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ADF destroys unexploded munitions in WA and Nauru

A Joint Explosive Ordnance Support - West member watches the blast of an explosive ordnance disposal tasking on farmland in Two Rocks, Western Australia. Photo: POIS Craig Walton

The Australian Defence Force has destroyed unexploded World War II-era munitions in Western Australia and Nauru.

The Australian Defence Force has destroyed unexploded World War II-era munitions in Western Australia and Nauru.

Six unexploded World War II-era munitions were destroyed on a commercial farm in Two Rocks, Western Australia, during a recent joint operation between the ADF and emergency services.

The potentially lethal relics, unearthed by a civilian contractor during routine grid searches, dated back to the 1940s when the area served as a training ground for artillery, mortars, anti-tank weaponry and aerial bombing.


Prompted by the Western Australia Police Force (WAPOL), a team of explosive experts from ADF Joint Explosive Ordnance Support (JEOS), the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), and WAPOL conducted the coordinated operation.

JEOS specialists, whose role includes explosive ordnance disposal and assurance support, identified and destroyed three 25-pound high-explosive artillery projectiles, two three-inch high-explosive mortars, and one 25-pound smoke carrier projectile.

The operation also necessitated WAPOL’s establishment of a secure perimeter to protect the public, while DFES remained on alert for any secondary fires or exposure to hazardous materials.

“In working together, the Defence Force, WAPOL, and DFES can ensure the operation is effective, completed in a timely manner and the room for error is minimised,” Constable Melissa Jones of Yanchep Police Station said.

“The partnership of the agencies ensures the safety of those involved and the wider community. Each agency provides a role that supports the other and the requirements needed during the operation.”

This explosive ordnance disposal task was among several undertaken by JEOS-WA in public spaces this year.

Averaging about one per week, some of these are attributed to civilians inadvertently possessing explosive ordnance – often heirlooms from family members’ military service or foreign conflicts.

Captain Ben Nieuwoudt of JEOS said some people didn’t realise they had live explosive ordnance in their possession.

“Most of it has been left from their grandparents or parents who took them as souvenirs,” Captain Nieuwoudt said.

“I really enjoy this kind of work because we are making a difference to the community by removing dangerous explosive items from the public domain, as JEOS has an operational focus to restore the situation to normality as soon as possible.”

In addition, a multinational team of explosive ordnance specialists disposed of 18 remnants of World War II during Operation Render Safe in Nauru last month.

The mission diminished the threat of casualties caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO), according to Sergeant Noah David, a technician from the 20th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Squadron, who said he was proud of the team’s accomplishments following an initial reconnaissance mission in 2023.

“Following the past 12-month investigation, our team has tackled the challenge of identifying and safely disposing of multiple five-inch US naval projectiles, Type 97 and 99 Japanese bombs, and an M249A2 US mortar,” Sergeant David said.

In its 20th year, Operation Render Safe is Australia’s commitment to its neighbours to remove the threat of UXO in the South-West Pacific.

Lieutenant Jackson Beal, an EOD officer from the US Army, played a role in orchestrating the execution of the disposal operation and said the threat posed by explosives could not be understated.

Senior Constable Mikka Detabene of the Nauru Police Force said the ADF and multinational allies had improved the safety of Nauru for local families and the community.

The 20th EOD Squadron from the 6th Engineer Support Regiment in the Australian Army and EOD technicians from the US Marine Corps, the US Army, the New Zealand Defence Force, and the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia were joined by medical specialists and technical support staff from the US Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, and the Royal Australian Air force.

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