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Warning after Islanders seen online handling an unexploded shell

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ISLANDERS are being urged not to touch unexploded munitions after pictures emerged online of people handling a ‘very viable’ Second World War bomb in Grouville.

Shane Boschat, the finder of the shell. Picture: Steven Andrews (23864307)

Stuart Elliott, Jersey’s bomb disposal officer, said that the Czechoslovakian-made device – normally packed with 4lb of explosives – was one of the most well-preserved he had ever seen and could be functional.

The former police officer added that the 10cm shell, which was equipped with a time-delay fuse, was extremely dangerous and would have to be destroyed through a controlled explosion.

Explaining the dangers, he said: ‘The more the item is handled, the greater the risk to the person is and the people around them. The likelihood of a munition going off depends on a number of factors, but it concerns me greatly when people handle them unnecessarily.

‘If people pick them up off the beach, thinking it is a piece of rubbish, then realise what it is and put it down, I think that is perfectly acceptable. But if you know what it is and move it unnecessarily, that increases the risk to that person and those around them at that time.’

Mr Elliott added that he was lucky enough to have never dealt with an accident but revealed that his late colleague, Eric Walker, had dealt with incidents where children had lost fingers after deliberately causing small arms munitions to detonate.

‘If people do start handling these we could be heading towards disaster, because they think they are safe when they are not,’ he said.

‘You only have to look around the world for stories of people dying and being injured from handling unexploded munitions.

‘I saw the photo online [of the Grouville shell] and my heart sank a bit – it is almost as if it will take a serious incident before people stop touching them. But, if people act safely, then that is not likely to happen.’

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The shell was found on Saturday in Grouville Bay by metal detectorists, who alerted Mr Elliott to its presence.

And the disposal officer, who was last year awarded a British Empire Medal for his role in keeping Islanders safe, said that he was amazed by the condition of the circa-70-year-old weapon.

‘It is definitely viable. It is probably one of the best-condition shells that I have seen for some time – there is absolutely no corrosion around the shell at all.

‘The brass fuse is almost perfect and it still has all of its markings and settings. They normally contain around 4lb of explosive, so they go off quite well – they are quite lively items and it was most likely fired from a 10cm field Howitzer of Czech manufacture.

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‘How it survived so well is anyone’s guess but restoring it is out of the question. When you are dealing with a munition like this, you do not know at what stage the fuse has stopped and it could function again.’

Mr Elliott added that despite his concerns, if they acted responsibly, metal detectorists played a key role in protecting Islanders.

‘They are part of the clearance effort of a legacy issue and it will be good to see the end of it.

‘The Germans had five years of target practice here and a lot, on average around 20 per cent, failed to go off, so there is probably still quite a bit around.’

Anyone who finds anything suspicious, however small, is urged to leave it alone, get well back and call the police as soon as possible.

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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