© Derek Mitchell
Exercise Lionheart 1984 – Real Recovery Operation.
During Exercise Lionheart in 1984 an Army fuel tanker full of diesel was parked at Upnor when the RCT driver apparently did not put his handbrake on securely when he went for his food. It was at night and he did not notice his unmanned vehicle slip backwards quietly into the dark, fast flowing river. He thought his mates were playing a trick on him hiding his truck. Slowly the truth became clear and next morning the vehicle was discovered, though completely submerged, standing upright on the bottom of the river about 1 km downstream half way to Fischbeck! It could only be detected by the disturbed water above it. Luckily there was no spillage of the diesel from the full tanker.
A major recovery operation swung into action, though this was for real, not just part of Exercise Lionheart. 28 Amph Engr Regt had to recover the vehicle and without spilling the diesel! The river was closed to river traffic, the Regt’s divers undertook a reconnaissance, this was dangerous work as the river was so swift, the divers had to be restrained on ropes from upstream and “lowered” onto the vehicle. They confirmed that it was relatively undamaged and standing on its wheels facing upstream. The German authorities had been informed and were most concerned about the huge impact of potential pollution on the many settlements downstream on the Weser which relied upon the river Weser for their clean water. A ramp was cut by the amphibious Combat Engineer Tractors (CETs) working half in the water and a firm stone base was brought in and spread by them on the ramp. The Bundesstrasse 83 was closed so that winching gear on 28 Regt’s REME workshop’s wrecker could be positioned for a straight pull on the vehicle from the other side of the B83. Divers attached the winch ropes to the vehicle’s strong points. Before winching commenced several oil skimming booms were placed across the Weser downstream, some several kilometres away. One of these was supported on a M2 amphibious bridge built across the river by 28 Amph Engr Regt. The recovery was successfully completed the same day before dark and without spilling the diesel.