This request is one of several concerning the Albright and Wilson Second World war produced AW bombs. These contained white phosphorus and were made in significant quantities. Their disposal however is poorly documented, though if they could be made and collected at Oldbury, they could also be returned to sender for them to dispose of post war.
An HPA report concerning the discovery of some of these buried artefacts being found in Wiltshire gives some interesting information as to how they still remain a danger to those discovering them by chance. Pages 9-10 of this report reveals a breakdown of quantities of AW bombs issued to the Home Guard in Wiltshire. We wondered where the source of this detailed information had come from and if it may lead to any further information as to how many had been known to be destroyed.
We also were concerned about the poor response by emergency services as detailed in this report concerning the manner that this incident had been dealt with. The “lessons learned” scenario is relevant to Rattlechain lagoon where several AW bombs were destroyed in 1983 by exactly the same ill conceived manner as that examined by this report.
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
Our questions to the HPA received the following response.
(i) With regard to the HPA published document “Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report From the Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division September 2007 Issue 10”- “Discovery of World War II Special Incendiary Phosphorous (SIP) grenades in a Wiltshire garden.” :can the HPA confirm the source of the statement “The SIP grenade was generally regarded as being a danger to its own operators, and was not issued to troops on the front line. SIP grenades were stored in crates of about 20 and distributed throughout Wiltshire. 141,000 were allocated throughout Wiltshire. Most of these would have been made safe before the end of WWII.”
“We have consulted with the author of the above report regarding the source of the statement you have quoted, and they have confirmed that the source was a publication loaned to the author by the Ministry of Defence, which was subsequently returned. I can therefore confirm for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations, the information is not held by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
The author has contacted the Ministry of Defence to ask if they could confirm which of their publications this information was obtained from, but at the date of this response, we have not yet heard back from them. As and when we receive a response, we will forward the relevant details to you.”
(ii) Can the HPA confirm that it stands by the comment with regard to the debrief of this incident amongst different agencies and concerns expressed about smoke plumes “The lessons learned are applicable throughout the UK, in particular in areas where WW II ordnance is still being found.”
Do the HPA hold any recorded information to the contrary in respect of revising this information?
“We are an independent organisation dedicated to protecting people’s health in the United Kingdom. We do this by providing impartial advice and authoritative information on health protection issues to inform government, health professionals and the public.
The Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report does not form part of the Agency’s published advice, but the contributors, including the author of this piece, is a respected authority in their field.
I can confirm that for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations, the information is not held by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
In light of this request response by the HPA we asked another linking request to the MOD relating to the statement concerning the loan of the material to the author of the HPA article.
Lessons identified in the HPA report were
“The main issues arising from the incident debrief were identified as:
• Usefulness of photographs for identification of the bottles
• Fire and Rescue Services (HAZMAT officers) should have easy access to photographs of the common hazards identified by EOD and these should be distributed to other agencies.
• Organising waste disposal and site surveys
• Advising staff and residents of possible health effects
• Ensuring patients with possible contamination are not sent directly to Emergency Departments without a risk assessment
• Difficulties in communication between agencies
• Large plume size following detonation of SIP grenades
Early recognition of old WWII munitions remains important. Salisbury Plain and the surrounding areas were used extensively during WWII as a bombing/artillery range and general exercise/training areas for the military. The plot of land in this incident was part of the land that had been used as Home Guard HQ during WWII and had had a pill box observation post overlooking the lowlands and nearby Keevil airfield.”
WHAT LIES BENEATH OTHER HOME GUARD UNIT TRAINING AREAS WE WONDER OR THOSE OWNED BY FACTORY UNITS?