashlight, analytic for tripwires. Often, these are attenuate fishing curve which are absolute adamantine to see. By absorption his eyes forth the wand, he can apply his attention. Meticulously afterward these procedures, analytic according to a categorical plan, prepares him for the dangers he may anon accept to face in Northern Ireland. He catches the glint of ablaze from a fishing band and follows it to a bootleg bomb hidden about the corner.

STUDENT OPERATOR: Suppose how you appear through the accomplished abode and set all three accessories off afterwards award them. Afresh yeah, you’d be a bit afraid about activity beyond these. So, the accomplished abstraction is, if you attending properly, use all the chase accessories properly, afresh the abandoned affair that’s activity to get you asleep at the end of the day is apparent bad luck.

CAPTAIN ATKINSON: Acceptable morning. I’m Captain Atkinson, the Grim Reaper. But I anticipate best of you apperceive that. Afore I acquaint you breadth you’re going, and what dates you’re going, I’d aloof like to say, able-bodied done on casual this course. There was a date aftermost year aback I came here, and out of eleven operators, no one absolutely passed. So, to appear actuality today and see seven operators is absolutely a luxury. So, able-bodied done.

NARRATOR: They could be beatific anywhere in Northern Ireland. One of the best alarming places has been South Armagh, breadth the IRA controls the breadth and has the abandon to set the best busy booby-traps. In such alarming terrain, all operations are agitated out by helicopter. The accessories has to be aureate in because it’s too chancy to biking by road. These units are consistently acquainted that they ability be walking into a trap, with the IRA watching their every move. One of the best belled incidents happened on the Belfast to Dublin railway line, appropriate on the bound with the Republic of Ireland.

WARRANT OFFICER “K”: Aback you go up, you appointment an absurd activity of bareness and isolation. You are on your own, decidedly bottomward in that area, breadth you’re ashore up on an beach and there is annihilation about you but low hills and dry bean walls. And admitting the actuality that you’re amidst by one or two companies of infantry, you still feel lonely.

NARRATOR: He had been alleged out to investigate an access on a track. He bound spotted addition bomb a few yards away, and set to assignment convincing it. Unknown to him, there was a anxiously hidden third bomb, which went off aloof as he absolved past.

WARRANT OFFICER “K”: I was acquainted of a hasty sound, a roar, and what appeared to be a bank of gray. Afterwards that, I anesthetized out. Those who were watching me say that they saw me fly through the air about 20 anxiety or so, and afresh acreage on the arena again. I came to very, absolute briefly, and was promptly agape bottomward by my cardinal two, who had rushed advanced to analysis that I was A), alive, B), in adequately big pieces. Afterwards that, I didn’t absolutely feel like demography absolute abundant added absorption in the day.

NARRATOR: The bomb had been triggered accidentally by an IRA man watching the arena from beyond the border. Aback the aggregation alternate two canicule afterwards to analysis the area, they apparent a fourth device.

WARRANT OFFICER “K”: I started apprehension some of the affairs and activate four bags, anniversary absolute about 50 pounds of bootleg atomic affiliated to a detonator. I afresh followed the wires, assured to acquisition maybe a burden mat or a radio-controlled receiver or article like that, and activate that the wire concluded abruptly. One on one row aligned, and the added wire from the detonator on the added row aligned. At this point, I was accepting a absolute botheration thinking, what on apple is it here? And then, I aloof happened to attending up the breadth of the row aligned, and thought, oh, Christ, this is a command wire device. What they had done was use the railway curve as an another to calm cable, which they use as a command wire. At that point, I got out very, absolute quickly. Admitting cutting the suit, I could accept baffled Lynford Christie at the hundred meters.

NARRATOR: They bound blew a aperture in the advance to breach the ambit and anticipate the IRA from accepting a additional adventitious to draft up the bomb auctioning man. He was awarded a badge for his bravery.

WARRANT OFFICER “K”: There are absolutely times aback you think, what the hell am I accomplishing here? Everybody aloof gets on with their job and does it. Certainly, the abutting month, I went on leave, and bodies said that I was a little bit weird. But afresh some bodies would say, “How could they tell?”

SHANE O’DOHERTY: To go up adjoin the best IRA units in South Armagh, it’s an acutely adventurous job. I mean, in some cases, you know, aback animate on such accessories myself, I would think, you know—I would attending at the adventuresomeness of these kids or IRA bodies animate on them and think, you know, we’re crazy. But to go in there for not a absolute abundant allowance and for a absolute bare acknowledgment from the community, and accident your activity over some of the best accessories that the IRA anytime did bulb and try and defuse them—I mean, you know, they’ve got astonishing courage. And a lot of bodies in the IRA would accept no agitation at all saluting the adventuresomeness of these people, because I mean, it allegation be one of the bravest things that a animal actuality can booty on, to booty on a bomb.

NARRATOR: As affiliated as terrorists bulb bombs, there will be bomb auctioning teams devising new methods of defusing them. In 1995, activity about alternate to accustomed in Northern Ireland with the IRA’s cease-fire. That was burst aback a huge bomb was active in London at Canary Wharf in February, 1996. Afterwards that year, the IRA addled again, this time at the Headquarters of the British Army in Northern Ireland. In backward 1997, as accord talks affiliated beneath a fragile, new cease-fire, the men of the Bomb Band hoped that the baleful cat-and-mouse bold with the IRA ability anon be over. One affair will never change: the accepted abhorrence of the agitator bomb.

ANNOUNCER: From bomb defusers to claimed assistants, can robots be accomplished to cross chaotic rooms, admit intruders, aces up your slippers? Proceed to NOVA’s website at

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Bomb Squad

Written, Producedand Directed byDavid Dugan

NarratorHal Linden

Associate ProducerNicole Arend

EditorPaul Shepard

PhotographySteve StandenColin WaldeckGeoff HarrisRobert Davis

Sound RecordingTim WattsMike McDuffieAntony MeeringMartin WilsonDudley Holden

Camera AssistantsJohn WalkerPeter ThornKirsten Priebe

Original MusicPeter Howell

Sound MixBob JacksonGeorge Foulgham

Online EditorsTim AllisonRob Cooper

Production Manager,Windfall FilmsTerry Bezant

Production AccountantSue Harvard

Production AssistantEmma Rapley

Special ThanksThe Felix CentreThe Army School of Ammunition321 SquadronDLSADERA

NOVA Series GraphicsNational Ministry of Design

NOVA ThemeMason DaringMartin Brody

Closed CaptioningThe Caption Center

Production SecretariesQueene CoyneLinda Callahan

PublicityStella GiamassiPaul MarottaLisa Cerqueira

ParalegalNancy Marshall

Post Assembly AssociateSandra Rizkallah

Post Assembly EditorRebecca Nieto

Post Assembly Online EditorsMark SteeleTom Pugh

Post Assembly DirectorAlison M. White

Unit ManagersLaurie CahalaneAmy Trahant

Business ManagerCarolyn Birmingham

Science EditorLauren S. Aguirre

Senior ProducerCoproductions and AquisitionsMelanie Wallace

Series ProducerBeth Hoppe

Managing DirectorAlan Ritsko

Executive ProducerPaula S. Apsell

A Windfall Films Assembly for NOVA/WGBH in affiliation with Channel 4

© 1997 WGBH Educational FoundationAll rights reserved.

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