A dangerous incendiary device has been exploded near Beachy Head by the Royal Navy bomb squad.

Explosive experts from Southern Diving Squad Two arrived on the scene at around 10am this morning (Wednesday) and blew up a phosphorus flare in a controlled explosion.

A navy spokeswoman said: "They arrived at low water this morning and liaised with the coastguard.

"The item they needed to deal with was one M25 phosphorus marine marker.

"This is quite a modern thing, not a historical device, it's used by search and rescue teams.

"Due to the nature of what it was they had to destroy it in situ on the beach to make it safe."

Phosphorus is often used for naval flares - but the chemical burns at almost 900c and can tear through human flesh.

Putting water on the burns only makes it worse.

This is the second such flare to appear in ten days, following the device which washed up on a Rottingdean beach on Sunday, November 8.

Sussex Police spent the morning unaware of the activity near Eastbourne.

Initially a spokesman said of reports of a bomb squad vehicle, that it had "probably stopped for a cup of tea."

Then a police spokeswoman said that their logs had no records of any bomb squad call-out, and suggested that the activity might be linked to the discovery of dangerous materials in Uckfield yesterday.

Later the spokeswoman incorrectly told The Argus that following checks by the police, she could clarify that the morning's explosion was a result of military training.

In fact, the Coast Guard were notified of the danger at 10am yesterday morning (Tuesday) and quickly cordoned off Birling Gap beach and informed the Explosive Ordanance Disposal squad from the Royal Navy.

In the case of ordinance washed up on shore, if it lies below the high water line it is the responsibility of the coast guard rather than police.

The MOD bomb disposal team arrived this morning at low tide once the device had been uncovered by the tide.

The first that police knew of the affair was when a member of the public called 101 at 10.46am today to say that they had heard an explosion.

Sussex Police Media Team Manager Jill Pedersen said: "As you have clearly indicated in your online story, this was not a police matter and with the incident safely contained by HM Coastguard and EOD, there was not a requirement for police to be notified.

"Despite this, we extensively searched our systems as a result of repeated calls to the media relations office and advised that we had no record of EOD active in Sussex.

"We asked you to contact EOD, suggesting that a unit seen on the road may have been parked up while passing through the county or be there in relation to military training. 

"Subsequently, you have become aware that EOD dealt with an item at Birling Gap, but it still remains that it was not a police matter.

"Rather than being misleading we were making every effort to provide you with details of incidents of which we were aware."



The UK Coastguard always advises people to stay away from flares or ordnance that wash up on the beaches.

Military flares are often metallic tubes, around 16 inches (40cm) long and around 2 – 3 inches (5 – 6cm) in diameter.

They are often marked military marine marker flare and display a warning that they contain phosphorus.

Graham Easton, senior coastal operations officer for UK Coastguard, said, "If you’re not sure, then don’t touch it.

"These canisters can often contain phosphorus which can cause severe burns."

"If you see anything on the beach that you’re not sure of, don’t touch it and don’t hesitate to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard."