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Unexploded Ordnance


BOCN Contributor
It occurs to me that there is a reality that many of you folks have that is simply alien to those of us in the US/North America/Australia/NZ etc.

You actually have modern unexploded bombs and shells and nasty bits floating about your cities and picturesque countrysides.

It sort of dawned on me the other day, that is why "no pictures of found ordnance" and all of the folks who are in disposal. It took a while for me to apprehend it. You see, here we hear, infrequently, of unexploded material from our Civil War (1865) and even less frequently of one of them exploding (though it does happen).

So, could you offer a precis as to the situation? How often do these things show up? How often are there accidents? How much is estimated to be out there?

Don't worry about boring me, just explain.

Hi there,

i am no expert on this but i assume you mean ordnance from the last 2 World Wars?
Obviously during WW1 a lot of munitions were used during the 4 years and there are litterally millions of unexploded bombs, shells, grenades over a vast area which are continually being disturbed, ploughed up and found all over the battlefields of France and Belgium. This is a daily occurance and most fields in cultivation have ordnance collection points for found items. These items do go off too but i suppose they are reported in local news you would not hear of them in the UK. This will go on for many years to come i suppose and it keeps the European EOD forces constantly busy.I take my hat off to these guys for constantly risking their lives in dealing with these things.

Here in this country you do here of UXBs being found when excavations and housing development is taking place in and around London and the Southern Counties due to the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of unexploded German bombs from WW2.

I have not heard of any actually exploding spontaneously but i am sure this did happen soon after the war. I suspect that London is actually littered with such ordnance buried deep underground and built on but whats the point of worrying about it as it is unlikely to go off on its own by now. Ime not saying it wont but unlikely. Every now and then you hear of WW2 bombs being found, and their disposal by the EOD and sometimes items are exposed on beaches etc.

Dont forget also, the amount of munitions that was sunk and disposed of at sea.

As to the numbers, well your guess is as good as mine but ime sure over the whole of Europe its in the millions.

I dont think this can compare with the amount unexploded munitions from the American Civil War as the shear numbers of munitions produced by the combatents of both world wars was staggeringly huge in comparison.

Then of course there are the munitions from other later conflicts that have gone on all over the world since WW2, Vietnam springs to mind as one country that still has problems. Then there are the more modern conflicts such as Lebannon, the Falklands, both Gulf Wars et al. So there is going to be a problem all over the world for a very long time to come and a goddawful shame too. Yet people have to live with it.

I am sure that if i lived on a WW1 battlefield my views on my safety would be different to my views now about digging my garden here in Sussex but similar items still get found.

A laymans answer but hope it gives you food for thought.

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Some times it go's wrong last year there where 2 explosions of bombs on the same day one in Germany and in Austria of Us bombs it whas
19. September 2008 the one in Germany 17 workers are hurt on that day.
Also that year a outher worker got killed by a bomb working on the high way they where luckie there because one part of the high way whas still in use because of the digger the author ussers where protected (see photo)

Here EOD has everyday several calls of found ammo of all kind from the last war.


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Hi MB,
I think i have seen that write up with the digger on its side before? Was it a US ww2 500 pounder that went up?


So, could you offer a precis as to the situation? How often do these things show up? How often are there accidents? How much is estimated to be out there?

I spent 15 years travelling around the US making a decent living digging the stuff up. I've pulled ordnance from backyards, soccer fields, elementary school playgrounds, garages, highway overpasses, parking lots, all sorts of places. I even pulled a couple of projectiles from the main yard of a federal penitentiary in New Jersey. There are probably 8-10 companies in the US alone that do this type of work as their primary source of income, and from everything I hear, there is no shortage of work expected any time soon.

There are a few reasons why you don't hear much about it. One, EOD techs generally despise the press, so they don't advertise. Second, houses built on former ranges lose value quickly, so homeowners also don't want to advertise. Finally, publicly announcing that EOD/UXO types are going to survey an area can cause "panic", and worse, attract the environmental wackjobs, who will start the day off by suing everybody for any reason.

If you're willing, tell me what state you live in and I'll tell you what you may have buried there.:tinysmile_fatgrin_t
Here in the Netherlands we have about 2400 incidents every year, from small arms ammunition to bombs.
It would be iintereresting to know how many of our Earth quake bombs (12.000Lb) have been found unexploded in Germany since the war. We know that the Largest German Bomb the MAX (2,500Lb) none have i believe ever been recovered , all have gone off
Steve,im sure ive read somewhere that 3 very large type bombs(British) possibly `Tallboys` were de-fused post-war at the Sorpe Dam?


In Finland a number of WW2...to date ordnance are demolished by army EOD every year. No serious incidents have happened , except some amateurs blow themselves off rarely when trying to deactivate items with poor knowledge.
Last summer a Ju88 which had crashed in a lake in 1944 was salvaged for aviation museum. The plane was in full load of bombs ( 250 ... 500 kilos ) and EOD professionally exploded the bombs at site.
Hi Paul
Yes you are right there were a number recovered 854 were dropped , the Sorpe dam one was recovered in January 1959 , plus the germans recovered several after the raid , in fact 6 weeks after the dams raid the germans produced a detailed drawing of it in October 1944?
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In the UK there are around 3000 EOD tasks a year, with approximately 500 being calls to susect IEDs. The remaining 2500 are to suspect items of unexploded ordnance. Of these, approximately 70 % are dealt with by the Royal Logistic Corps, 25% by the Royal Navy and the remainder being dealt with by the Royal Engineers and Royal Air Force.

This does not include planned area clearances by the RE and RAF which turn up several thousand items a year, mostly inert scrap but by no means all.
Just a few miles north of me the army operated Camp Claybanks. It opened in WWII as a pow camp for German prisoners and was reopened again in the late 40's as a training site for triple A gunners. There were stories of what was burried there, some even true. The camp closed in 1957, but from the time it opened again until it closed, the army shot anything from .50 cal to 120mm out over Lake Michigan at drone targets and also burried uxo ammo there. While not nearly as random as Europe's overlapping battlefields, the danger does still exist here as well for unsuspecting people.
Quite correct as one tall boy was found when they drained the Sorpe dam
in 1959.

I think it was fitted with three half hour delayed action fuses and was delt with by Raf Eod and one German chappie.
Is that percentage a little harsh on the RE, RN and RAF?

I'm afraid not. If anything its a little generous. This is from the Joint Service EOD Statistics book, which is published every year. The figures remain remarkably constant, year in, year out.

The reason for it is that RLC lead in the disposal of Land Service Munitions and thats generally what is found. RN lead in Naval munitions and munitions below the high water mark. RE and RAF lead in air dropped ordnance, enemy and friendly respectively, and they don't turn up that often.

Combustion Engineering Site, Windsor (uranium)
Bombing Area, New London
Bradley Military AF, Hartford
Ft. Griswold, New London
Brainard Field, Hartford
Ft. Hale, New Haven
Ft. Wooster, New Haven
Navy IRP 61, Hartford
New Britain Group HQ, Hartford
New Haven AAF, New Haven

Two Nike missile sites in Hartford and New Haven.

If CT had any coastal defense sites, then there are projectiles rolling around just off the shore. German torpedoes are also possible anywhere along the East Coast.

Finally, any state or national park that is recently established next to any of the facilities above usually indicates that the problem was too big or costly, so they turned it into a park and restricted building on it to solve the immediate problem.

Just full of Christmas cheer, aren't I ? :tinysmile_grin_t:
Hi Charlie
In late 1940 the records of 5 BD coy that held the records of UXB In london was destroyed in a bombing raid these records were not replaced its possible that that a few of the bombs found in London recently were at one time on these destroyed records