The latest hazard caused by this winter’s devastating storms and floods has been revealed by police – unexploded bombs. The storms that have ravaged and reshaped parts of the British coastline have led to the discovery of wartime shells long-buried on beaches. There are also fears that flooding along the Thames will erode riverbanks, leading to the discovery of bombs dropped on the area by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Police say that high tides and huge waves have either exposed devices or brought them closer to the surface.
Now walkers are being urged not to touch unidentified metal objects but to alert police to their finds instead. In South West England and West Wales, which bore the brunt of the storms, six devices have been handled by bomb disposal units in six weeks.
The Navy’s Southern Diving Group said it had received a 20 per cent increase in reports of unexploded bombs since January.
A 100lb Mk XIX Second World War British anti-submarine mine was found by surfers at Watwick Bay, Haverfordwest, while a rare First World War German mine surfaced on a beach near the popular Cornish resort of Newquay.
Two mortar shells were found in Poole Harbour, and mortars have emerged on the shore at Mountbatten Point, Plymouth, and Crow Point, North Devon. A shell at Minehead, Somerset – close to a former naval firing range – was also made safe. Meanwhile a mortar was discovered on a beach at Hemsby, Great Yarmouth.
‘Ferocious seas and weather are thought to be responsible,’ said Sergeant Lee Henderson of Devon and Cornwall Police. ‘There is also the potential for further bad weather to unearth more devices.
‘The bombs may still be very dangerous and people should not touch them but call police officers immediately.’
Other glimpses of wartime Britain have been uncovered at Woolacombe, North Devon, one of the key training beaches for the D-Day landings. The storms revealed an old pill box together with concrete anchorages and pile-driven iron girders.
Meanwhile vessels in the English Channel have been warned to watch out for empty shipping containers washed from the Danish-owned Svendborg Maersk cargo ship during the Valentine Day’s storm.
About 520 containers were lost and Falmouth Coastguard said: ‘There are a lot and they’re a hazard. The owners are trying to recover what they can.’
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Receiver of Wreck, Alison Kentuck, has warned that anyone recovering items must report finds within 28 days.