Going down a bomb

From the ‘Walsall Observer’, 11th April 1968. Click on the image for a larger version.

I’m eternally grateful to an anonymous reader who’s been trawling through old newspapers looking for the report of an event he recalls from his childhood. Occurring just up the road in Walsall Wood, this find caused no small controversy at the time – one  can only imagine the destruction should the device have actually exploded. I bet it made the guy driving the excavator sweat a bit.

I just love the apparently laconic nature of both Captain Moore and Superintendent Mann, who address the issue as if it were no more than a tiny disruption to their day. I hope one or both of them were pipe smokers – I could just imagine these seemingly unflappable gents pulling on a bowl of Erinmore while musing on those damned Luftwaffe pilots.

I’m interested in the mention of an ‘Underground munitions store in Linley Wood, Aldridge’ – does anyone have any more info about that? Never heard it mentioned before. I’m aware of the postwar  scrap operation at the Fox Covey, but this sounds more military in nature.

The moorland in question I think is the Roaches, just off Morridge. I’ve cycled past it a few times, and MOD danger notices are still posted there, and can be seen in that photo.

The contributor speculates that the bombers may have been aiming to cause the pits to collapse. I wonder if they were hoping to hole the canal. Perhaps we’ll never know…

This report is taken from the Walsall Observer of April 11th, 1968. I’ve transcribed it as the original is only barely legible. Thanks again to the reader who supplied this gem, do any of you readers remember the incident?

Bomb experts rendered ‘Hermann’ harmless

Residents of Walsall Wood heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday evening as the 2,240lb. unexploded bomb found in a quarry off Boatmans Lane was pronounced “dead.”

Named a “Hermann” after the 20 stone Luftwaffe chief, Hermann Goering, it was discovered by an excavator driver on Monday morning some 20ft down a face. It was 7ft in length. As soon as the workmen realised what they had discovered the police were called and the area was sealed off to await the arrival of Army experts.

A preliminary inspection by ordnance officers revealed that it was a job for specialists – and No. 1 Army Bomb Disposal Unit was called in from Felixstowe, Norfolk.

Capt. Tom Moore identified the bomb from the yellow-painted band around it and from its construction, and decided that the 2000lbs of high explosive would have to be steamed out.

The circular mechanical fuse was in a dangerous state, he said.

SEALED OFF

When the special equipment arrived on Tuesday morning, the main Lichfield Road was sealed off from between Shelfield and Walsall Wood, and police operated emergency diversions from 11a.m. until the bomb was removed seven hours later.

It was decided not to evacuate nearby houses – though residents were asked to leave their windows open, since the blast could have caused damage up to  half a mile away if the bomb had gone up.

Once Capt. Moore had completed the hazardous operation – the biggest his unit had undertaken in two years – workmen hoisted the huge casing on to a bed of sand bags in a 3-ton truck.

It was taken by road to an isolated Army training ground on moorland near Leek in North Staffordshire and destroyed yesterday (Wednesday) morning.

It is thought that the bomb may have been aimed at the nearby yards of the Aldridge Brick and Tile Company, which were bombed in 1941, or at an underground munitions store in Linley Wood, Aldridge.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Superintendent A. Mann, chief of Aldridge police, said the operation had gone very smoothly. “Obviously we cannot make these diversions without some minor inconveniences,” he said. “However, I do not think there was much of a hold-up while they were in operation.”

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17 Comments

  • Bob, I’ve heard the story of the underground weapons store at Linley Woods. It was in a local history book, but I can’t remember which one. It may be ‘I Remember Rushall’, but I can’t be sure.

     
    Reply
    • John Reynolds

      I know a bit about this as I spent 2 years 1959 -1961 as a 9 -11 year old exploring Linley Woods with my mates.
      The woods were and I presume still are, located next to the railway line and bordered the Rushall Road. Within the woods were various overgrown deep craters or probably old limestone quarries and several dangerous caves. The largest crater had a long flight of brick steps leading from the top to the floor of the crater. At the base of the crater was an entrance to a flooded cave with a further flight of brick steps disappearing into it. Local rumour had it that there were steel doors at the base of the flooded area leading to underground ammunition stores. At the edge of the wood was a large flooded quarry with a cave mouth visible above the water and a road diappeared at the waters edge. The word on this was that it was an ammo dump stretching as far as Walsall. There was also a large military store nearby into which we once intruded through damaged corner. It was full with thousands of parachute harness’s and empty 303 ammo boxes, plus tank periscopes.

       
      Reply
      • John Reynolds

        Just seen the video of divers exploring the flooded ammo stores at Linley Woods on you tube – listed under ‘caverns’ then ‘Linley Caverns’. Utterly amazing underwater footage of all the War Dept signs still painted on the brickwork and roads under water. One sign states ’emergency exit 350 yards’ – shows how extensive the flooded areas are! This proves to me that everything we heard about this as local kids was true!!!!

         
        Reply
  • Have a look here for some info, and here (scroll down) for some links to youtube videos of the caverns that were used for the store being dived.

    Linley was a childhood playground for me, and lots of others, from the comments.

     
    Reply
  • Sorry- bad form and all that to keep posting individual replies, but this forum post, and Wikipedia both suggest that Linley was not a good munitions dump (because of flooding), and only used for obsolete stuff.

     
    Reply
  • mick c

    hi bob, i remember the bomb incident at walsall wood very well, i was travelling to my workplace in rushall from brownhills and we were diverted from the usual route, this was around 7.45am so where they get the 11am from i do not know !. i also remember seeing the bomb on the lorry,it
    came past the place where i worked, this can be corroborated
    by old workmates who i am still in touch with, re linley woods,i
    believe it was designated to be a munitions manufacturing
    production-storage depot capable of holding some 20 kilotons
    of explosives, a considerable amount of money was spent but
    it was found to be inherently unstable, i have been told it was then used for the storage of light firearms and ammo.
    by the way there is a concensus of opinion that the bomb found in walsall wood may well have been meant for elkingtons at goscote which was one of the largest producers of sten guns. cheers mick.

     
    Reply
    • jimbo

      Elkington’s in Goscote were copper refiners I believe and I think the Elkingtons that made the sten were in Birmingham. I’ve heard it mentioned before that German bombers used Chasewater as navigation point and the munitions storage facility at Linley wood is directly south of Chasewater so this would have taken the bombers directly over the quarries on Walsall road from Chasewater to Linley I’m guessing the German pilots mistook the quarries for the Linley site

       
      Reply
  • mick c

    jimbo, it was suggested by my dad (he is 83 and has a marvellous memory) that chasewater was a rendezvous point
    for bombers on their way to bomb coventry and also to sometimes dump bombs as can be attested by a friend of mine who’s house was damaged at chasetown end of the pool, also according to my dad they chucked old tyres and bales of straw into chasewater to break up reflections off the
    water. maybe we will never know for sure jimbo. mick.

     
    Reply
  • jimbo

    On another note I once found a spent cannon shell casing on clayhanger in the fields I don’t have it now but I think it was around 20mm in caliber and may have been stamped 1942 I wonder if it fell from an aircraft flying on that path or if got there some other way

     
    Reply
  • jimbo

    Thinking further on this another more likely target would be the Norton junction sidings which were situated opposite the High bridges bridge just over a mile north of where the bomb was discovered. I’ve read that houses at Highbridge row were hit around 1942 this must have been an attack on the sidings as the Pelsall iron works had been demolished by this time. The sidings would probably have been the prime infrastructure target in the area interestingly if you draw a line between Chasewater and the centre of Birmingham you cross both the Norton junction sidings and the exact location of where the bomb was found

     
    Reply
  • mick c

    I have just came across this post again, since last time I replied on here I have had some good in depth conversations with my Dad about the war years, he says he and his lifelong friend used to go down by Elkingtons to play on the cut (sic) and they could hear the rat ta tat of the guns being test fired by, he say’s, women one of whom was his elder sister, his friend Frank who now lives in Rushall confirms his story, Also, a Norton friend of mine Frank Mathews was telling us about the war years and Norton pool, he says there were searchlight batteries on Lomas’s field, which was by the old wooden stables in Norton and also up Brownhills west.

     
    Reply
  1. Meanwhile, over in Brownhills West… « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog  July 7, 2010

    […] funny how some things happen in twos and threes. The same anonymous contributor who doggedly sought out the story of the massive 2,240lb. ‘Hermann’ wartime bomb, discovered…, noticed this side-story in the same 1968 edition of the Walsall […]

     
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