deadly? Old UXBs may pose a threat|
Inside Out investigates
how dangerous live military shells and bombs are going missing before the Army
or Police can make them safe.
Renegade military dealers and collectors are
stealing 'live' chemical shells and bombs from the battlefields of Belgium and
They are then smuggling these potentially deadly munitions back
through the Channel Tunnel or on the ferries into the UK for sale on the military
black-market or on the web.
Our story starts
90 years ago. The Great War claimed over 15 million lives and focused on a narrow
strip of land in Belgium and France.
This intense trench warfare led to
constant shelling by both sides, but not every bomb fired exploded. Hundreds of
thousands failed to detonate.
Today the remains of the Belgian front
line can still be seen - some trenches are still visible, and visitors can walk
past the barbed wire and inspect the rusting military hardware left behind.
And it is those shells that are now resurfacing and presenting a new threat.
* Every year more than 30 people are killed on the battlefields of Europe after
disturbing or picking up unexploded bombs and shells.
* It's estimated
that three Titanics worth of unexploded bombs still litter the fields of France
and Belgium, left over from World War 1.
* Some of these shells contain
deadly Mustard Gas and Phosgene. Chemical shells left over from World War 1 that
are still as deadly as the day they were fired.
* The Belgian Bomb Disposal
Team brings back two lorry loads of unexploded bombs every day for safe destruction.
Inside the high security chemical warfare lab, bomb teams work four hour shifts
inside special chemical suits as they take the gas shells apart and destroy the
Inside Out's investigation was kick-started
last autumn by a set of brothers.
Chris and Matt Haffenden are military
collectors from Hailsham in Sussex and they told us theyd seen live First
World War ammunition on sale in the South East of England.
One man who
did smuggle in a live military bomb was Stephen Hart from Tunbridge Wells.
Last summer he was handed a nine month suspended prison sentence and a hefty fine
after being caught with a unexploded mortar shell in the boot of his car at the
entrance to the Channel Tunnel.
This case made Inside Out wonder just what
could a military enthusiast get hold of abroad so we headed off to the battlefields
of Belgium to have a dig around.
Bombs and shells
amount of ammunition has been unearthed in the fields around the town of Ypres
- and that is exactly where we headed.
We wanted to find out where you
could get live bombs and shells, and we also met with someone who had first hand
knowledge that ammunition was being stolen off the battlefields.
Dendooven is a curator at the museum and was worried live bombs and shells were
disappearing before the army could make them safe.
Some of the live shells
going missing are toxic and contain chemicals that could kill.
warfare - bombs are still being uncovered|
It appears that
toxic shells containing mustard gas and and phosgene were being stolen and were
finding their way illegally back into the UK.
So many live bombs are unearthed
by farmers, there are designated spots where they are left for collection by the
They may be 90-years-old and look harmless but the chemical agents
can be as deadly as the day they were first made. Destroying them has to take
place inside a high security lab.
The scale of the problem is frightening
and with toxic agents like phosgene and mustard gas, it is dangerous work.
are fears that bombs may explode unexpectedly|
courtesy of Associated Press.
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