UXB Addiscombe

In 1998 we moved into Alexandra Road. The house needed some work and the garden had been neglected and was full of rubble. We hired somebody to clear the rubbish and also turn over the soil.

Next day I was out in the garden in discussion with Phil, our builder when we spotted a curious small cylindrical object.

“Oh, looks like a bomb!” said Phil.

I pondered for a few seconds. The railway line nearby had been a WW2 target for the Luftwaffe

“Too small”, I replied, “anti-aircraft shell maybe?”

“Er, didn’t some of those have warheads?”

I went inside and called the police on the non-emergency number and explained that we might have found an unexploded wartime shell. On hearing this the operator said “I’ll put you through to 999”.

“Oh, no rush,” I said, “it’s been there 50 years, it can probably wait a few minutes more!”.

I explained the situation again to the emergency operator and she said “We’ll send somebody round right away but meanwhile please keep away from that side of the house and also let your neighbours know.”.

Well, we’d met the neighbours on one side but not the other, so I knocked on their door and said “Good morning, my name is Andy. We’ve just moved in next door, oh, and – by the way – we might have an unexploded bomb in the garden”.

A constable arrived, took a look at the artefact, said it looked dodgy and that the inspector was on the way. A uniformed inspector arrived, took a look himself and said “It’s quite possible. We find about one a year. I’ll call the Bomb Squad”.

By now four houses in Alexandra Road and another four in Davidson Road had been evacuated. Neighbours who’d never met before were chatting and making each other cups of tea.

Eventually we heard a siren and a dark blue Ford Granada pulled up. Two burly chaps got out, spoke to the inspector, and walked through to the garden. When they came back one was carrying my ‘bomb’. Without a word they got into the car and drove off.

I asked the inspector what it was. He replied: “They said building material – but I’m not so sure…”.

This gave me a theory. I suspect that during Bomb Disposal classes the instructor will produce my ‘bomb’ and say “Now, if some daft pillock calls up with one of these….”.

There was a postscript. Later that I day I came home in the car and was looking for somewhere to park. A chap pulled up on the far side of the road, got out of his car and made that universal gesture which means “I’m just popping on for a second then I’m off again so you can have the space”.

Next day I saw the same fellow and said to him “Thanks for the parking space yesterday. My name’s Andy, we’ve just moved in opposite”

“Ah!”, he said, “you’re the one with the bomb”.