Published by: The British Falkland Islands & British Military, on 25 February 2021. Bomb Disposal operatives - Northern Ireland
Bomb disposal is an explosives engineering profession using the process by which hazardous explosive devices are rendered safe. Bomb disposal is an all-encompassing term to describe the separate, but interrelated functions in the military fields of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD), and the public safety roles of public safety bomb disposal (PSBD) and the bomb squad.
The Ammunition Technicians of the Royal Logistic Corps (formerly RAOC) became highly experienced in bomb disposal, after many years of dealing with bombs planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and other groups. The bombs employed by the PIRA ranged from simple pipe bombs to sophisticated victim-triggered devices and infrared switches. The roadside bomb was in use by PIRA from the early 1970s onwards, evolving over time with different types of explosives and triggers. Improvised mortars were also developed by the IRA, usually placed in static vehicles, with self-destruct mechanisms. During the 38-year campaign in Northern Ireland, 23 British ATO bomb disposal specialists were killed in action.
A specialist Army unit, 321 EOD Unit (later 321 EOD Company, and now part of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Regiment RLC), was deployed to tackle increased IRA violence and willingness to use bombs against both economic and military targets. The unit's radio call-sign was Felix. Many[who?] believe this to be an allusion to the cat with nine lives and led to the phrase "Fetch Felix" whenever a suspect device was encountered, which later became the title of the 1981 book Fetch Felix. However, the real reason could be either of two possibilities. All units in Northern Ireland had a callsign to be used over the radios. 321 Company, a newly formed unit, didn't have such a callsign, so a young signaller was sent to the OC of 321 Coy. The OC, having lost two technicians that morning, decided on "Phoenix". This was misheard as "Felix" by the signaller and was never changed. The other possible reason is that the callsign for RAOC was "Rickshaw"; however, the 321 EOD felt it needed its own callsign, hence the deliberate choice of "Felix the Cat with nine lives". 321 Coy RAOC (now 321 EOD Sqn RLC) is the most decorated unit (in peacetime) in the British Army with over 200 gallantry awards, notably for acts of great bravery during Operation Banner (1969–2007) in Northern Ireland.
British Ammunition Technicians of 11 EOD Regiment RLC were requested by the US Forces commanders to operate in support of the US Marine Corps in clearing the Iraqi oilfields of booby traps and were among the first British service personnel sent into Iraq in 2003 prior to the actual ground invasion.