I like the place, but a lot of people don’t. It’s the official county town of Wiltshire, a beautiful and historic region, yet Charles Moore from The Spectator described Trowbridge as a town lacking any “sign of talent, originality, workmanship, beauty or local pride”. He said the locals are “tattooed people shuffling round”. Even former front man of The Stranglers wrote a disparaging (but rather amusing) song “Don’t put me on a slow boat to Trowbridge”.
So it was with some surprise that yesterday, my afternoon shuffle to Asda was rudely interrupted by a police cordon and bomb disposal squad…
Modern Day Bomb DisposalWhen ‘I arrived, a camouflaged Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expert fiddled with a remote control as he piloted a bomb disposal robot; a futuristic-looking machine that looked like a squashed version of the robot from Short Circuit.
These bomb disposal robots are endearingly called ‘Wheelbarrows’ as the first prototypes were built from a wheelbarrow and a lawnmower! But years of bomb threats in Northern Ireland and more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan have propelled these bits of kit from glorified remote controlled cars to sophisticated 21st Century toys.
A peruse through a bomb disposal robot brochure will have any techno-geek drooling with excitement: Wheelbarrows’ now feature grippers, infrared cameras, microphones; they can climb stairs, fold up into a backpack and even be fitted with water cannons!
If you’re wondering how to get your hands on one of these, you might have to do some saving of your pocket money: They have a standard price tag of around US$200,000!
Thankfully, no-one came to harm in Trowbridge’s brush with possible catastrophe: an abandoned suitcase was exploded by Army personnel and the hoards of anxious (and tattooed) shoppers were allowed to return to their shuffling…
You can find out more about a variety of bomb disposal robots at QinetiQ’s website.
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