Saturday, 14 May 2016

More UXBs


The cover of  WW2 British propaganda booklet. My header photo is taken from it, and I believe you can see my father in it, peeping out from the back row - though his sister didn't.

Well they took the Bath bomb away yesterday (they must have driven past hundreds of houses in the night) and blew it up in a controlled explosion. Either it was a very small explosion, or it was very far away, because I didn't hear anything. Salisbury Plain is only about 20 miles away from here, and you can hear them practicing with big guns on certain days. It would be cruel to relocate immigrants escaping war-zones in Devizes.

I taught myself lots about bombs when I was a kid, and we lived quite close to the main ranges - like Frimley - as well as the Home of the British Army, Aldershot. I would sometimes wander around the acidic, sandy common land in search of mementoes, and found quite a lot of stuff which was fascinating to a boy of that age.

A friend's family invited us to a picnic on one range which was open to the public, and we knew we would not be bombed half way through the cucumber sandwiches, because the red flag which they hoisted onto a white pole to alert everyone that live firing was taking place, was not being flown.

After the tea and cake, my friend and I went for a wander, leaving the parents sitting on a blanket. The father's advice as we left was, "Don't touch anything." Yeah, right. I wouldn't have bothered to come were it not for the delicious prospect of touching military hardware.

A few hundred yards into the range, and I spotted my prize, lying amongst the heather. A two-inch mortar shell lying on its side, looking very attractive indeed.

"Don't touch it!" yelled my little friend, and I said that I was not going to - yet.

I went round to the end of the shell and got on my knees to confirm my suspicions - it was empty and harmless. The cylindrical body was painted white, signifying a flare, and the propulsion holes between the fins were blown out, showing that the shotgun cartridge-like charge had already done its work. I pointed all this out to my friend before picking it up.

We walked back to his mum and dad, and they both tried to bury themselves in the sand when they saw what I was carrying. I had to wave the shell a few inches away from dad's face to show him the empty tube before he calmed down and reluctantly allowed me to take it in the car back home. He did not know that I was a little authority on bombs.

The mortar shell sat around in my bedroom until I got bored with it, so then I hatched a plan to have one last thrill of excitement before I said goodbye to it forever.

My daily walk to school took me past a little village green with a few shops around it, and the green was the centre of a sleepy hamlet in which hardly anything ever happened since the nearby borstal had closed down. I was the last naughty boy in the area.

One night, I painted the body of the mortar a matt black, then I painted two red rings around the lower end. For those in the know, this colour scheme represents 'anti-personnel, shrapnel'. The original, pure-white body was 'flare shell' for illuminating the battlefield.

The next night - under cover of darkness - I went back to the village green and pushed the hollow end of the bomb into the grass, setting it at a pleasing angle, as if it had landed there from a distant firing position. Then I snuck back home.

The next morning, on the way to school, I was simultaneously delighted and horrified to see that the whole area had been cordoned-off, the shops and houses had been evacuated and a lot of military vehicles were parked around the cordon at a safe distance. Some men in uniform were looking at my little mortar through binoculars.

As I approached, a policeman came up to me and I thought I was going to be arrested on the spot for sweating and going red, but he just told me to give it a wide berth by crossing the road on my way.

What a nasty little bastard I must have been - and maybe still am.


27 comments:

  1. I see I have lost a follower. Must have been the birthday card. Well don't blame me - I didn't buy it.

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  2. Great story, Tom! What a bad boy you were...which doesn't surprise me in the least!

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  3. Maybe you were a bit naughty, but clearly imaginative and daring, too.

    Your story has reminded me of a few of my own. Telling either will not fit in a comment box. I will settle for thanking you for unearthing my memory.

    Best wishes.

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    1. Oh, I thought you said, 'and darling too'.

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  4. Dennis the Menace. Did you get the slipper when your dad found out?

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    Replies
    1. Dennis always got the slipper.

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    2. I was more Lord Snooty than Dennis.

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  5. It sounds to me that you were fearless all around.

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    1. I'm not sure 'fearless' is the right word.

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  6. There was a young man from Devizes
    Whose balls were of different sizes
    One was so small
    It was nothing at all
    The other took numerous prizes

    It is not very often I see Devizes.

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    Replies
    1. I know that one, but I always said 'tits' for balls.

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    2. Funny, I picked up dozens of utterly filthy rhymes at my boarding school, but never that one. My education proceeds apace.

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    3. I stopped at 'The young woman from the Azores'.

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  7. Replies
    1. Welcome back Weave. I want to see cruise photos. I want to say John employed as a scarecrow in the Farmer's field too.

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  8. A childhood prank on such a grand scale is to be proud of.

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    1. A 500 pounder would have been better.

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  9. There was some military training ground near Farnham. I used to go there to collect those empty metal ammo boxes. I kept my colours in them. I wonder how much each one cost the MOD?

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    1. All that brass they threw away too! These days, it's all plastic, steel or industrial egg-box material.

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  10. I love it. Highly irresponsible but totally hilarious! That must have been the talking -point of the village for years.

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    1. I still feel a twinge of guilt even now. I wonder how much it cost the community...

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  11. I hope that no one in that village reads your posts! If you suddenly disappear like Pat did we shall all club together for a cake with a file in it!

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    1. Yes, these days there are 'historical offences'. The oldest historical child-molester was in court last week for offences committed 45 years ago. He is 101.

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  12. I wish you'd told the policeman it was you...but then again he wouldn't have believed you....and a prank such as that shows you have a certain side to you Tom you're right..but only you know if you are/were a nasty bastard or not...the only place any of us knows is inside our heads and hearts and we all present a front to the world don't we?

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    1. Usually I present my worst front. People have to work hard to see my positive, caring side. One Christmas, I pulled the pin out of what I knew to be an empty hand-grenade, and tossed it onto the sofa where my uncle was sitting, knowing that he had served in the North African campaign.

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