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War souvenirs could be waiting to explode

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Highly unstable old artillery shells, some dating back to

intensive training by British forces in County Wicklow before World War I, are keeping the Irish Army’s bomb disposal unit busy.

So far this year, about 60 explosive devices have been dealt with by the unit, but this month the legacy of souvenir-hunting by previous generations has led to the evacuation of suburban streets.

People are realizing the danger of old unexploded grenades and shells, originally brought home as ornaments from firing ranges like the Glen of Imaal in Wicklow.

The discovery of an unexploded 18-pound shell in an attic in Whitehall last week, and publicity about its disposal, led to many reexamining old, apparently harmless, souvenirs.

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The same day a woman in Kilmainham called about a grenade her family had for 40 years. It turned out to be harmless.

A bomb squad spokesman said it is being called about a range of projectiles and unexploded ordinances, many of them capable of demolishing the home in which they have been found.

"Some of these have actually been fired but didn’t explode," the spokesman said. "They are known as blinds. When they are fired, all the in-built safety features the manufacturer put into the round are off. They are quite dangerous and the longer they are left, the more sensitive the explosive can become.

"Some of these 18-pound rounds go right back to the early 1900s when the British were firing a huge amount of this ammunition in the Glen of Imaal in preparation for the first world war. Obviously many people wandered over the Glen in those days and picked up these blinds and brought them back to their houses."

The unit is also being called out to deal with 25-pound shells from

the 1930s.

"Many of the shells were later hidden away in the house and forgotten about but they are now turning up," the spokesman said.

The army’s bomb squad has extensive experience and disposal officers from army and police units around the world train at the Ordnance School. It has also developed a bomb-disposal robot which has been sold to 18 countries.

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