After Bob and I had the opportunity to view the old minesweeper, now located off Picnic Park near Edmonds, Washington, I have been curious about mines and minesweepers, in general. That said, I did a little research on them, and was surprised at what I found. Landmines have been in existence since the early Ming Dynasty in the 1400s. It seems such a strange thing to me to set explosives in areas where they could not only trigger an explosion when an enemy crosses paths with them, but they could also trigger explosions when their own citizens crossed paths with them. I suppose those accidental friendly hits would be considered collateral damage, and were acceptable losses in the grand scheme of things, but it still seems like a horrible way to guard an area. Still, it was definitely an effective way to guard and area, border, or waterway.
Nevertheless, I can understand why countries such as England, who is surrounded by water, and therefore vulnerable to certain types of attacks, especially during the earlier wars, like World War I and World War II, might have decided as they did in World War II, to lay mine traps to guard against movement by the German U-Boats in World War II. The U-Boats were feared by all their enemies, and considered one of the biggest dangers in the war by Winston Spencer Churchill. They made it almost impossible to have any prior knowledge of their presence, until it was too late to get away from them. Still, putting mines in the English Channel, where your own ships had to maneuver too, almost seems like taking a risk that would be greater than the benefit that it provided. Nevertheless, submarine traps were laid in the English Channel, and they served a purpose.
When considering a minesweeper in World War II, when ships were made of metal, I was curious as to why there would be a wooden hulled minesweeper in World War II. It has come to my attention that the minesweeper in Edmonds, may not have seen action at all. There seems to be a bit of confusion as to when it was built, and when it came to it’s final resting place in the Edmonds area. If it was indeed built for World War II, and never saw action, then my thought was why was it a wooden hull. I found the answer to that in my research on mines. There are several types of mines, as I mentioned earlier. Landmines were the earliest, but when it came to floating mines, they were mostly magnetic. Now when you put a metal minesweeper, or any other metal ship or submarine, near a magnetic mine…well, I’m sure you can get a picture of the seriousness of the problem they would have. A wooden hulled minesweeper on the other hand would have to actually come into contact with the mine to have that problem. Perhaps this was the reason for mines laid under the surface of the water and held in place by a cable. They were more invisible to the eye, and so created the ability to trigger the explosion when an unsuspecting ship or submarine found themselves in the wrong place. These mines blew a hole in the hull, rendering the ship or submarine helpless, as it took on water and quickly sunk.
There have been stories in the news over the years, of mines showing up on the shore years after they were laid. It was a big problem, as were the landmines that were left after the wars. No clear record were kept apparently, and so removal of the mines was never made a priority. I remember when Princess Diana made it one of her priorities to find a way to get those landmines removed. The injuries to so many people who wandered into a minefield just tore at her heart. In hearing about the stories of tragedies resulting from those minefields, my mind cringed at the thought of those injuries. I found myself thinking that her quest to remove them was such an important one. Because I love to hike, I can see how easy it could be to create a trail that would cross paths with a minefield that has been around for decades. Sometimes, the necessary weapons of our warfare bring such destruction, that you find yourself wondering why people and nations can’t just get along, but we all know that is not to be. As long as there has been life on Earth, there have been wars of one kind or another, and I don’t expect that to change now, so these weapons will continue to exist and to be a big problem.