Sudbury: Bomb squad called in after WWI shell used as a doorstop is rediscovered

Ms Turner with the shell she found when clearing out her late mother's house. Ms Turner with the shell she found when clearing out her late mother's house.

Monday, December 16, 2013
5:13 PM

For years it was used as a kitchen doorstop after being brought home nearly 100 years ago during the First World War.

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The shell found by Madeleine Turner when clearing out her late mother's house.The shell found by Madeleine Turner when clearing out her late mother's house.

Then, the Howitzer artillery shell was relegated to a place on a dusty shelf in a house near Sudbury, out of sight and forgotten about.

However, yesterday it came close to being destroyed after police and bomb disposal experts were called in by its owner, whose grandfather had returned home with it from the ‘war to end all wars’.

During the intervening years the shell has become a sentimental link through the generations of Madeleine Turner’s family.

Unsure whether it was still live, yet fearing it would be destroyed, Ms Turner decided she had to call in the experts after discovering it while going through her late mother’s house in preparation for selling it.

The 97-year-old shell was hidden away at the back of a shelf, forgotten about for many years.

Despite her fears the bomb disposal experts resisted the temptation to blow it up, reprieving the ordnance and returning it to Ms Turner.

She said as a child she can remember it being used by her mother as a doorstop.

Sometimes it would even be brought onto the kitchen table and the brass top polished.

But on re-discovering it, Ms Turner became concerned there may be a chance it was still active.

She contacted the Imperial War Museum Duxford, who confirmed its age, and also an expert she found on the internet.

He said there was a possibility it could still be live and so Ms Turner contacted the police.

Ms Turner said: “My first reaction, because I’ve seen my mother polishing it on top of the table, was what sort of shell is it?” I went on the internet and then sent photos to Duxford. They told me what it was and I found a military expert on the internet.

“He was extremely helpful but explained because of the lack of damage it could still be live.

“It made me feel sick and it kept me up all night.”

Ms Turner then contacted the police who came to examine the device and decided the best course of action was to call the bomb squad.

“It’s a favourable outcome because so many people are trying to sort this out in the most professional manner possible,” said Ms Turner.

“I’m very impressed by how everyone dealt with it and how kind and understanding they were towards me.”

After the shell was x-rayed and further examined by the bomb squad they were able to tell Ms Turner it wasn’t dangerous.

Instead of destroying it anyway as often happens, they allowed her to keep it because of the sentimental value.

Ms Turner said: “This is the first time they’ve ever let anyone keep a shell. They said they always take them away, but they’ve been absolutely amazing to me.

“They’ve treated me so well and I’m delighted I’ve still got my doorstop.”

An Essex Police spokesman confirmed bomb specialists from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps attended the incident.

He said: “It was brought to our attention that there was a possible unexploded bomb.

“The army ordnance attended at around 3.30pm. It was inspected and found to be an empty shell. The officers left the property at 7.30pm.”

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