WW2 Relic Hunt – It doesn’t always have to be ordnance!

When you go digging for WW2 relics, it’s almost a given that you are going to find ordnance of one type or another. Doesn’t matter what kind of site it is, if it has a WW2 history, you will always find old cartridge cases, usually strewn liberally across a wide area. They weren’t exactly careful back in the 40s!

However, every now and again you will search a site and recover hardly any cartridge cases, but other things will emerge from the soil that tell a lot about the site you’re on. This dig was one of those occasions.

It’s an old haunt of mine, and featured in season one of WW2 Treasure Hunters, Garendon Park. Occupied by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC), the land became No. 33 ammunition sub-depot, and was responsible for over 30,000 tons of ordnance, spread across the park itself and surrounding roads. Basically, the town of Loughborough was ringed with enough explosives to break all of the windows of the houses in the town!

I decided today to search an area where I knew they had a small arms ammunition dump. Not only had I found plenty of evidence of this dump in the past, but a veteran of the depot, Peter Peters, had confirmed its location during the filming of WW2 Treasure Hunters. And on this dig I had the help of my 9 year old daughter, Aliya, who did magnificently with the pinpointer!

The first couple of detections turned out to be unidentifiable rusty crap, but the third was a lovely intact 20mm Oerlikon cartridge case with a rather unusual headstamp. I thought I was going to be in for another day of cartridge cases, but that was far from what actually happened.

Turns out that this was the one and only bit of ordnance recovered during the 4 hours I was there. However, I hit an area that had obviously been used to dump the straps used to secure ammunition boxes, and the buckles from these straps kept coming, and coming, and coming!

I even recovered a WW2 item that simply shouldn’t have been there, and a post war item that I am still having trouble tracking down as it is Russian! If you can read Russian, please tell me what it says!

The finds from the dig.

Everything recovered during the search
Tiny webbing buckle
Gibbs Dentifrice. Common issue to the WW2 soldier and the first one I’ve found that has the label painted on. All previous ones have been plain metal with the name embossed on the lid.
A lead name plate. No idea what it is off, but it was nailed to something!
1917 and 1897 dated pennies
The weird Russian thing! Seems to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of something, (1911 to 1961), but no idea what. Russian revolution was in 1917, so can’t be that. And what the heck is it doing in the middle of a wood in Leicestershire?
The only cartridge case recovered, but it’s a beauty! 20mm Oerlikon.
A very detailed headstamp. Manufactured in 1942 by ‘WB’, (West Bend Aluminum Co., West Bend [WI], USA), and clearly marked 20mm. To the right of the 20mm you can see ‘MK II’ and then above that, very faint, you can just make out the US stamp with an anchor between the U and S. 279 is going to be a batch number, but the FJN has me stumped! This is highly unusual and it is bugging the heck out of me, so if you know what the FJN is, please let me know!
A few of the unusual buckles cleaned.
Strap ends from the canvas webbing belt
How the buckles fitted together. Two distinct types of the same thing here, with the three on the bottom being notably dissimilar to the others. Likely to be a different manufacturer.
Here you can see the buckles on a short length of canvas webbing
And here again you can see the buckles (right) and also the strap ends. The label gives their use……
…..which appears to be something to do with 25pdr ammunition. Probably used to secure the shells in the case. However, I can’t be entirely sure that this was their specific use. All I can say is, given the location they were found, they almost certainly had something to do with ammunition boxes!
Now this simply shouldn’t have been there. The lid off a US army mess tin!
The site was only ever occupied by British forces, so what this is doing there I have no idea. Maybe one of the British soldiers had it for his mess tin, taking/winning/borrowing it off a US soldier. I will never know but one heck of an unusual find for this site!


Some great finds and highly unusual buckles. I wish I knew why both the Russian and American items were there……

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