Tuesday, 26 December 2017


Heinkel HE 1-11
 In the Dad's Army episode "Something Nasty in the Vault", an unexploded SC50 traps Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson in the bank vault.

While doing research for BLOOD ON THE TIDE I needed to find out about unexploded bombs, discovered after WW2. There's a wonderful pub, called the Red Lion at Snargate, that hasn't changed since the 1950s. On the wall was a chart showing 'where the bombs fell in Kent'. The whole map of the county was peppered with black dots. Many were 'doodlebugs', V1 and V2 flying bombs, that fell short of their targets - usually London. But a significant number were those that had been dropped by German bombers returning after a raid, anxious to get rid of excess playload as they fled the pursuing Spitfires and Hurricanes. It was one such that was discovered in the book at Compass Point. This was how Captain Valiant and Sapper Rankin, the bomb disposal experts I had created, described its recovery in the book.

Captain Valiant recovering the SE50 at Compass Point
The timing device was exposed, in surprisingly good condition, considering the length of time it had been buried. Probably, both men agreed, silt and mud covering it had preserved it from the ravages of seawater. Valiant took the proffered wire-cutters that Rankin had anticipated he would need. With a muttered thanks, he reached into the exposed cavity, snipped twice then exhaled noisily.
 ‘Phew, that’s it then.’ Leaning back he looked out towards the horizon. He could see a thin line as the sea started to return. ‘Come on mate, we’d better get a move on. We need the A-frame and tackle so we can lift this blighter out before we get wet.’
‘Jerry designated it an SC fifty. A Heinkel HE one-eleven could carry 40 of these 50 kilogram jobs and each one contained 25 kilos of TNT. Despite their relative small size they could cause quite a blast. Not only that, but the exploding case would send lethal pieces of shrapnel, flying off in all directions - at about 7000 miles an hour.’
Salt screwed up his face and winced. ‘Nasty.’
‘Quite,’ Valiant said. ‘Luckily this one didn’t go off. Possibly the pilot ditched it on the way back from a raid. It happened a lot. Once they’d dumped their bombs on London they high-tailed it back across the channel as quickly as they could, usually pursued by Spits and Hurricanes. Then they’d get rid of as much weight as possible. This one’s been sitting in the mud and silt, covered up, ever since.’


  1. Hi Chris, like this but you need to know in your description of the Heinkel bomber the correct description is He - 111, there is no dash between the first and second 1.

    1. Thank you for the correction. A slip of the finger!

  2. I've also heard of pilots on both sides who dropped their bombs before reaching the target, eihter because they were lost, or scared and wanted to go home, or because they didn't want to bomb civilian targets.

  3. The bombs dropped by returnees were just as lethal. While my mother was pregnant with me, she and my aunt left a shelter on the "all clear". A low flying returnee strafed the street and both of them had to crawl under a bus for shelter. Late 40s and early 50s there were still a lot of bomb sites and UXBs. I suppose there are still old buildings with pockmarked walls.