Any Danger UXB?
“Do you know whether there are any WW 2 unexploded devices buried in the Park? Apparently during the tender process one of the equestrian contractors was advised of the ‘possibility’. I know from the late Betty Sabo that a lot of war debris was buried under Circus Field.”
I guess there’s always the possiblity of UXBs pretty much anywhere in Greenwich. We got more than our fair share of bombs for several reasons – not least the railway, the docks and the small matter of there being a Naval college here. Oh – and the Luftwaffe offloaded any they had left over onto us too. Generally, they do seem to have been recorded, but as the Stratford Olympic site proves, they didn’t all get dug up. Occasionally there’s a bit of a surprise – like the one at Three Mills last year, but it seems that the big’uns are generally known about. Smaller devices like grenades and mortars are more of a threat, but whether or not there are any among the greenery of the Park, is beyond the knowledge of a mere Phantom.
So I turned to The Phantom Bomb Expert, Stephen from Blitzwalkers (next Greenwich and Blackheath at War Walk is on Sunday 1st August, btw). He replies:
“This is an interesting question – whether there is any unexploded ordnance still in the Park after 70 years is a matter for conjecture. One would hope not after all this time but there were certainly Delayed Action Bombs (DABs) and UXBs recorded in the Incident Log which I can summarise as follows:
“16.09.40 – Greenwich Park/Maritime Museum Grounds 2 x suspected DABs” (Nothing in the log to say what happened to them)
“21.09.40 – Greenwich Park/Rangers House – 3 x DABs one on Tennis Court, one on Bowling Green, one on Rangers Lodge (Nothing in Log to advise what happened to them)
“22.10.40 – Suspected DAB Greenwich Park near Crooms Hill, 150 yards south of Reservoir Shelter.” (This is the brick built structure still visible today just off the footpath that runs parallel to Crooms Hill. There is no record in the log to say whether it exploded or what happened to it.)
“08.11.40 – UXB Greenwich Park 30 yards rear of house inside King William Walk Gate.” (Again there is no record as to what was done with this bomb.)
These are the only DABs/UXBs reported in the Incident Logs in the actual Park area, although there are plenty of others in Greenwich as you can imagine. What is interesting about all of these is that the Incident Log gives no clues as to the disposal of these bombs. With similar incidents elsewhere in the borough, there is nearly always a footnote to say “Bomb disposed of by Royal Engineers/Royal Navy or that it subsequently exploded at whenever.” There is even a footnote as late as 1960 in the case of a UXB found in Royal Hill/Bushey Street in the old Railway Tunnel!
So perhaps there was some sort of cover up intentional or otherwise with incidents in the Park – we’ll probably never know….”
BTW the picture is a bit of a cheat, really, as I couldn’t find any pictures of Wartime Greenwich Park that I haven’t already shown you, so Stephen sent one of Blackheath taken just after the war – aw, c’mon – the park’s in the top right hand corner, so it’s sort of relevant. Interestingly, Circus Field looks pretty full already…
Anyway, I’ve repeated it below so you don’t need to scroll up, and now I’ll sign off and let Stephen take you through it:
“The gun pits are over on the right hand side in the area where the fun fair today usually set up and the hutments for the gun crews and for the guys that looked after the balloons are on the other side of the heath running along Prince Charles Road. Incidentally, these huts were used after the war temporarily by people who had been bombed out and awaiting rehousing and then I understand briefly used by squatters before they were demolished in the late 40s.”
Oh, and BTW there are some fantastic pictures of the London Blackout in Piccadilly, 1944 on Retronaut this morning.
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