With VE Day fast approaching on the 8th
May – Britain will come together to remember the date that signalled the end of World War II in Europe. However, for one new homeowner VE Day is not the only reminder of the Second World War – Henry Southall's aide-mémoir came in the shape of an unexploded 16lb artillery shell. The story, covered by the BBC and Daily Mail, is quite an astonishing one really because 24-year-old Mr Southall discovered the World War II bomb while he was leisurely showing his parents around his new home in Borth y Gest, near Porthmadog in north west Wales, for the first time. Anyone for sugar with their TNT?
The device, packed with high explosives, was sat in a kitchen cupboard collecting dust alongside another shell that was even bigger at 18lb, but empty - the status of the bombs were obviously unknown to Mr Southall at the time. You can just imagine the scene – Mr Southall offering his parents a cuppa and wondering where he put the sugar in his new home, only to open the cupboard door to find that, er, bombshell... Maybe you'd expect to find an old cabinet or battered sofa that’s been left behind when you buy a new home, but never a cupboard full of bombs. Believe it or not though, unexploded German bombs are frequently still unearthed across Britain, in gardens, fields, allotments and building sites and their sudden discovery can cause expensive disruptions. It is understood that up to one in ten bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe were faulty and failed to detonate, leaving a deadly hangover from war that still lies under our streets and fields...and then occasionally ending up in kitchen cupboards, apparently. I was interested to find out that some historians believe that many bombs were sabotaged by workers in occupied Europe, who were forced to produce them for the Germans. Some devices were timed to go off after hitting the ground so that their destructive effects would be maximised but sometimes their clockwork mechanisms jammed. Bombs can become inert over time, but when disturbed, the timing mechanism can suddenly restart. "I was told, had they gone off, they would have destroyed anything in a 200 yard radius, which included my café and lounge, and would have blown most of the windows of other properties out," commented Mr Southall who owns some tea rooms six doors away from his new house. After reading the story I was left wondering how long the shell had been there, how it got there and who owned the home previously? Mr Southall, is apparently trying to contact the previous owner and told the BBC: “There was someone living in the address before the keys were handed to me. I’m not sure how long the device had been there, but I’m glad I found it when I did as I wouldn’t have wanted it going off while I was in bed upstairs.” Police officers in Porthmadog alerted the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team who told Mr Southall that the shell was from the Second World War and contained 16lbs of explosives. It was discharged on a nearby beach where it apparently left a crater in the sand. Sources: Daily Mail
, BBC News 8th May 1945
Don't forget VE Day on the 8th May - on this day in 1945 Victory in Europe was declared and scenes of jubilation followed up and down the country. Take a look around the Forces War Records
site and search a wealth of records and historic documents relating to World War II.