8:00am Wednesday 11th September 2013
By Hayley Mortimer
CANAL workers who discovered a Second World War hand grenade on the towpath in Dudbridge spotted the device just seconds before a JCB was about to roll over it which could have caused an explosion, the SNJ can reveal.
The live grenade - which had been in the canal - was found on the towpath off Dudbridge Road just before 11am on Thursday by contractors working on the lock as part of the restoration project.
After dredging the waterway, they spotted the device lying in the middle of the towpath while moving heavy machinery to the new locks.
Tom Puttock, 24, who works for Surrey-based Land and Water Services, which is working on the canal, spotted the grenade - believed to be a number 36, commonly called a Mills bomb.
These were issued to the Home Guard and were the standard grenade of the British Army with a 'danger area' of about 100 yards.
They were also waterproof.Tom, from Guildford, described the moment he saw the device.
"We were bringing a JCB along the towpath and I was walking in front checking for obstructions when I saw it lying there on the floor," he said.
"I didn’t think it was real at first.
"It is scary because if the JCB had gone over the grenade, it would have triggered it and it could have exploded right next to us."
Contractors called the police who cordoned off the area but did not need to evacuate any buildings or close any roads.
Meanwhile, a Royal Logistic Corps Bomb disposal team set up base in the car park at Marling School sports centre.
The grenade was moved onto the playing field and buried in the ground before a controlled explosion was carried out at 1.50pm which could be heard in the centre of Stroud.
Marling headteacher Dr Stuart Wilson said: "It was an unusual event to start off the new school year and certainly caused a stir among the boys.
"It was a lunchtime which made the operation much easier and we quickly cleared the sports hall and fields for the detonation.
"We were pleased that we could assist the police and the bomb disposal team and that the grenade was disposed of safely."
Variants of the number 36 Mills bomb, which had a detonation time of seven seconds, later reduced to four, remained standard issue for the British Army until 1972.
Workers recently found a steel hat, possibly worn by an air raid warden, in the lower lock chamber at Dudbridge while excavating the site.
HOW the grenade ended up in the canal remains a mystery - however it is not the first time that workers have come close to detonating the device.
In 1957 dredging took place at Dudbridge as part of a project to narrow the canal.
David Jowett, who edits Cotswold Canal Trust’s quarterly magazine, said: "The fact that people have worked around it on two occasions and it hasn’t been triggered is very lucky.
"I don’t think we will ever get to the bottom of where it came from.
"The canal wasn’t really used during the war but we know the canal bridges were weakened due to heavy military traffic.
"However I think it is very unlikely that someone dropped it.
"It remains a mystery."
If anyone can shed any light on how the grenade or hard hat might have ended up in the canal they should contact Hayley Mortimer on 01453 769423 or email email@example.com
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group