When I first had the idea for WW2 Treasure Hunters and put pen to paper, I already had a number of sites and stories in mind. Indeed, the initial pitch contained 16 proposed locations and stories, which was then whittled down to eight that made it to the series as it was finally aired. Of those sites in the original pitch, all except 3 of them I already had permission to dig, which made life much easier for the production company.
One of those was the Royal Army Ordnance Corps depot near Loughborough. I hadn’t been digging the site long before the show got commissioned, but I had known of the location for some time, it being only a stones-throw from my house! Hence it was included in the pitch.
I have had some remarkable finds from this old base, and even after getting it detected by 15+ detectorists for the show, it is still producing excellent finds.
And today was no exception!
With a bit of spare time on my hands, I acquired the necessary permission from the landowner, then cleared it with the tenant farmer and the park gamekeeper. And today was the day.
It was rather cold with an icy wind blowing, but I’ve detected and dug in 12 inches of snow before, so this was in no way going to put me off. Plenty of layers makes you look like a Michelin man, but at least you’re warm.
The first hour passed quite quickly with not a single WW2 relic to my credit, just lots of lumps of lead and a coin spill of 5 ha’pennies. I switched locations by 50 yards to another patch of woodland I had detected three times previously, so I wasn’t hopeful there would be much left. However, as has happened to me in the past on different sites, I found a patch of land full of relics that I had somehow missed on every previous visit. There were a lot of dead stinging nettle stalks about, so I reasoned this is why I had avoided the area. Usually the stinging nettle clumps are the first place I search, as no-one else is daft enough to pitch into the middle of a forest of nipple high nettles. But this wood had been so productive, I hadn’t needed to.
There were still lots of bits of trash in there, but in among this trash some really nice WW2 relics. Two finds in particular were a first for me, and just showed what the RAOC guys were using to set off their explosives.
Some of the items you dig look and feel like junk, but it isn’t until you get them home and clean them that you realise they aren’t. Take, for example, these two padlocks. They could easily have been used for locking the RAOC stores doors, or even used with the kitbag locks, but without some sort of marking that shows they were army issue, you can never tell.
It’s still worth taking them home though, just in case. And in one case, damn good job I did!
Of course, with a RAOC depot, old ordnance is to be expected.
With the other personal stuff I was recovering, (old boot polish tins, toothpaste tins etc.), it was nice to get an item positively identifiable as being military.
And so on to the finds of the day.
The RAOC disposed of a lot of old ordnance at this site, processing some 30,000 tons of the stuff at the end of the war. They either recycled it, sent it away for salvage, sent it away to be blown up, (in a quarry in Wales), or, for the really dangerous stuff, blew it up on the park.
To set these explosions they needed fuzes, and I found a number of examples today.
Just a quick word on these items, in case you’re worried as to my safety! These items contain a small percussion cap in the base which is struck by the firing pin held in the body of the fuze. They are NOT a tube full of explosive!!!! They are just a little percussion cap which, when struck by the firing pin, sets off the detonator which is placed into the tube on the end as you set up the charge.
Just a reminder though that I’ve been digging WW2 relics for over 20 years and have built up a considerable knowledge. If you’re new to it and are ever unsure if what you’re digging is ‘safe’, LEAVE IT ALONE and call the authorities. No relic is worth a finger, hand, arm, leg or life.
I’ve never dug even one of the below items before, although I have seen plenty. Recovering WW2 relics is about safety, and knowing what you’re digging. Many people would have cast these aside as little bits of copper pipe, but they were identified the second they appeared……the hole and the crimps gave them away.
They are missing the detonator adapter, but are very nice examples. One has had tape wrapped round it, possibly to fix it to the items being blown up?
These were not affected by temperature like the No 10 chemical delay pencils.
They held a small piece of lead alloy wire, cut to a specific diameter. The wire was held under tension by a spring which, over a period of time, would cause enough stress in the wire to cause it to break. This released the firing pin which hit the small percussion cap in the base, which set off the detonator and explosive. The timer started from the moment you removed the safety pin, which went through the two holes at the top of the pencil.
A good day’s digging and not bad for only 2 hours of detecting!