The copy of the local paper dated May 1952 does not give a very accurate account of what actually happened. My friend Robin Ellis (a Daventry Grammar School boy who was taking Chemistry lessons) believed that the powder inside the shells that littered the wood at Stowe could be used to make fireworks. We were not picking primroses as the article stated. We visited the woods and carried home in our cycle bags 6 bombs which we believed were dud.
We then took them into Mr Ellis’s garden shed at 19 Furnace Lane and proceeded to dismantle them. Robin then discovered that the detonator in one shell (Mortar bomb) had not been used. The pin however had fallen out and could not be found so we substituted it with a wood screw. We then decided to see if the detonator would go off ignoring the fact that if it did the bomb would also explode. We threw the bomb out of the door about 4 feet away from where we stood. It exploded making a hole in the ground about 4 foot round and 4 foot deep. The resulting noise being heard in Northampton. The shrapnel from the bomb split the chestnut fencing and went through Mr Denny’s (the next door neighbour) Greenhouse.
However Rob and I were unhurt and our first thought was to fill in the hole before his Dad returned from work. Before we could complete this though many men from the village arrived in the garden and we were both escorted into our homes by our mothers.
The local press arrived and interviewed our mothers and the attached cutting was the result. My mother was accused of bribing the press to change my name but I was very disappointed not to have my correct name in print.
The next day the army arrived and dug out the hole in the garden. What did they find? A piece of mortar bomb with a wood screw through it. This was the first of Rob’s and mine 9 lives.
John Butcher – December 2019