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Remembered Today:

Removal of battlefield relics


dutchbarge
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I noticed the very wise and proper warning by the Forum regarding the disturbing or removal of battlefield relics and thought of an amusing (although frightening) anecdote that occured some years back in Albert outside the Musee Abris. As my wife and I were leaving the gift shop a fellow came sweating up to the door carrying a rather large artillery projectile. He had found it just outside of town on the verge and thought the museum might be happy to add it to their collection. Needless to say once the museum staff saw what was happening things got pretty exciting! All ended well but it is strange how otherwise prudent people can become so dangerous to themselves and others when presented with these relics. Anyone else have an interesting story?

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I was guiding a school tour once when we stopped the coach at the Pozieres British Cemetery and Memorial so that a student could visit a grave. In these cases I always give the student a choice:

1 - to come with me while I show them to the grave and then be left alone

2 - as above but with a teacher or a small group of friends

After a short while everyone else is allowed off the coach so that I can tell them any interesting details about the history or location of the cemetery. Then when we've finished the visit, we all get back on the coach with me getting on last because I sit right at the front in the crew seat. While we had been away the driver had gone for a smoke and found an unexploded 18-pounder high explosive shell which he had decided to take home. I didn't notice it until we were on the road again. During a right turn the shell rolled from under the driver's seat, along in front of my feet and thudded down the four steps where it hit the bottom of the door.

I still shudder to think about it.

Tom

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Guest KevinEndon

After all that Tom it's no wonder the Germans shouted over to the Brits that they wanted to send some of the dud shells back as they were snowed under with them. Someone somewhere I guess was either looking after you or the bus driver, maybe the big man up there is a mechanic and wanted to save the bus. Who knows.

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Having nearly been wiped out on more than several occassions by coaches who see the speed limit as a target rather than advisory, I can think of some who should be forced to drive around with a live shell under the seat, just to focus the mind.

Mick

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Met a "guide" with a few of his clients last year in a cafe on Somme and he took delight in describing how he always tries to hammer off the nose cone off any unexploded shells he finds while on his tours! Hope he is well insured!

Tony

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Kirky's story reminds me of another. I was staying with a group in Langemark and we learned that while we had been out for the day a local "collector" had been trying to remove the fuze of a shrapnel shell with an angle-grinder when the shell decided to detonate. The explosive in the shell must have deteriorated because it didn't produce a full-blooded instantaneous explosion but rather it burned VERY fast. There was still enough power to cause serious injury though, and I believe the victim suffered a perforated lung.

Tom

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1)The moors up near Ebbw Vale were used for training during and after WW2. While walking there a few years ago I found the tail end of a PIAT sticking out of the dry peat. I marked the spot with a convenient discarded plastic carrier bag, and contacted the local police. They met me there 5DAYS LATER and with much patronising from the two 12 year old fuzzballs we made our way to the site. They were going to recover the 'BLANK' round and take it back to the station. When we arrived, ad they suddenly did not recognise the blank round I asked theym if I should pull it out for them to take away. Dramatic loss of swagger factor on their part, and calls for the Bomb Disposal team. Went back the next weekend, nice 6 foot wide shallow crater, No PC's boots sticking out was the only downside.

2) When I was a boy scout (end of the 1950s) our scoutmaster (a carpenter) used to use an inert 20mm shell as a nail punch. Always delighted at everyone else's consternation. One day he needed a circular punch, and the brass case was just the right size. He pulls out the round to discover a full charge of propellant, and decided on the spot to buy a proper nail punch!

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On an exercise in Northern Qld with a Field Engineer Sqn, one of the Engineer plant operators uncovered a "projectile" about 3.5" or so in diameter and maybe 6" long and very dirty and corroded.

He subsequently brought it into our RAEME wksp and asked the Fitter-Armourer if he knew what it was. After scratching his head and offering a few wild guesses the Cpl Fitter-Armourer admitted he had no idea what it was, but took it away to "clean" it up to try and read what the markings were on the base.

Sometime later a young Craftsman Fitter approached me juggling a "hot" projectile from hand to hand, I was horrified to find out that he'd been asked to clean it up by his Cpl and he'd put it into his lathe, taken a cut across the base (with no cutting fluid) & cleaned the body up using emery cloth while spinning it in the lathe. The result was an alarmingly hot shell.

To say I was alarmed would be putting it mildly! Shortly afterwards, they wrapped some det cord around it and blew it up, the young craftie was amazed to see the crater it left!

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Amazing what turns up. For 10 years my wife and I owned for a Dutch Tjalk built circa 1910. Our barge was originally used to haul sand and probably carried the materials for many of the pillboxes on the Western Front. During WW2 she was confiscated by the Nazis and taken back to Germany. After the war she was repatriated to Holland and many years later we bought her. We used our 'Monsabot' many times while moored in Peronne as a base to explore the Somme. Also the same in Ypres. After a harrowing crossing of the Osterschelde one stormy November we debated the idea of getting a distress flare gun should the need arise. We were told by our Dutch friends that the ownership, let alone the actual discharging, any type of pyrotechnic devise was strictly prohibited. Infact to press home the point we were visited by the Dutch water police to reiterate what our friends had told us. Imagine everyone's suprise when the next week, while doing a bit of remodeling on board, we opened a bulkhead and found a cache of WW2 US handgrenades! When the water police returned they assumed that being cowboy Americans, desperate for an illegal flaregun, we were no doubt also wrapped up in a plot to transport contaband war material. The testimony of the jachtwerf personnel proved us innocent and eventually bomb disposal personnel arrived to escort the 'pineapples' off our boat. We had quite a laugh about it all as the authorities cleared off until Wim, one of the welders, told us that in cutting open the bulkhead, whilst we were lounging in the adjacent saloon, he had burned the paint off several of the gernades! Bill

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