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Sarajevo mission

When Robert Hodgson was called away to Mostar in 1994, fellow geotechnical engineer Mike Summersgill took his place on the mission to reinstate the water supply to the centre of Sarajevo, which was still under siege.

'Uniquely, we were working with the Serb side, taking Serbian workmen to repair a water main that was delivering water to their combatants, ' he says.

The 100-year-old pipeline ran from the mountains across a landslip and Summersgill, with experience in the water sector, found his skills useful in developing a method for stabilising the pipeline.

'The method we opted for was to find decent foundations and construct concrete stilts. It was not a technique that was seriously used for getting pipelines across landslips, but I went back to the Austro-Hungarian design details and copied the work of early 20th century Austrian designers, ' he says.

'The workmen understood what we were doing, so I could leave them to dig down to find good ground. '

At times, Summersgill felt conscious of the dangers of working so close to the front line. Shortly after arrival, he and his team were placed under house confinement as fighting escalated, and there was a constant threat from snipers and minefields.

But he has happy memories of the work, the people he worked with and the country, and maintains his involvement with RedR by interviewing potential recruits for the register.

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