Saturday 20 March 2010

Strictly no admittance

At a first viewing, this looks like a fairly ordinary, if somewhat neglected, patch of countryside. If, however, I tell you that this whole area is fenced off and surrounded with notices like these... may begin to feel slightly more intrigued.

The crater is not a natural occurance, but the result of the largest explosion to happen in this country during either of the world wars.

This area, just outside the village of Hanbury, Staffordshire, was once riddled with gypsum  mines. By the time of the first rumblings of  WW2, the mines had ceased to be productive and so, in 1937, 450,000 sq ft of land was purchased by the Air Ministry for use as a storage facility for bombs; known as RAF Fauld. The bombs were stocked in 90' deep bunkers with concreted corridors 12' high x 20' wide, which had space for trucks. The air was breathable and the temperature was a constant 55 degrees Farenheit.

At 11:11a.m. on November 27th 1944, the whole facility blew up. Why, is unclear! People have theories as to the cause, but it was officially recorded as an accident.

Almost 4,000 tons of bombs exploded, blasting out a crater 100 feet deep and 1/2 a mile across. A mushroom cloud of debris was formed, which stretched about 50 yards wide and included rocks up to a ton in weight, adding to the already considerable amount of damage to buildings in the area. The local pub had to be rebuilt while a nearby farm (complete with buildings, livestock and 6 occupants) disappeared totally.

The sound of the blast was heard as far south as Daventry, 19 miles south of Coventry and the shock waves were recorded by seismographs as far away as Casablanca. Afterwards, the ground was coated with a layer of dust up to 4" thick.

 In total, 70 people lost their lives, with 18 bodies never being recovered.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting - and how odd that I've never ever heard of that before.