Miner gives troops bastion of security: The Army has forsaken sandbags for bombproof walls from Leeds. Christopher Bellamy reports
Monday 28 February 1994
The modern army calls it 'bastion walling', but a 19th-century engineer at the sieges of Sevastopol or Vicksburg would have called it 'gabions' - from the old Italian gabbia, a cage. Then it consisted of wicker baskets, open at both ends, filled with earth, a quickly erected but solid barrier to absorb shot and shell.
The modern version, made in Leeds, has been a British export success. It consists of galvanised steel mesh cages lined with a tough, fibrous material, called geotextile and filled with gravel, earth, sand, concrete, tin cans, even snow. About 38 miles (60km) of the walling is already protecting UN troops in Bosnia, and more is on the way.
Jim Heselden, 45, made redundant in the late 1980s, revived the Italian Renaissance idea. He found quantities of geotextile - similar to felt and made from polyethylene and polypropylene - and steel mesh going cheap, and bought them. He decided to make gabions from the geotextile and mesh to stop sloping land under his business from collapsing. His sisters in the clothing trade offered industrial sewing machines for the idea to take shape.
A family firm has grown up around Mr Heselden's innovation, patented in 1989, of the 'concertainer'. The steel mesh was packed flat, but if one end was anchored, it could be pulled out like a concertina and filled. Hesco can make it to any size and shape, but the standard unit is nine hexagonal segments, forming a 10m (33ft) section.
Mr Heselden first marketed the walling to British Waterways for supporting canal banks. Since then, it has been used for land reclamation in Bermuda and on land he bought on Humberside. Then came the Gulf crisis and the MoD picked up the idea. At first, military engineers had been building fortifications with sand- filled oil drums. The walling was vastly superior, and the MoD ordered 4,000 units - which can cover 64 miles (40km). But the war was over before it was all delivered. The surplus went to Bosnia, after shell tests proved that it would save lives.
A typical Bosnian wall, like that which screens the north side of the British camp in Vitez, consists of two stretches, one on top of the other. It is far stronger and quicker to erect than thousands of sandbags - the 10m stretch is equivalent to about 2,500 sandbags. At fort 'Redoubt' on the mountain road to Vitez, the waling has been artfully combined with logs. At the main British camps at Vitez, Gornji Vakuf and Tomislavgrad, it is used for bombproof walls, and also protects a school and factories.
Mostar view, page 8
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassingly brilliant leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
‘Ryan Gosling got someone pregnant and it's not me. Brazil you think you’re devastated…’
Israel-Palestine crisis: ‘We just want it to end… We don’t deserve to live like this’
Israel-Palestine crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
Vanessa Feltz criticises 'vile' reaction to Rolf Harris allegations
£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...
£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...