I had just arrived at home from school -
the house was empty - my mother was at work, my father in the forces
and my brother nowhere to be seen.
A knock on the door revealed a tall thin
gentleman who announced he was a Special Detective. He asked for
my mother, and when I told him I was alone, he asked if he could
come in and search the attic, as my brother had told him there were
explosives stored there! My heart sank...
During the war, many ammunition dumps were
placed along the country roads. These were never guarded and it
was quite easy to gain entry, as a result, they were subject to
quite a lot of interest by local teenagers. I remember some dumps
near Keyham, contained artillery shells. These shells were stacked
in these open-ended sheds, with their noses pointing outwards. I
remember one day we played chicken with these sheds
- the rule of the game was a dare each other to throw a brick at
the noses, as you biked past the dump, and hoped you had enough
speed to get past before they exploded! - yes! - we were quite mad
at that age and had no respect for explosives. However, We didnt
know that these shells were not fused or armed and therefore couldnt
Over a period of time my brother and his
friend (who I think lived in Broad Avenue) made frequent visits
to these dumps, returning with rucksacks full of various types of
explosives. These were shared & stored in our attic, to be later
used in our attempts to make fireworks. Many 'experiments' took
place, mainly with the use of cordite rings, but results were not
very good and most ended up as tubes of newspaper - glued with flour
& water (no adhesives available) - flying around the garden
like demented bats. Cordite burnt very quickly and produced a lot
of gasses. We found that a mixture of sulphur, carbon, saltpetre
& iron filings mixed in with cut up cordite then placed in a
Colemans mustard tin, produced a fantastic fountain effect
- much to the horror and concern of my mother, who arrived home
one day to find the kitchen ceiling black and her precious, unreplaceable,
linen tea towels - burnt to a cinder!
...I led the policeman to the attic hatch
- he climbed through, and then I heard a startled Bloody hell!
as he viewed the arsenal within. I had a hoard of four or five National
dried milk tins of my own (these were approx. 10"x6" diameter)
packed with cordite, which I decided to declare.
It took a few trips to clear the attic and
transfer the material to his large car, which ended up packed with
cordite, numerous boxes of detonators, phosphorous and anti-tank
grenades. I will never forget the sight of this poor mans
white strained face as he gingerly put the car in gear, and with
white-knuckled hands clenching the steering wheel - drove down the
road, at a fantastic speed of 2 M.P.H.
The reason for this police raid,
I later discovered, was due to my brother foolishly deciding to
sell rings of cordite, at 2 pence a time, to his Gateway schoolmates!
(The mind boggles to think of the number of pupils who could have
been walking about with pockets full of cordite). This soon came
to the attention of the headmaster and the authorities were informed
- he was expelled from the school as a result.
The incident, reported in local newspapers,
gave rather exaggerated claims, to suggest that we had enough explosives
to destroy the Coleman Road estate. Even my own hoard in the milk
tins were described as homemade bombs!
Not long after, we found two boxes of detonators
still in the attic - these were kept and disposed of on the V.E.
day bonfires - they made quite a nice bang.
Guy Fawkes must be in the family tree,
By Terence C. Cartwright
1st July 2002