Although World War II is long over, the vestiges of battles with Nazi Germany at sea and on land, still litter English beaches and the countryside, making some places dangerous because old bombs, bullets and grenades from the period can look deceptively harmless.
Many decades old, some relics, like bombs and grenades, can even look like fossils.
That was the case in mid-December when a woman from Deal, in Kent, and her daughter came across something they thought looked like “old bones,” as they told the U.K.’s Mirror.
Jodie Crews and her eight year old daughter, Isabella, were out for a walk on Sandown Beach. They found during their stroll something that resembled a fossil, and they decided to take it home. That decision could have cost them their lives, but fortunately for both events unfurled in a less dramatic and deadly fashion.
Initially, they proudly displayed the curious item in the living room. Then Jodie took to social media to see whether others had ideas about what the thing was – was it indeed a fossil? One user posted a response suggesting the thing might be compacted whale vomit, and that mother and daughter could confirm that by poking a pin into the centre.
Mum began probing it, and immediately its surface began melting like candle wax. Within minutes, it “just turned into a fire ball,” as Jodie described it to the Mirror.
Thinking fast on her feet, Jodie raced to get the suddenly live grenade into her kitchen sink, after she had thrown a soaking wet towel over it.
Then, she began rounding up everyone in the house – her daughter and their collection of dogs and cats, and got them outside to safety. Within minutes, the kitchen sink, the window above it and even a door were blackened and charred, and the fire brigade was on the scene thanks to a quick response by a neighbour.
One fire fighter told Jodie to stop drinking water from the taps, as chemicals from the grenade may have infiltrated it and made it toxic.
The Crews family is counting their blessings, as mother and daughter realize “it could have been a hundred times worse,” as Jodie admitted. Isabella had hoped to get a metal detector for Christmas so she could continue looking for artefacts around their home district, but now mum has vetoed that idea. Computer games are safer, she noted.
Finding old munitions left over from the war is not the rarity one might imagine, at least not in many regions of the U.K.
In 2018, Britain’s Ministry of Defense told the BBC that it discovers about 60 unexploded bombs per year; since 2010, 450 German bombs have been found in the country. Figures for years prior to 2010 were not collected, so the Ministry could not say how many had been found before that year.
Also, officials admit those figures might be on the low side, as they account solely for munitions found by government bodies – police, fire departments, and others – and do not include those found by private security firms.
Often, these devices are discovered by construction workers who stumble upon them, buried deep down in the ground, when beginning a new project. Authorities say that, while there may be many bombs and grenades still lurking out there deep in British soil, they pose little danger to most civilians.
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Jodie and Isabella are happy and relieved that the object they, at first, mistook for a fossil didn’t do more damage to their home and thankfully did not injure anyone.
But it’s a safe bet that in future, their strolls on the beach will not result in either of them bringing souvenirs home, no matter how innocuous those souvenirs may appear.