Prince Charles,
Bombs and Barry

The talk given at our
annual Valentine's Partners' Lunch
on Tuesday 13 February 2018

Show related pages

VOCATIONAL SPEAKER: On 13 February 2018 our guest speaker was Barry Buttenshaw, seen pictured with Croydon Rotary Club President Peter Spalding. This was our annual Valentine’s Partners’ Lunch with 45 members and guests attending.  

Barry’s childhood education began at a school in Istanbul where he was obliged to write with his right hand. Despite being naturally left handed, his teachers said he must lose his sinister affliction. This was ignored and consequent ambidexterity was exploited to great effect later in life. Leaving school Barry enlisted and entered Military College where, after basic training, he undertook specialist training as an Ammunition Technician in Bomb Disposal.  At the end of the first year of a three-year course he was the only one remaining out of 20 original entrants and only 6 out of 40 entrants completed the third year.    

In 1969 Barry was posted to Hereford and joined members of the SAS assigned to protect Prince Charles who was studying at Aberystwyth University. After his investiture, the Prince of Wales went on a tour of Wales that included a civic function at Cardiff. The invitation had indicated lounge suits would be worn. On arrival, the Prince together with Barry and the Prince’s personal protection officer were surprised to find the waiting civic dignitaries were dressed in all their finery! The apparently inappropriate dress of the royal guest clearly caused a certain frisson.  This was quickly set right by the Prince who, adopting a Cockney accent, said “Sorry! Me and me mates ‘ave come in the wrong clobber”.         

On the day of the Prince’s investiture a bomb exploded outside the Town Hall in Abergele killing two members of the Welsh Liberation Army who had planted the device. Barry’s macabre task was to assess the amount of explosives used based on the distribution of body parts.  

On two occasions Barry was called out to deal with hand grenades that had been found, one was being kicked around by boys in a school playground. It was quickly established to be a harmless “drill” grenade but to show what may have happened with the real thing a demonstration was arranged. Some meat was placed over the grenade with plastic explosive sandwiched between. The consequence of the explosion on the piece of meat made a deep impression on the schoolboys.   

Another grenade had been handed in at Neath Police Station where it was put in a bucket of water. When Barry arrived his very youthful appearance failed to impress the fusty Station Sergeant who sarcastically implied he was not up to the job by asking “Where’s your da’?” Although it was another harmless “drill” grenade, Barry got his revenge by ordering the Station evacuated and the surrounding area cleared until it was declared safe. A more serious incident involved a Gladstone bag left on the platform at Neath railway station. Thankfully it had not been disturbed because an X-ray taken using a portable gamma ray source revealed it was a tilt bomb - explosives set off by a trip device. When disarmed, fingerprints were found that led to the arrest of a student member of the Officer Training Corps at Sheffield University.     

A most hazardous situation arose when police entered an unoccupied house owned by a convicted criminal. They had gone in to seize articles to make financial recompense for his crimes. In one room they found a safe from which a thick liquid was oozing under the door. This proved to be nitroglycerine - the original occupant had been a safe breaker. Physical shock, even slight vibration, can cause nitroglycerine to explode. So the first step was to use powerful adhesive to fix the safe rigidly to the floor. Then the wall behind the safe was carefully removed to enable holes to be drilled through the back of the safe. This allowed identification of the source of the liquid nitroglycerine - sticks of decaying dynamite originally intended for use in quarry blasting. The area was made safe by solidifying the dangerous liquid at lowered temperature using dry ice.

Barry is a member of the Rotary Club of Twickenham and, at his own expense, has given this very interesting and amusing talk to many Rotary Clubs and other organisations, including 85 Rotary Clubs in District 1145..

In 2015/16, he made 51 presentations which brought in £4,290.50 which, when taking into consideration the Gates Foundation double donation, enabled 77,220 children to be inoculated against Polio. He therefore set a target of 100,000 by the end of 2017. By the end of June that year he had reached 101,844 children.

Members of the Rotary Club of Croydon were delighted to learn that their donation will enable 1500 more children to be inoculated.

(ALL fields required)