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Old February 29, 2020, 01:20 PM   #1
Join Date: August 8, 2011
Location: Midlands, UK
Posts: 93
200,000 cartridge cases and a few other bits

Hi all

A good friend of mine, and landowner of a farm that straddles an old WW2 airbase, alerted me to an incredible discovery, and kindly asked if I’d like to come along and see ‘if anything was of any use’. I duly turned up and discovered that an old WW2 dump pit had been found, in which were a very large number of bomb fuzes. On closer examination, the pit was 4 to 5 feet in diameter, roughly circular, and had obviously been dug by hand. At the bottom of the pit was a layer of cartridge cases, (we will come to those shortly!), then a layer of molten metal, (mainly zinc), then some badly fire damaged bomb fuzes, then at the top of the layer, some not so badly damaged bomb fuzes. In the molten metal layer and sitting on top of it were quite a few incendiary bomb tile breakers and the remains of various other bits of fully burnt out ordnance.

What appears to have happened is that, sometime after the end of the war, 4 or 5 junior servicemen, (officers or old salts aren’t going to do it!), were sent out into the middle of the field to dig a pit. Everything was layered in the pit and the combustible material ignited. Once the flames were out, the pit was filled up and forgotten about. Until now!

The quantity of bomb fuzes was, in itself, astonishing. The fire had ensured that none had any of their small ‘magazines’ intact so they were fully inert and devoid of any explosive material.

However, the cartridge layer was even more astonishing.

The water table was quite high in the field, and just below the layer of molten metal, the cartridge cases were sitting in their own little pond. The molten metal had prevented any soil getting to the layer so it was basically a huge pile of cartridge cases in water. I did a bit of hand digging to try and determine how far down the layer went. I got my hand into the cartridge case layer up to my elbow and it WAS STILL GOING! Incredible.

We spent a few hours recovering as many cartridge cases as we could, but hardly seemed to be denting the pile. At one point we even found a seam of around 300 Lee-Enfield charger clips!

The cartridge cases were mainly 303s with quite a few 9mms thrown in for good measure, and the odd one or two 45cal ACP. As it was an old RAF base, it was assumed the 303s came from the bombers after a mission, but some of the 303s had Bren firing pin marks, and this theory wouldn’t support the presence of the charger clips or the 9mm or the 45s. So we finally decided that these cartridge cases had come from the small arms range, not that far away from the pit itself. At the end of the war, the RAF were doing a grand clear-up and just buried the lot beneath a pile of bomb fuzes, and set the whole lot alight. It was an incredible dig!

A couple of cartridge cases.....

Another shot after the dig and sorting. I had recovered around 15,000 cartridge cases and a huge number of bomb fuzes and parts, all completely devoid of any explosive material due to the fire.

Some of the bomb fuzes. Mainly No. 848, with lots of arming columns and arming vanes from the No. 848, as well as a few No. 860 fuzes and even a couple of No. 849.

After a bit of a clean....

The 303s cleaned up really easily, although I only took a few back to this condition, preferring to retain the patina on the vast majority.

Example of a few of the headstamps on the 303s.....

After a while it became obvious the cartridges had come from all corners of the globe, with examples from Canada, Australia, India, US, Argentina as well as numerous British factories.

GB Greenwood and Batley, Leeds, UNITED KINGDOM

MF Small Arms Ammunition Factory No 1, Footscray, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

RG Royal Ordinance Factory, Radway Green, Cheshire, UNITED KINGDOM

CP Crompton Parkinson Ltd., Guiseley, Yorkshire, UNITED KINGDOM

K Kynoch & Co., Witton, Birmingham, UNITED KINGDOM
K2 Imperial Chemical Industries Kynoch Factory at Standish UNITED KINGDOM
K5 Imperial Chemical Industries Kynoch Factory at Kidderminster UNITED KINGDOM

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Old February 29, 2020, 01:21 PM   #2
Join Date: August 8, 2011
Location: Midlands, UK
Posts: 93
Quite a few charger clips, all in remarkable condition given how long they had been buried. There were 3 different types, including a few of the early WW1 types.

Condition was so good, they just had to be loaded up!

In among the 303s were some other cartridge cases. Of note were the 303 grenade launcher 'blanks' that had obviously gone into the pit live as they had all cooked off.

.380 cartridge cases.

ORBEA Cartucheria Orbea Argentina, Argentina
RL Royal Laboratory, Woolwich, England

9mm cartridge cases
BE Royal Ordnance Factory, Blackpole, UK
HN Royal Ordnance Factory, Hirwaun, UK
WRA Winchester Repeating Arms Co., Bridgeport, CT

.45 ACP
WRA Winchester Repeating Arms Co., Bridgeport, CT
REM-UMC Remington Arms Co., Bridgeport, CT

.30 cal M1 carbine
PC Peters Cartridge Company, Cincinnati, OH

All the grenade discharger blanks had the same headstamps

It was quite a while before I noticed some of the .45cal cartridge cases I had were very slightly different. I soon realised I had something much rarer....... Webley automatic pistol .455 cartridge cases! The headstamps gave them away.....

Finally, a couple of tile breakers from the incendiary bombs used to set the fire that 'destroyed' the bomb fuzes.

Not a bad dig......

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Old February 29, 2020, 04:13 PM   #3
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maybe dig them up for when scrapp brass goes up again. takes about 40 to the pound.
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Old February 29, 2020, 04:30 PM   #4
Aguila Blanca
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I would be sorely tempted to clean up a couple of handfuls of the .303 brass, find some .303 bullets, and make up dummy rounds for display in the charger clips.

Then again, if anyone saw them it would probably give the aw-thaw-rih-tays the vapors.
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Old February 29, 2020, 05:52 PM   #5
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Very cool, as usual. The oval looking firing pin imprints on the 303 brass would be from a Bren?
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Old March 1, 2020, 03:28 PM   #6
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I saw pics on the internet, maybe fifteen years ago, now, of a "secret" location where WWII military weapons were stacked on pallets, outdoors, in a large field.
They were not "together", but scattered around, a pallet of MG42s here, and 40-50 feet away, a pallet of Thompson SMGs there, in the background of each picture could be seen two or three additional pallets, with up to a hundred guns on each, grass growing up through them, looking as if they'd been sitting out in the weather for 40-50 years.
Lots of guesses that the site was in the UK, but I don't think it was ever positively identified; to the OP, are you familiar with what I'm talking about, and if so, do you know the location?
Runs off at the mouth about anything 1911 related on this site and half the time is flat out wrong.
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Old March 2, 2020, 03:55 PM   #7
Join Date: August 8, 2011
Location: Midlands, UK
Posts: 93
Aguila Blanca - I have done exactly that! Put a small ball bearing in each so they rattle when shaken to show they're empty.

Chipperman - Yep. Bren

RickB - I do recall seeing something but I always thought it was a scrap yard in Europe somewhere, not in the UK.
Huge amount of info on weapons and ordnance of WW2 to be found on my website, along with thousands of ground dug WW2 relics.....
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Old March 16, 2020, 08:05 PM   #8
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Fantastic! Thanks for sharing!
If a pair of '51 Navies were good enough for Billy Hickok, then a single Navy on my right hip is good enough for me . . . besides . . . I'm probably only half as good as he was anyways. Hiram's Rangers Badge #63
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Old March 18, 2020, 05:16 AM   #9
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Great post indeed, thanks.
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