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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Only a door stop!


Gunner Bailey
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I believe, but have not seen for myself, that the farmer or tractor driver piles them at the side for the authorities to remove. I would guess that if one looks too dodgy he will call in the UXB squad.

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Bryan

I've never seen a farmer carry a shell across a field but I have seen them walking fields after ploughing. I expect the plough is gentler than other pre planting impliments, so they look at what the plough may have dug up, before running over the ground with a disk or other type of harrow which could be more dangerous.

Mostly I've seen stacks of shells in their 4's and 5's, but I have seen photos of up to 50 shells plus grenades awaiting collection by the EOD. I've also seen some very large shells left where they are either because they are too heavy or too dangerous to move.

I think there is a more casual approach in France. They have been doing this for years and it is routine. When a WW2 bomb is dug up in the UK there is always more publicity, roads closed and people evacuated. Rightly so too as these bombs can be very dangerous. In Germany quite a few construction workers are still killed each year as mechanical diggers dig up British and American bombs which go off.

Gunner Bailey

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In March came across a ditch with 26 mills bombs and 4 Stokes mortars along with 2 dead foxes! Was farmers dump from his fields!

Tony

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This is a “iron harvest” near Courcelette CWGC on the Somme. Spot the Stokes Mortar!. Some brave farmers have taken these from their fields and placed them here. In practical terms what else could they do?.

Photograph but do not touch.

Norman

post-21884-1213440085.jpg

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Just one more. This Mills Bomb was on the surface next to the path that leads to the copses at Serre. To the uninitiated perhaps just a lump of earth, to those who know a very dangerous object. Never touch anything that you are unsure of and treat all relics with the respect they deserve. Else you might just have a very bad day!.

Norman

post-21884-1213440944.jpg

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In Normans 1st photo,it seems to be mainly Commonwealth shells with maybe a couple of German 77's in there too.Speaks volumes on the nastiness of the German stuff.

Here's a Brit job of about 9" diameter,very heavy & just 5 metres away was a German one of roughly the same size.

This one we moved to the stockpile,the German was left in place until it was decided whether to blow it in situ,so to speak.

In the end,it was moved,carefully(!)as the explosion would have possibly damaged the 'digger memorial' 100 metres away.

Bullecourt,3 years ago;

b2330ce0.jpg

The packet of tabs is the bigger killer out of the two :ph34r:

Dave.

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PS.

slight edit..

Dont take that to mean that these things are safe!

Just read whats been written & dont touch !!!

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Just one more. This Mills Bomb was on the surface next to the path that leads to the copses at Serre. To the uninitiated perhaps just a lump of earth, to those who know a very dangerous object. Never touch anything that you are unsure of and treat all relics with the respect they deserve. Else you might just have a very bad day!.

Norman

This is exactly the same as the one which was booted. This guy had seen hundreds of them, (his claim), they were perfectly safe, if they were going to go off they would have done it by now, you could buy them at the markets, etc. etc.

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Good comments Tom and thanks. What worries me is that just perhaps the pin has been pulled in 1916 and just perhaps the spring has not quite hit the percussion cap. Then I come along and give it a good thump, Goodnight!

Norman

PS Sectioned Mills bought at Delville Wood Museum years ago.

post-21884-1213444346.jpg

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Interesting thing about your sectioned Mills there,Norman.

The det is still semi live.Ok,the actual explosive bit has been changed for a bit of copper to show

its true form but look at this;

f64754f4.jpg

Its like a .410 cap or rimfire sorta thing.

This dug one I placed in an empty Mills with a tube & popped it.It still,indeed,went 'pop'! Look at the 'strikes' on the cap from where the plunger hit it.The fuse didn't burn,as uou can see.

Thing is,even when you could buy say a dug 18 lb'er on e-bay,a lot of them sold still had the charge in the base for jetting out the shrapnel balls.

People I know even had 2 of these as 'fire dogs' which wasn't much fun when I explained the risk :ph34r:

Dave.

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Many thanks for your concerns Dave, but I can assure you that the percussion cap is completely inert. Now here is something to worry you, the base of my sectioned 18 pdr shell showing the explosive container (genuine) and the explosive (actually made of coal). Please do not get concerned as the only damage this can do is to fall on your foot.

Norman

post-21884-1213446540.jpg

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This adequately validates my ' ultra careful ' approach. Somebody who really knows what he is about, cannot tell when looking at a sectioned piece of ordnance whether it is safe or not. When they come out of the ground as rusty lumps of mud, they are dangerous, no ifs, no buts and ought to be treated as such.

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Tom, I totally agree with you, unless you both know and completley trust the provenance of these types of sectioned munitions then take a walk!.

Norman

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Thing is,even when you could buy say a dug 18 lb'er on e-bay,a lot of them sold still had the charge in the base for jetting out the shrapnel balls.

I think that's probably why E-bay banned shells about a years before they banned grenades.

GB B)

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PS.

slight edit..

Dont take that to mean that these things are safe!

Just read whats been written & dont touch !!!

And then you subsequently post about messing about with a dug up 'semi live' explosive device.

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Hello.How are you?

Pub shut early tonight?

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I'm fine, thanks for asking. I have all fingers and extraneous appendages intact from not playing with explosive devices.

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After 8 years & several hundreds of tons of this rubbish,so do I,funnily enough.

I suppose it's down to my practical knowledge & not the armchair version that's kept me ticking for so long.

You must come to France & see :lol:

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Thanks for the invite, much appreciated.

A good point, though of course not everyone has your experience and I hope we would continue to counsel caution when dealing with this material.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In 1919-1920 , 35.000 tons of German ammunition were dumped on a sand bank close to the Belgian coast at Knokke-Heist. 1/3 were gas shells, and 1/3 of the gas shells was filled with mustard gas. Afterward the piles of shells on the sea-bottom were forgotten.

The sea dump was rediscovered in 1972, the shells were found to be in 'good state'. The piles are between 1,5 m and 5,5 m under sea level, ships may not cross the site, fishing is forbidden.

We are now more than 30 years later, in what state are the shells now?

Some sources says some shell started leaking, but should be no danger yet.

Cnock

look here http://www.belspo.be/belspo/Northsea/publ/Paardenmarkt_.pdf

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sorry, forgot to mention,

sandbank is called the 'Paardenmarkt'

Cnock

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Scary, Cnock. By my reckoning that is something like 4000 tonnes of mustard gas shells. The shells were full of liquid, of course, so roughly 2000 tones of toxic material down there. Lets hope it doesn't all start to leak at the same time. Is mustard gas safely diluted in sea water?

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I was under the impression mustard gas reacted with water!

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If I recall correctly, mustard gas was actually an oily liquid which reacted badly on moist body tissues both as a liquid and a vapour. I seem to remember that washing with copious amounts of water would remove it from gas capes etc. I do not know if there was a neutralising agent. Immersion in the sea would hopefully dilute it to a harmless concentration. Possibly dangerous in the close vicinity to the bombs as they corrode. What I did wonder about was the fact that the sea is not fresh and whether that would make a difference. Chemists, one pace forward, please.

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Hi,

The major problem at the moment seems to be the slow raising of the sand bank with the piles of shells, due to the moving of underwater dunes.

may be within 10 years the shells could be above sea level,

Cnock

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