They cut into the hill

The above film was spotted by [Howmuch?] and relates to one of his particular interests: the Fauld explosion in an ammunition dump near Tutbury, Staffordshire, in the latter stages of the war, said to be the largest non-nuclear explosion in the world for a time. The accident left 70 or more dead and permanent scars on generations, communities and the landscape.

What often isn’t realised is that the gypsum mine at Fauld still operates, as did the ammunition dump there, well into the 1960s. The above film is a journey into the bowels of the hill and is fascinating, scary and informative, all at the same time. It was filmed by Crewe Climbing and Potholing Club, who have some great stuff for those with molish predilections on their website. I feel a few readers will enjoy it.

Wikipedia has this to say about the Fauld incident:

The RAF Fauld explosion was a military accident which occurred at 11:11am on Monday, 27 November 1944 at the RAF Fauld underground munitions storage depot. The RAF Fauld explosion was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and the largest to occur on UK soil.

Between 3,500 and 4,000 tonnes of ordnance exploded — mostly comprising high explosive (HE)-filled bombs, but including a variety of other types of weapons and including 500 million rounds of rifleammunition. The resulting crater was 120 metres (400 ft) deep and 1,200 metres (0.75 miles) across and is still clearly visible just south of the village of Fauld, to the west of Hanbury Hill in StaffordshireEngland. A nearby reservoir containing 450,000 cubic metres of water was obliterated in the incident, along with a number of buildings including a complete farmFlooding caused by destruction of the reservoir added to the damage directly caused by the explosion.[1]

The exact death toll is uncertain; it appears that about 70 people died in the explosion.


The crater left by the explosion is still present, and still considered dangerous. Image by [Howmuch?] and posted on Panoramio.

If you’re interested in this event – the scars on the landscape are still visible – and the MOD machinations that shambled and dissembled over the event for years – you could do worse than read Mark Rowe’s excellent books on the matter: ‘The Day the Dump went up‘ and ‘The Trees were Burning‘ which are great works, and are excellent examples of the documentation of local oral history recording.

There’s also a great book on Staffordshire airfields in World War II by Martyn Chorlton which talks much about the ammunition store at Fauld, and also the other one at the Bagot Forest, near Abbots Bromley.

That leads me to another great site about Fradley Airfield, also found by [Howmuch?]. This is a fantastic thing indeed. What it maybe lacks in web design, it makes up for in content. If you’re interested in wartime Staffordshire, it’s well worth a look.


27 O.T.U. Groundcrew November 1944. Image from the RAF Lichfield Association. Click the image to visit their site.

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4 Responses to They cut into the hill

  1. Clive says:

    Nice one Howmuch and Bob, Thank you

  2. I’ve visited the crater a few times. Impressive or what, not that far from Klondyke Mill steam rallies. One coming up mid October.

  3. Jeepboy says:

    The undulations in the A515 twixt Newchurch and Draycott are a resultant of the shock waves from the Fault explosion – when I lived in the area, my neighbour told me that in the mine you could travel underground by Land Rover from Burton to Uttoxeter

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