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Bomb squad called after landmine found by metal detectorist, 17, close to IWM Duxford



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When Harry Williams went down to the woods on Friday, he was in for a big surprise.

For the 17-year-old, who was taking his metal detector out for only the second time, uncovered a Second World War landmine in his home village of Duxford.

Harry Williams 17, where he discovered the dummy landmine in Duxford. Picture: Keith Heppell
Harry Williams 17, where he discovered the dummy landmine in Duxford. Picture: Keith Heppell

Before long, a bomb squad was on site, taking X-rays of the device, a 250-metre cordon was thrown up, the A505 was closed and the usually quiet area, near a children’s park, was “swarming” with police.

“I was a bit terrified for a few minutes,” admitted Harry. “The police came over to me and said ‘Can you tell us exactly where you’ve already metal detected so we know where it’s safe to stand?’”

The drama unfolded on Friday in a wooded area off Pepperslade where Harry, a Long Road Sixth Form College student, lives.

It is close to the Imperial War Museum and The Officers’ Mess, the wartime home of Battle of Britain heroes.

“At first I thought it was a pipe or something,” Harry told the Cambridge Independent. “It was actually my first find of the day and I kept detecting and it got wider and wider. I thought perhaps it was some sort of concrete foundation, but then I noticed the shape from one of the books that I was reading back at home.

The a British copy of a Tellerman 35 German anti-tank mine, found by Harry Williams. Picture: Harry Williams
The a British copy of a Tellerman 35 German anti-tank mine, found by Harry Williams. Picture: Harry Williams

“I thought what if this is what I think it is.... I continued to dig around it, just to get its overall shape and then when I finally uncovered the surface, I thought that’s exactly what I think it is and I called the bomb squad.

“They came over and took some photos of it and sent it off to police headquarters, who got a team from Colchester to come up and take a look at it.

“They were quite alarmed to say the least. We had six police cars in total and they cut off the entire area around here, including the A505.”

Study of the device took several hours before the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team determined that it was, mercifully, a dummy version of a Tellermine 35, a German anti-tank mine used in the Second World War.

“It was a British copy, which we would train our guys on before we would send them over,” said Harry. “It was made of concrete, but they weren’t too sure about the fuse, which was sat in the top and might have had some explosives in.

“Also, its colour was quite alarming. Normal practice ones are painted bright blue, but this was green. They had to X-ray it a couple of times over.

Harry Williams, 17, said the device was only a few centimetres of soil. Picture: Keith Heppell
Harry Williams, 17, said the device was only a few centimetres of soil. Picture: Keith Heppell

“They didn’t do a controlled explosion as I believe they felt it was safe to handle.

“It’s right next to the sewage treatment plant in a wooded area. I know children run through there all the time so I’m actually amazed nobody has found it before me. It wasn’t deep – it was near the surface. It was covered in a layer of dirt of a few centimetres. It was my first find of the day.”

Harry said he had suspected it was a practice mine.

“I’ve got a relatively OK knowledge of Second World War ordnance, so I had a rough idea of what it was at the time,” he said.

“I sent some photos away to some friends who specialise in ordnance and they all said the same thing, that it was a practice mine. But I didn’t want to pick it up at all!”

Harry found the mine at about 3pm, and after digging around it called out his dad, who spent 22 years in the Army, to check it out.

An example of a rusty German anti-tank mine - a Tellerman 35
An example of a rusty German anti-tank mine - a Tellerman 35

“I just cleaned up around it and did a good enough job so the bomb squad could properly view it and then I just let them do their thing,” added Harry, who knows of others who have found practice bombs within a few hundreds metres of the site.

“I do quite a bit of general research on the area. I’ve got an interest in the Second World War, which is what I plan to study when I go to university next year. There is so much history around this area and I find all sorts of things.”

The next day, Harry returned to the area – and turned up a silver pocket watch, but no more landmines.

“I don’t think there are too many more in that forested area. But if there are, I’ll come across them soon,” he said.

The Imperial War Museum Duxford was intrigued to learn of the find from the Cambridge Independent, but could not comment at this stage on whether the site had been used for training against anti-tank mines.

The dummy landmine - a British copy of a Tellerman 35 German anti-tank mine - found by Harry Williams, 17, in a wooded area off Pepperslade in Duxford on Friday February 26, 2021. Picture: Harry Williams
The dummy landmine - a British copy of a Tellerman 35 German anti-tank mine - found by Harry Williams, 17, in a wooded area off Pepperslade in Duxford on Friday February 26, 2021. Picture: Harry Williams

Residents were left stunned by the find.

Cat Barkley, who lives on the Heathfield estate in Duxford, said: “I’m really relieved it was just a dummy. My husband and I take our toddler to play football in that park most days, so it was rather unnerving when we thought there had been something sinister there that we hadn’t known about.

“We avoided ball games this weekend and took him for long walks in his baby backpack instead. But he doesn’t find that quite so enthralling, so he’ll be delighted to be able to have a kick-around once more.”

A police spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent: “We were called at 3.34pm on Friday (February 26) to reports of a suspicious object at Pepperslade. An object, first believed to be a Second World War mine, was found by a metal detectorist.

“A 250-metre cordon was put in place as a safety precaution and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team attended. The device was later revealed to be a dummy mine and was disposed of safely.”

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