Pensioner used live shell as doorstop
Bomb disposal disarms 'family heirloom'
Royal Navy bomb disposal experts were called to a house in Paignton, Devon, after a tip-off that 68-year-old Thelma Bonnett was rather ill-advisedly using a live First World War German shell as a doorstop, the Daily Mail reports.
The seven-inch-long "squat shell", which Bonnett's grandad Arthur acquired during his Navy days, was "packed with its original payload and with its firing mechanism primed". Bonnet explained: "Grandfather picked it up on his travels with the Merchant Navy in 1918. My father used to polish it all the time and kept it on the mantelpiece.
"It looked German because of the writing on the top. When I was young, five of us children would play with it. I don't think he would have brought it back if he'd known it was live."
The explosive "family heirloom" was clocked by neighbour John Malinovskis, who said: "I put two and two together and thought, 'That really shouldn't be there'. I asked Thelma if she knew about it and she said, 'Oh yes, it's from the war'. She said her father had polished it and kept it on the sideboard."
Bomb disposal operatives moved in, evacuated several neighbouring houses before removing the ordnance to a local quarry where it was blown up. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The shell was packed full of explosives and it could have gone off at any time. It was brought back from France in 1914 and had been used in battle when it had been fired but failed to go off.
"There is a time delay on these type of shells. A brass ring could be turned on top which gave them enough time to fire it to go off in the air or on the ground." ®
My children would find a way.
I've never heard of one of these live shells just going off for no reason; however, the family children had been PLAYING with this live round for decades! Generations! I have 2 very active boys, one of whom LOVES throwing things, bashing and crushing toys and so forth. Surely one of them would find a way to set it off. Keep dangerous things out of the hands of people who will let their kids play with them! In addition, I agree with the poster that said that someone could also re-arm the shell for some deadly purpose, or just leave it somewhere that it would cause devastation (like on a railroad track, heaven forbid).
2 possibilities as to how it got there Remy,
1. We were aiming at Germany and missed. Sorry.
2. More likely, just, is that it was jettisoned by a badly damaged aircraft struggling to make it back across the cold dark (and wet of course) North Sea - the usual route from bases in Lincolnshire, E.Anglia and Yorkshire. I'm sure your parents or grandparents will remember them flying overhead, and probably risked their lives to help any who baled out - the Dutch did that a LOT.
Shell or Grenade?
Since it didn't take the house down and the preliminary story on the incident includes the remark that paramedics believed it to have been a "frenzied shooting" the explosion would have to be fairly small. It could have been a hand grenade, a 2pdr. shell or a similarly sized shell of German manufacture. Chances are the explosive filler had degraded over time due to heat, moisture et cetera. Alot of things can happen to military grade explosives over 70 years, but unlike TNT and similar civilian explosives from that time they typically become less dangerous, not more.