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Only a door stop!


Gunner Bailey
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From The Times

October 17, 2008

Wartime relics that are a growing threat to Germany

David Crossland in Berlin

Unexploded bombs dropped on Germany by British and American bombers in the Second World War pose a growing hazard because they are becoming increasingly unstable, one of the most experienced bomb disposal experts in Germany said.

The bombs' detonators are so corroded that they may soon be impossible to defuse safely and could start going off spontaneously, said Hans-Jürgen Weise, 65, the former head of munitions disposal for Brandenburg, one of the most bomb-contaminated areas in Europe.

The Allies dropped 1.9 million tonnes of bombs on Nazi Germany in a campaign lasting more than four years, in which an estimated 500,000 civilians and 55,000 RAF airmen were killed.

Estimates for the number of unexploded bombs vary between 5 and 15 per cent — or between 95,000 and 285,000 tonnes. Some estimates put the rate of duds higher, especially in regions with soft ground.

“We may soon have to stop defusing the bombs we find because their fuses have become so brittle over the last 60 years that they're on a hair trigger,” Mr Weise said. “Even slight vibration can be enough to set them off. I know of three detonators extracted from bombs recently that went off with a pisshhh just after we had screwed them out.”

Thousands of bombs went undetected when Germany rebuilt its cities hastily after the war. They have been rusting under streets and cellars ever since. Each year about 2,000 tonnes of aerial bombs, munitions and weapons from both world wars and from Soviet army manoeuvres are found. It is not unusual for districts to be evacuated while disposal experts go to work.

Undischarged Luftwaffe bombs from the Blitz continue to be found in Britain too, and there has been concern about unexploded bombs at the Olympic site in East London.

Many bombs are found by chance. In 2006 a man died when he hit a bomb while cutting through a motorway surface in Bavaria.

Mr Weise, who retired last month after defusing bombs for nearly 40 years, said that British bombs with mechanical brass detonators were relatively easy to defuse because they did not rust. He believed that it would take at least 20 years to clear the remaining bombs.

Mr Weise defused 394 large bombs during his career, of which 47 were of the delay action type designed to go off hours or even days after hitting the ground. The RAF and US air force dropped about 20,000 of these bombs with chemical detonators on the town of Oranienburg, north of Berlin, which was suspected of being an atomic bomb research site.

“The delay-action bombs are the trickiest ones and we found out many failed to explode in Oranienburg because of the soft ground,” Mr Weise said.

Many would penetrate the soil, bounce off the gravel underneath and come to rest underground with their tips pointing upwards. In that position gravity stops the chemical detonators from working properly. Many of these upturned bombs would now be ready to explode.

The search for bombs intensified across Germany in the early 1990s after the British handed over reconnaissance photographs taken after raids. Disposal teams have searched schools, hospitals and residential areas. The photographs cannot pinpoint every dud, however, and the search has slowed in the past decade because of a shortage of funds.

The last bomb that Mr Weise defused was in August in the centre of Potsdam, the regional capital of Brandenburg. About 3,000 people were evacuated while he defused the British 250kg bomb.

“I decided that one would be the last one before I retire,” said Mr Weise with a smile. “I realise I was lucky many times in my career. I must have been because I'm still alive.”

Hidden menace

10,733 tonnes of munitions disposed of by Weise's team between 1991 and 2007

12,541 hectares of land cleared of munitions by German authorities around Brandenburg

391,000 hectares of contaminated land remaining

10,000 calls received by Berlin's bomb disposal squad each year

17 people injured in Arnsberg when an American Second World War bomb exploded last month

Source: Times archives

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They're frightening stats,Pete.

All that land round cities & towns,the odd bomb still turns up in London too.

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Just shows how difficult it is to make a good fuze! Millions of unexploded shells and bombs being the result.

Gunner Bailey

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I know that Greenwich and East London (i.e the Olympics site) is littered with WW2 UXB. You need special permits to dig. You might see a new record for the 100m dash ...... before the games even start!

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The pole vaults gonna be a doozie then.

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Went for a wander in Mametz wood last week. Door stops all over the place!

GB :lol:

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Unlike the 19th century and earlier 20th century's wars (and later!) still leave a huge legacy of environmental degradation, super dangerous munitions garbage, ripple effect psychological traumas to the indirect victims (future children, very young children survivors, ...),etc.....

John

Toronto

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around half a dozen years ago, i came accross a 77mm German shell, empty and unfired, still with most of the green and Yelow (around the top), near the village of Authuille, next to the old scap yard that was there. Now that you don't see too often!

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around half a dozen years ago, i came accross a 77mm German shell, empty and unfired, still with most of the green and Yelow (around the top), near the village of Authuille, next to the old scap yard that was there. Now that you don't see too often!

Possibly went on e-bay in those days!

Here's a couple from Mametz Wood last week.

GB

post-8629-1225051410.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just heard that MS went down for 2 counts of 5 years & 1 of 18 months.

Only a doorstop :D ?

Only an anti aircraft missile & control plus unlicensed Luger & shotgun :o .

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  • 2 weeks later...
Just heard that MS went down for 2 counts of 5 years & 1 of 18 months.

Only a doorstop :D ?

Only an anti aircraft missile & control plus unlicensed Luger & shotgun :o .

Dave / Norman

Yes Mr Sampson will be a guest of HMG for about 2.5 years I suspect. As an FAC holder, his big offence was the unlicenced pistols. I've no idea if the missile was in any way live, which I doubt, but it would be a good headline grabber for the police to charge him with. It is also straying from routine militaria collecting into the arms trade area. I suspect Dave will have learnt a very tough lesson. I met him once and thought him a very quiet innofensive character.

John

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More toe curlers.

PICT3307-1.jpg

& they say that smokin is bad for yer elf

PICT2897.jpg

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You wouldn't want to drop this one on your toe..!! :o

Trones Wood Feb '07.

SommeFeb07016.jpg

Rob.

Thanks Rob, That's a cracker. Someone got there first to remove the drive band! Not the sort of thing I'd hit with a hammer and chisel.

Nice toffee apples Dave. That's a lot of explosives in one place.

John

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I noticed that then thought perhaps it stripped its band on firing. If it was collected, I'm surprised the fuze didn't go as well. That takes a lot more sang froid than I possess to set about that with a hammer and chisel. Toujours l'audace!

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I noticed that then thought perhaps it stripped its band on firing. If it was collected, I'm surprised the fuze didn't go as well. That takes a lot more sang froid than I possess to set about that with a hammer and chisel. Toujours l'audace!

Yes, especially as there was a young man killed in Verdun trying to remove a fuze from a shell.

GB

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Link to an article about this (in French)

Explosion mortelle d'obus à Verdun

http://www.forum-pompier.com/sujet10514.html

Yes this was the lad mentioned earlier in the thread who had 3.5 tonnes of shells in two sheds at his house.

A costly obsession.

Gunner Bailey

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Well since we appear to have started a “who has got the biggest” here is my friend in Ypres last year and he is over 6ft tall – go on beat that!. No shells from battleships please.

Norman

post-21884-1227128885.jpg

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In the 70s my grandfather went on a visit with my uncle and his kids to the Somme. They were in a Canadian trench in Newfoundland Park when grandad heard the sound of leather against metal. He looked down, to find his little nephew vigorously kicking a stump sticking out of the ground, which he immediately saw was a German 77mm shell. Apparently he very coolly ordered an immediate evacuation of said trench...

He'd been in the vicinity on July 1st 1916 as a FOO - needless to say the irony of the situation wasn't lost on him.

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In the 70s my grandfather went on a visit with my uncle and his kids to the Somme. They were in a Canadian trench in Newfoundland Park when grandad heard the sound of leather against metal. He looked down, to find his little nephew vigorously kicking a stump sticking out of the ground, which he immediately saw was a German 77mm shell. Apparently he very coolly ordered an immediate evacuation of said trench...

He'd been in the vicinity on July 1st 1916 as a FOO - needless to say the irony of the situation wasn't lost on him.

Aaaah the days when you could walk the trenches there. Lovely to have a family story like that.

Gunner Bailey

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  • 1 month later...
Well since we appear to have started a "who has got the biggest" here is my friend in Ypres last year and he is over 6ft tall – go on beat that!. No shells from battleships please.

Norman

Norman

I think the two shells outside La Targette museum may be bigger? Anyone got any photos?

Gunner Bailey

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