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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Bomb Disposal

This week, here in the UK we have had a reminder that the First World War continues to make its presence felt as two Belgian construction workers were killed and two injured by an unexploded artillery shell. Every year, the Belgian authorities dispose of 200 tons of unexploded shells. Across the border in France, the Armée deals with 900 tons just from around Verdun.

Anyone that's been walking or touring in Belgium or North-East France will have seen the piles of shells around fields, particularly at this time of year, around the ploughing season.

Shells found in a field in Belgium (photo from the Irish Times)

Shells collected from Sanctuary Wood

In 2008 I went on a Holt's Tours trip to Verdun. Our guide, Richard Holmes, had been told of a newly discovered German trench at the back of Le Mort Homme so we went for a look.

This is a photo of the group in the trench. Then we found this.

It looked like a 105. We promptly retreated, except for one group member. He was a very clever chap but was somewhat lacking in the social sense. He went up and KICKED THE SHELL.

"Its all right, it's a dud" he shouted.

"You f*****g a******e" and "Are you trying to kill us?" were the answers he got.

I was stood about five metres away when he did it. In the next thirty seconds I became very aware of my mortality.

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