British Army Dump – Fancy a magazine?

The British army dump site I have had permission to dig for a few years now, always produces the goods with regards WW2 relics. The dump contains all kinds of military equipment, but the majority is weapon related. In the past, relics attributable to the vast majority of British small arms weapons have been recovered. Indeed, many relics from American and even German weapons have also been saved for future generations.

The site is quite tough going from a digging perspective, as the dump layer can have a 2 or 3 foot cap of soil/clay on it in some places, and has been known to extend 8 or even 10 feet beneath ground level. Digging without any mechanical help is possible, but nothing can beat a 3 ton digger to get down and deep fast! Once the dump layer is exposed, it is then all hands on deck with careful recovery of usually quite fragile items. Much of the dump was burned to effect the ‘full’ disposal of items, but there are areas where no burning took place. Curiously, the burnt layers tend to have the better preserved items, probably due to the ground being much more porous, resulting in fasting draining of ground water. Saying all that, you never know what you are going to find, and it takes just a simple sheet of metal above a relic to protect it from the worst of 70 years of corrosion.

The dump was used to dispose of magazines. Whether these were damaged in some way, surplus to requirements, or simply unusable in British weapons, (see the German magazines below!), it isn’t known. The range of magazines recovered is broad, with some, such as Lee-Enfield magazines, being common finds on virtually every trip. Some though are pretty unique, even for this dump site.

They are rusty as heck and many are filled with holes, but the thing I love about these magazines is that we know their history. I know exactly where they have been for the last 70 years, and where they came from. That makes the task of preserving them even more important. These aren’t just military fair bought magazines, these have their history intact, and for me, that is what it’s all about.

So, here are just a few of the hundreds of magazines recovered from the site over the past few years.

SONY DSC
Bren and Lee-Enfield magazine (along with a very badly corroded Bren gas regulator)
SONY DSC
Doesn’t look to be in great condition does it? Bren magazine found in a thick layer of clay. Being exposed to water over 70 years doesn’t help preserve steel!
SONY DSC
But here is why the dump is so great. This Bren magazine was found stuck to the underside of a large metal sheet, about 4 feet underground. This is how it looked after cleaning with a wet rag! The steel sheet had diverted all the water around the mag, keeping it relatively dry. Ok….you can buy them for a couple of quid, but there’s nothing like recovering one yourself!
DSC_4169
Lee-Enfield magazines prior to cleaning
DSC_4286
And then after. Note the unusual bayonet lug on the No 1 nose cap also shown in the pic.
DSC_4651
Another batch of badly corroded and mud-covered Lee-Enfield magazines. Note the Bren butt brackets on the right (this is where the butt handle attached), and cap from a bore/barrel mirror (top right). Other pieces bottom right are brackets from a Besa case catcher bag
DSC_4701
A good clean up and they are transformed into something much more recognisable
SONY DSC
Lee-Enfield magazines, fire damaged.
SONY DSC
Lee-Enfield magazines, fire damaged.
SONY DSC
The fire damaged mags were of both No 4 and SMLE type.
SONY DSC
Sten magazines are also a common find, but the metal is so thin that only around 50% survive once removed from the ground.
SONY DSC
They are saveable though! This is the same two magazines after cleaning.
SONY DSC
Two more Sten mags, fire damaged. At least the fire damage tends to prevent rust!
SONY DSC
Five Sten mags recovered from the same section of dump, more or less stuck together.
SONY DSC
As noted above, the steel is thin with these mags, and one of them didn’t survive the cleaning process. The other four came out very nicely though.
SONY DSC
Much rarer to find are these. 20rnd Thompson, Garand enbloc, BAR magazine
DSC_4171
And rarer still are these….. (also shown is a Mk 2 Sten mag loading tool, Lee-Enfield rear sights and a small portion of Besa MG belt)
DSC_4716
Boys magazine. The metal is too corroded to allow anything other than a very light removal of surface muck.
DSC_4282
Sten magazine and MP38
DSC_4283
It even very kindly says MP38 on it
DSC_5329
Super rare are these….in fact this is the only recognisable piece of one found! We find loads of the winding arms, but none of the magazines. Whilst only about 70% of it is left, it is worth saving because of the rarity. Bren 100 rnd magazine
DSC_5330
Bren 100rnd magazine
DSC_5374
Bren 100 rnd magazine after cleaning
DSC_5376
Bren 100 rnd magazine after cleaning
DSC_1757
Why these were in the dump I don’t suppose we will ever know. Possibly vet bring backs? Spoils of war? Used to test German weapons? Magazine on the left is a Luger mag. On the right, two K98 butt plates
DSC06968
And the best magazine ever found at the site? These two were found still in their original metal transport crate. The crate had rusted away so much it crumbled to dust as soon as touched, but that meant the crate took all the damage. The magazines inside were in remarkable condition considering they had been buried for 70+ years. German 20mm Flak38 magazines.
DSC06969
Waffenamt stamp still clealy visible, along with makers code.
DSC06967
All I did was a wipe over with a damp cloth. Not bad for 70+ years in the ground!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s