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.

Bren and Lee-Enfield magazine (along with a very badly corroded Bren gas regulator)
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!
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!
Lee-Enfield magazines prior to cleaning
And then after. Note the unusual bayonet lug on the No 1 nose cap also shown in the pic.
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
A good clean up and they are transformed into something much more recognisable
Lee-Enfield magazines, fire damaged.
Lee-Enfield magazines, fire damaged.
The fire damaged mags were of both No 4 and SMLE type.
Sten magazines are also a common find, but the metal is so thin that only around 50% survive once removed from the ground.
They are saveable though! This is the same two magazines after cleaning.
Two more Sten mags, fire damaged. At least the fire damage tends to prevent rust!
Five Sten mags recovered from the same section of dump, more or less stuck together.
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.
Much rarer to find are these. 20rnd Thompson, Garand enbloc, BAR magazine
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)
Boys magazine. The metal is too corroded to allow anything other than a very light removal of surface muck.
Sten magazine and MP38
It even very kindly says MP38 on it
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
Bren 100rnd magazine
Bren 100 rnd magazine after cleaning
Bren 100 rnd magazine after cleaning
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
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.
Waffenamt stamp still clealy visible, along with makers code.
All I did was a wipe over with a damp cloth. Not bad for 70+ years in the ground!

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