The long walk — A British army bomb disposal specialist approaches a suspect vehicle in Belfast, 1970s

A British Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Officer approaches a suspicious device at the junction of Manor Street and Oldpark Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Manor Street marked the line between Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods.

The quote on the sign to the left of the building is from the Old Testament (Amos 4:12) and reads: "Get ready to meet your Lord". Probably the most discouraging thing to do is to read before you approach something that may or may not blow you to pieces.

Even more morbid is that the technician pictured is already in the "kill" range for an explosive of that size. Thankfully, the technician seen in this photo did not die, the bomb did not explode.

After many years of dealing with bombs planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and other groups, ammunition technicians from the Royal Logistic Corps became highly experienced in bomb disposal.

Bombs employed by PIRA ranged from simple pipe bombs to sophisticated victim-trigger devices and infra-red switches. Roadside bombs had been in use by PIRA since the early 1970s, which evolved over time with a variety of explosives and triggers.

Improvised mortars were also developed by the IRA, which are usually mounted in stationary vehicles with a self-destruct mechanism. During the 38-year campaign in Northern Ireland, 23 British ATO bomb disposal specialists were killed in action.

The EOD squad, serving in Northern Ireland, pioneered the gear and tactics. For example, the first EOD robot was built from a wheelchair stolen from a hospital and various pulleys and a few pieces of wood.

In addition, they were the first to use protective suits. The EOD suit only protects against shrapnel fired by an explosive device, it does not prevent the technician from being killed by a pressure wave generated by a large explosion.

The point is that the bomb suit prevents fragmentation injuries, but the explosive force doesn't seem to care about the suit. Either the explosive force hits you without it and you bleed and you die, or it hits the suit and the suit hits you and you bleed and you die. This is useful, but for small pipebombs, grenades and small IED items.

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