CHAPTER 21 UNEXPLODED MISSILES

Diagnosis

One of our problems-particularly in the early days of the raids-was dealing with reports which we received regarding unexploded bombs and, after the Barrage commenced, unexploded shells. A considerable number of citizens - and some Civil Defenders - assumed that every " dull thud " heard during a raid represented either an unexploded bomb or unexploded shell, and from time to time investigation showed that a number of these reports were inaccurate. A major problem was, moreover, caused by the fact that if an unexploded bomb fell it was necessary to evacuate the houses in the vicinity, the radius of evacuation being dependent upon the assumed size of the unseen bomb.

In the early days, the Bomb Disposal Squads had a hectic time dealing with large numbers of what, in Walthamstow and elsewhere, proved to be unfounded reports, and arrangements were accordingly made for the training of selected Wardens to act as Reconnaissance Officers. A number of the Police were similarly trained. These trained people were known as Qualified Reconnaissance Officers - those enrolled in Civil Defence being known as Q.R.C.D. and those in the Police as Q.R.P. The training was arranged by London Region and subsequently those who qualified as Q.R.C.D.s trained our own Wardens locally, with the result that the number of false reports of U.X.B.S and U.X.A.A.s fell to a minimum. These men did excellent service, not only in reducing the number of false alarms, but also in giving us credible information upon the basis of which we were able to decide whether evacuation was necessary or not.

Types of Missiles

To determine the type of unexploded missiles was frequently not easy as a small bomb might make a clean-cut hole up to 6in. in diameter while an antiČaircraft shell, which should make a hole about 4in. diameter, might " wobble" as it went in, making a hole approximating to the size of an unexploded bomb. Holes were caused by 3in. A.A. shells, by U.P. shells (Rocket shells: U.P. standing for Unrotating Projectile), by unexploded Incendiary bombs and unexploded H.E. bombs. Sometimes, also, holes were produced for our inspection which had been made by objects other than enemy missiles: on one occasion by a scaffold pole and several times by rats! The explosion of a small H.E. bomb (100lb.) made a small crater not dissimilar from the hole made by the entry of a large unexploded 2,0001b. bomb, and on at least two occasions a reported small H.E. exploded bomb proved subsequently to be the hole of entry of a 2,000lb. unexploded H.E.

Apart from the ordinary stereotyped missiles, we naturally received a considerable amount of shell fragments and these in the Table of Incidents have usually been described as shrapnel. (It is true, of course, that, in the early days of the Century, the original use of the word " shrapnel" was to indicate fragments of shells specially designed to break into pieces in order to be more deadly. The general widening of the term, however, justified us in using it in the sense of any fragment.

Disposal

The disposal of unexploded bombs, mines and shells was not primarily our concern except to a limited degree. At C.D. Headquarters, the Borough Engineer and the Deputy Chief Warden shared the responsibility between them, the Deputy Chief Warden; with his Q.R.C.p.s, being responsible for the confirmation or discrediting of alleged unexploded missiles, and the Borough Engineer being responsible for the subsequent reports to Group 7 and any necessary arrangements for sandbagging in the case of large missiles. The excavation and removal of unexploded H.E. bombs was the responsibility of the Bomb Disposal Officer of the Royal Engineers. The removal of U.X.I.B.s was the responsibility of the Wardens.

Unexploded shells were generally collected by the Road Repair Squads (under the control of the Borough Engineer), or by Wardens. The neutralising and removal of unexploded Para-mines was the responsibility of the Navy, although our first U.X. Mine was dealt with by the R.E.s to the annoyance of the Admiralty! As the non-explosion of an H.E. bomb or mine might be due either to faulty mechanism or to a delayed-action device, dealing with U.X. Missiles was not a job to be envied and, although we had no casualties locally either among Q.R.C.D.s or our friends the Royal Engineers, I was never happy until they had discredited or disposed of these unpleasant items.

Part I - General

Part IIa - The Services

Part IIb - The Services

Part III - The Story of the Raids

Part IV - Flying Bombs & Rockets

Part V - To the Unknown Citizen