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Remembered Today:

Shell found on Ancre battlefield


canaryjules
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Hi. First post here for me. Anyway I am staying in Beaucourt sur L'ancre at the moment, retracing the steps of my Great Grandfather who was RND Hood battalion. I was walking along a lane near the February 1917 battlefield when I saw a shell which had clearly been recently ploughed up and had rolled halfway down the road bank. It has no fuse as there is a flint rock seated where the fuse should be. I don't know much about shell types so not sure what it is but it's about a foot in length. Is it still dangerous? If so who do you inform that its there? I have photos but am not sure whether I am allowed to upload them yet.

Cheers

Jules

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At a guess what you have found is the body of a shrapnel shell, the diameter is about three inches. They are usually safe being filled with mud and earth over the years. Think a large shotgun cartridge.

John

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Yes, it is likely to be dangerous, leave well alone!!!!

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After checking out some photos online for comparison I think it looks like a British 18 pounder shrapnel shell. Will consult the farmer whose gite we are staying at as he likely has to deal with these things all the time.

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They turn up all the time. No one will get excited. Leave it where it is. One of millions still there.

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There is an ordnance team that tours the area and they will remove it, eventually.

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There is an ordnance team that tours the area and they will remove it, eventually.

Unless some idiot gets there first.

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The local farmers are used to unexploded ordnance coming up when they plough or generally, work their fields. They carefully remove them from their work area and place them at a designated location, that could be just a patch of grass on the side of a rural road. The location is known to Security Civil. They are a private entity that collects, transports and, renders safe, unexploded ordnance, as well as poison gas cylinders. You can see their vehicles, often around the Somme battlefields, as they drive in white coloured Land Rover vehicles with orange and blue stripes down the side and with, a blue "flashing" style of light, just above the roof of the vehicle.

I understand that the explosive ordnance is taken to a quarry/s and detonated. Poison gas cylinders are said to be taken to a controlled beach area where they are placed on a sandbank. Once the tide comes in and covers the cylinders, they set off an incendiary device, which "burns" the poison gas returning it to it's base compounds, which is then dispersed by the sea water. (Please correct me if I have anything wrong in this)

Following the death of two Belgium Army UXB personnel a year or two ago, the controlling authorities have been asked for permission, where possible, to detonate potentially explosive ordnance in situ.

Peter

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Belgian UXB is taken to a quarry and blown up there. Gas shells are taken to a WW1 era fort and stored there. Then they are taken to a site where they can be cut open in a controlled way using remote controls, and the gas got rid of in some way. They reckon they have about 300 years worth of work at the moment.

They used to be able to dump gas shells at sea somewhere in a deep part of the Atlantic, in concrete drums, but pparently this displeased the fish or something, so they have to deal with them as described. I went to a presentation that the Belgian army disposal group gave here.

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For France it takes up to one year until the authorities pick up the piles , at least that is what a farmer told me. I have seen a pile of 3 gas grenades near Munich trench still sitting there the next year when I visited the place again. It is even worse in the area I explore often- the Vosges battlegrounds. The difficult pace to deactivate 1000s of the live grenades has nothing to do with a safe Pick-up and temporary storage in a designated ammunition dump. I have the impression some officials do not care about public safety.

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Hi Egbert,

The longest delay on the collection point, close by the little chapel outside of Riencourt (near to Bullecourt), has been around six months however, someone keeps taking away the handgrenades. I reported this constant removal of handgrenades to a local mayor who just shrugged. Not interested.

Just to clarify your use of "deactivate". My understanding is that they do not deactivate any UXBs or handgrenades as they are highly likely to explode on anyone trying to unthread them. A few French farmers have learnt the "hard way" trying to defuse them in the garage and "BOOM!!"

Peter

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This is my first visit to the Somme area and I have been surprised by how much unexploded ordinance there is still being dug up. In the course of my walks I have seen many piles of bombs by corners of fields and have found others in embankments myself. I was walking up from Crucifix Corner yesterday and spotted an unexploded Stokes mortar lying high up on the road bank. Several of these piles of shells had clearly been there for some time as moss had grown over them.

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Just don't touch, ignore them and they eventually go away, one way or another. Don't get involved.

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Just don't touch, ignore them and they eventually go away, one way or another. Don't get involved.

Absolutely spot on advice, but Wow - it sounded just like Neville Chamberlain :-)

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Belgian UXB is taken to a quarry and blown up there. Gas shells are taken to a WW1 era fort and stored there. Then they are taken to a site where they can be cut open in a controlled way using remote controls, and the gas got rid of in some way. They reckon they have about 300 years worth of work at the moment.

They used to be able to dump gas shells at sea somewhere in a deep part of the Atlantic, in concrete drums, but pparently this displeased the fish or something, so they have to deal with them as described. I went to a presentation that the Belgian army disposal group gave here.

If only they were all dumped in a "deep part of the Atlantic"!

At least 35.000 tonnes of the stuff is off the coast of Knokke, on a sandbank:

http://www.ecomare.nl/en/encyclopedia/man-and-the-environment/military-activities/dumping-granades-1ww/

"Death waits patiently off a Belgian beach" (Dutch language link)

http://www.greatwar.nl/frames/default-knokken.html

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... I have the impression some officials do not care about public safety.

I wonder, though, about the impact of local warnings on this matter of leaving well alone? I.E., all the locals are well-enough informed NOT to touch UXO (even though farmers seem to carry them back and forth from their fields w/o too much concern!)? In other words, the public safety aspect is uppermost in the minds of locals and local authorities, and it is just the non-local who is at risk because it is generally accepted locally that only a complete idiot would be that stupid as to play with these things?

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Given the amount of stuff, there used to be a lot more, there are relatively few incidents so why get excited about what might happen. Have a look, take a nice pic for identification on the forum and walk away.

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