One Man’s Rubbish, Another Man’s Treasure – Take TWO!

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 in their 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 identify new sites by advising where you have stumbled across the older stuff that 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!

The other great benefit is that very very few of your everyday detectorists 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 that is exactly what I was going through a few hours ago. Three huge buckets of ‘scrap’. In among the (s)crap (and the vast majority was indeed just that!), were some excellent WW2 relics.

Some of you will look at this first picture and think ‘Meh! A pile of 303s. Not even worth cleaning!’ and, to be honest, I wouldn’t blame you. Thing is though, I can’t bear to see even one 303 cartridge go down the scrap merchants. To me, every one of them is a little piece of history that deserves saving.

You also need to look harder as, in among the pile of 303s are some very cool and rare little relics of WW2!

Scroll down…….you’ll see what I mean!

Everything recovered from the scrap buckets. A lot of 303s! But in among them……..much rarer relics.
Some of the more interesting items cleaned
Transport cap from a 25pdr artillery shell
General service buttons
PIAT launcher cartridges
Buckle from a Mk VII British respirator bag
Artillery shell nose fuze protective cap
20mm Oerlikon cartridge
The headstamp is barely visible, but the blast cap is absent. This shows the cartridge has been disposed of in a controlled explosion, known to have been carried out on old/unstable ordnance at this site, at the end of the war.
A few complete 303 cartridge cases, mostly blanks
Again, the headstamps are all but worn away but many of the blast caps are intact. A quick note on the law………blanks of 1 inch calibre or less are legal to possess in the UK.
303 drill cartridges, clearly identifiable by the grooves in the cartridge cases
Heads of the drill rounds, showing the complete lack of blast caps. Very little can be seen of the headstamps, but you can make out a ‘D’ on the far right, further showing these were drill rounds.
PIAT fuze holders and drill No. 425 fuzes.
Close up of the drill No. 425 fuzes. Look closely and you can just make out the word ‘DRILL’ on each one.


Some excellent additions to the collection, and thanks to the members of the metal detecting club, I didn’t have to do any digging at all! Thanks guys!

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