One man’s rubbish, another man’s treasure!

Digging for, cleaning and preserving WW2 relics isn’t just about getting landowners permission and recovering them yourself. The UK has a large number of detectorists out there, the vast majority of whom are looking for Roman, Medieval and other such items. There are few of us who purposefully go out in search of WW2 relics. However, these detectorists will regularly stumble across WW2 sites  that have been lost to history, only identified by the relics they recover from the ground. Many of these detectorists regard WW2 relics as modern rubbish, and it is all too often added to the scrap bins at the back of the garden or garage.

So, I would heartily recommend that the WW2 detectorist joins a local metal detecting club. There are a number of reasons for this;

  1. Your ‘normal’ detectorist has little or no knowledge of WW2 ordnance and kit, so you can educate them on what items are, whether they are safe or not, and what the law is governing such items.
  2. They can help you by giving you tips on detecting and advising on the best kind of machines to use. These guys are the true experts in metal detector functionality and you can learn a lot from them.
  3. You can help them to new sites by advising where you have stumbled across what they are looking for.
  4. They can help you to new sites by advising where they have found WW2 relics.
  5. Once in the club, you can attend their digs on sites where they have recovered WW2 relics
  6. You can pass the landowner details on to them, or even organise digs for them, on sites where you have found Roman/Medieval artefacts

As you can see, it benefits all by joining a metal detecting club!

I did just that a couple of years ago, and my first meeting was at a local museum, where the first thing I did was remove two illegal items from their display! I then went on to identify a number of WW2 relics they had recovered from a site, and then ended up giving a talk to the club members on WW2 relics a month or so later. It has been of great benefit to both myself, and the club members, and we both learn a lot from each other.

The other great benefit is that very very few of them are interested in WW2 relics. This means that, if the club do dig a site where there are such relics, most of it ends up in the scrap bins, and is then recovered from the same bins by me at the end of the dig. In this way I have added some very cool items to my collection!

And here is an example of such scrap recycling. Thursday night I attended the club meeting, and was presented with a scrap box, from which I recovered the following items……

Before cleaning
After cleaning

Some great items in this lot….

Transport caps from artillery shells. These sat on top of the fuze well during transport, with the fuze being fitted later. The larger ones I believe are for 25pdrs, the smaller one for a 40mm
Markings on a transport cap
Markings on a transport cap
Markings on a transport cap
Diagram showing transport caps in place
Diagram showing cap on a ‘chemical’ shell

These caps are great, but there were even better relics in this scrap bin……

No 3 fuze from a British Mk V anti-tank mine
Safety cap from a No 152 fuze (3 inch mortar)
Boosters from artillery shells
Markings on booster
Markings on booster
40mm Bofors cartridge case, (well….the bottom portion of one!)
Leicestershire Regiment
Clip from a respirator bag
Sten gun magazine loading tool handle
large chunk of drive band and a booster tube
50cal cartridge case
Quite a rare headstamp this, showing it to be made by Lowell Ordnance Plant, Lowell, MA, USA (1942-1943)


So, if you do nothing else in 2018, make sure the one thing you do do is join a local metal detecting club! Share knowledge, share sites, and get lots of other people to dig up stuff for you. 🙂 🙂

One comment

  1. Completely agree with this. I was on a dig commissioned by an archaeological group, a dozen plus mills bomb basses, striker spring etc. were heading for the rubbish bin until I grabbed them. It was on a private estate and best guess was home guard practice bases dated 43.


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