A FIRST World War bomb found by a fisherman and his dog in Padstow has been identified as an extremely rare German trench mortar.
Two weeks ago Jason Nicholas was strolling along St George’s Well beach with his Jack Russell terrier, Millie, when she began digging in the sand – unearthing the 1915 ‘minenwerfer’ explosive.
Mr Nicholas, 41, picked up the 11-inch-long bomb and took it to the Padstow harbour office, where it was collected by Petty Officer (Diver) Andrew ‘Tex’ Marshall, of the Royal Navy Bomb Disposal team.
After inspection, the bomb was found to be free of explosives and identified as a 7.6cm minenwerfer (literally mine-thrower) mortar, a very successful weapon which was widely used by the German Army during the First World War.
The munition has now been salvaged by Mr Marshall, who said it is “extremely rare” and hopes it can be displayed at the Plymouth Naval Base Museum.
“This is an amazing and rare find and a very historical piece of munition which myself and my colleagues, who have a vast wealth of experience, have never come across,” Mr Marshall said.
Mr Marshall is currently on a training course in Portsmouth, where he is sharing his new expertise of dealing with such munitions.
Although pure speculation, Mr Marshall believes the mortar may have been disposed of by somebody who no longer wanted it, as it hadn’t been in the water very long.
Mr Nicholas would like the bomb to be returned to him, but as this is against Ministry of Defence policy, it looks set to be put on public display at the museum.
The 4.7kg of high explosive would be fired by the Germans from a trench mortar and could reach distances of more than 1,000 metres.
Unlike the British and French, the Germans were prepared to some extent for the trench warfare which began towards the end of 1914 during the First World War.
The Russo-Japanese War of 1905 had shown the value of mortars against modern fieldworks and fortifications, and the Germans were in the process of fielding a whole series of mortars before the beginning of the First World War, with manufacture commencing in 1908-09.
By 1914, 60 mortars of 25cm calibre were available, and the British Army was trying to develop a weapon which would be a match for the minenwerfer.
As a result, Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes – who later became Sir Wilfred Stokes, KBE – designed the Stokes mortar in January 1915.