M26 mine blows up (Picture: Estonian Defence Forces).
Royal Navy divers have safely detonated nine mines off the coast of Estonia.
A dozen Royal Navy divers and warfare experts have been in the Baltic to join in the 15 nation clean-up of unexploded bombs, mines, torpedoes littering the waters off Estonia.
In both world wars, the Baltic was one of the most heavily mined waters.
In the summer of 1941, the Soviet Union, which occupied Estonia at the time, suffered the greatest naval defeat in its history when trying to evacuate the capital city of Talinn. More than 80 ships were sunk and at least 12,000 people died.
UK divers from Fleet Diving Unit 3, focusing on the small island of Muhu at the entrance to the Gulf of Riga, working with more than 60 personnel from Estonia, the USA, Canada, Poland and Latvia.
Royal Navy divers found nine mines which were then either blown up on the spot or towed to a safe area offshore before being safely detonated.
One mine detonated was 250 kilograms of TNT from a M26 Soviet Union mine.
Lieuetenant Peter Needle, Officer in Charge of FDU3, said: “Due to the enormous number of mines laid during World Wars 1 and 2, this will be an enduring mission but a really important one, ensuring the safety of navigation for ships and reducing the risks posed by old munitions washing up ashore.
“It’s also a really good opportunity for the divers and mine warfare team from FDU3 to get involved in such a large scale operation and put their skills into practice both by operating REMUS and by diving on the mines it discovered.”
FDU3 were helped in the water by their REMUS robot submersible which was sent out to scan to the sea bed and return with its findings before the divers then headed down to personally inspect the contacts.
The Royal Navy divers were helping as part of exercise Open Spirit which is hosted each year by one of the three Baltic states; Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
It focuses on gathering international expertise in mine warfare to deal with wartime ordnance which continues to threaten the seafaring in the region.
Over the last two decades, 1,200 explosive devices have been found off the coast of Estonia alone.
More than 800 personnel searched 300 square miles of the Baltic and Gulf of Finland from the Estonian capital to the southwestern tip of the island of Saaremaa, locating 90 pieces of ordnance – most of which have now been neutralised.
Investigations will now take place to identify the wrecks discovered during the exercise.