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Thread: Unexploded Ordnance

  1. #1 Unexploded Ordnance 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Recent events had me looking up some information on unexploded ordnance, leftovers from past wars. Surprised to learn that even some from 19th century remain dangerous. Nice little article in Wiki on the subject.

    I've lived for the most part in Niagara, host of many battlefields for the War of 1812-14. I remember when I was 11 or 12 years old finding a pyramid like stack of round metal balls all rustily bound together in some thick bushes while playing out in the woods. Had no idea what they might be. My friend and I managed to free a couple of them from this stack by hitting them with a rock. To me they were like solid steel but now I wonder if they were explosive. Did learn that cannonballs were stacked like pyramids back then so I'm thinking we accidentally discovered some historical relics. I never went back there, brought one home but don't know what happened to it or the pile we left behind. My question is whether or not cannonballs back in 1812-14 could be set to explode or if they were just meant to put a hole into something or knock it down?


    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  3. #2  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Short answer: no, they didn't explode (generally).
    Cannonballs were shot not shell.
    There were explosive rounds (i.e. shell) but the vast majority of that period were solid shot. Explosive shells date back to the late 14th century (China) but weren't recognised as "essential stores" until the mid 19th Century. (Hollywood gives the wrong impression - again).
    There would have been grapeshot (case shot, beehive round), whereby huge numbers of "shotgun" rounds were fired (directly from the weapon) and shrapnel1 rounds were used by the British from 1808 (they saw use at Waterloo).
    Some diversions:
    cannonballs didn't just "knock things (men) down, they tended to hit and dismember anyone in their path and the removed limbs and body parts acted as a sort of shrapnel causing further casualties. The balls also bounced on their path and could take an unpredictable path after hitting the ground each time. According to Wiki: Even when most of its kinetic energy is expended, a round shot still has enough momentum to knock men over and cause gruesome injury.
    The word "bullet" drives from the French boulet/ boulette (small ball) - since, originally, small arms ammo was a small ball and the word "ball" is still used today for "solid" rounds: e.g. ball ammunition for rifles and (small-calibre) cannon to distinguish them from tracer, HE, AP etc.
    I wonder if the use of the word "round" for a bullet/ cartridge is also a hangover from cannonballs (roundshot).
    Oh, and we use "bullet points" on documents - indicated by "small balls".

    1 Grapeshot - the multiple projectiles emerge directly from the barrel of the firing weapon. Shrapnel rounds launch those projectiles from a shell at some (timed) point in the shell's trajectory. The first is a short-range last-ditch projectile (usually used to stop the gun being over run) and the second projects the effect to a location somewhat further away. Shrapnel has been superseded by HE (and specialised rounds e.g. HESH/ MPAT etc) and dropped out general use around the end of WWI.


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Saw a documentary about these guys in France, I think they were called munitioneers, full time govt employees whose job it is to collect and destroy unexploded ordnance. In one instance they had an old WWI shell that from the outside appeared like a clump of rock. The polished inside of the casing looked like it just came off the production line. Is there any estimate as to how many years it will take before WWI battlegrounds are completely safe?
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  5. #4  
    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    I have about 20 EOD friends.

    It is unexploded ordnance.

    Had a bomb found here two years ago...and they are sweeping the Islands due to all the EOD from WWII

    These guys are a trip....(ladies included in the guys remark)
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