It’s 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 and defused in Walsall Wood, noticed this side-story in the same 1968 edition of the Walsall Observer.
While experts were carefully defusing Walsall Wood’s dubious gift from the Luftwaffe, kids in Brownhills West were found to be playing with a live British Army mortar round, itself dating back to the second world war. Quick-thinking off-duty PC H. Ballard stashed the ammunition safely in a ditch behind his home and waited for the bomb disposal team working in Walsall Wood to come and deal with the round.
I’d be intrigued as to how a live British Army mortar came to be in the area, and I wonder what became of Constable Ballard. Pictured with him is Mr. R Birch, and the two lived in Shannon Walk, on the Wilkin estate. Were you one of the children found to be playing with the explosive round? Do you know how it came to be in Brownhills?
These events certainly still have resonance today, with dummy ammunition being found during the draining of Chasewater, and a Second World War practice bomb recently unearthed on Cannock Chase.
If you’ve any recollections of the incident, please do comment here.
I reproduce the text below, sadly these older papers weren’t reproduced too well, but the article is readable if you click on it to read a full-size version.
Police warn of danger after bomb found by children
Brownhills police yesterday issued a warning about the danger from unexploded weapons as children were found playing with a live three-inch mortar shell on the Wilkin estate on Tuesday.
Said inspector G. Haycock: “If you find any kind of explosive device at all – no matter how small – do not touch it. Leave it where it is and tell your parents or the police immediately.
“Even after more than 20 years lying in the ground these bombs can still be lethal and may go off without warning. They were made to kill and they still can.”
The three-inch mortar with the date 1942 stamped on one fin, was handed to Police-constable H. Ballard of 18, Shannon Walk, Brownhills.
Constable Ballard, who was off-duty at the time, informed the police station at Brownhills, who relayed the message to the bomb disposal unit at work in Walsall Wood.
He placed it at the bottom of a ditch behind his garden to await the arrival of the experts.
They identified it as a live British Army mortar bomb and removed it for detonation on a range.
The caption under the picture reads:
Less impressive than the German bomb found at Walsall Wood, but nonetheless dangerous, this three-inch mortar, found by children on the Wilkin estate, Brownhills, on Tuesday, is examined by Police-constable R. (sic, it says H. in the main text) Ballard (right), of 18, Shannon Walk, and his neighbour Mr. R. Birch, of 16 Shannon Walk.