The Gunpowder Plot.

    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 didn’t know that these shells were not fused or armed and therefore couldn’t explode!

    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 Coleman’s 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 man’s 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, somewhere!?

By T. Cartwright

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