A bomb-disposal expert shares stories from conflict zones ranging from the Falklands to Kosovo to Iraq.
Michael Haygarth left home just before his seventeenth birthday to join the Royal Air Force as a Weapons Technician. At the time, everything seemed routine—but his thirty-eight-year career turned out to be anything but. Training with nations all over the world; fast roping out of helicopters with US Army Rangers; being driven around Basra in a beaten-up taxi wearing civilian clothes with a 9mm pistol in his waistband; convoying at speed around Baghdad with the US Army looking for unexploded bombs—all were way beyond the usual experiences of an RAF Engineer.
In his early career, he was a member of a Buccaneer Nuclear Weapon Loading Team stationed in RAF Germany at the height of the Cold War. Frequently woken by sirens in the early morning hours, he’d rush to work wondering if it was yet another practice or the start of nuclear Armageddon. After further tours, and having passed his Bomb Disposal courses, he was then sent to the Falkland Islands. He also served in Kosovo as part of a huge multinational force tasked with clearing thousands of bombs and cluster munitions, as well as working with the International Crimes Tribunal to clear numerous mass graves. He was responsible for all UK Bomb Disposal operations in and around Pristina.
Next came an operational tour to Iraq, where he made further use of his bomb disposal expertise. After promotion to Squadron Leader, he worked in the Ministry of Defense and then took charge of the RAF’s only Bomb Disposal Squadron as it withdrew from Iraq, and was instrumental in refocusing the squadron to carry out operations in Afghanistan alongside the Army. His final role, in what was a truly exceptional career, was in charge of the RAF’s only expeditionary Engineering Squadron as it worked through the busiest period in its history during the UK forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and the escalation of events in support of operations in the Baltic states and Syria. In this book, he tells his remarkable story.