View Full Version : Fauld disaster

10th Apr 2004, 11:35
Although not strictly an aviation subject, I found this subject quite fascinating.


P.S. The site is still very visible from the air. It's approx 3.5 nm NNE of Tatenhill airfield.

The largest man made explosion apart from the 'A' bombs!

Lu Zuckerman
10th Apr 2004, 20:11
During WW I the British were taking a beating in the trenches of Belgium. There was a standoff and neither the British nor the Germans were making any encroachments on the other.

The British came up with the idea of making tunnels under the German lines and hollowing out chambers that were filled with an explosive much more powerful than TNT. The chambers (around ten) were then exploded and thousands of Germans were killed at one time. However not all of the chambers exploded and the tunnels collapsed rendering it impossible to reach the isolated chambers. One exploded long after WW II creating a large hollow that eventually filled with water. They know where the unexploded chambers are from maps recovered from the war office but they do not know if the explosives are still active or not. It is a game of wait and see just hoping they will not explode as several villages have been built up in the area. The original explosion was the largest man made explosion outside of an atomic bomb.

The two largest accidental explosions were during WW I in Halifax, Nova Scotia and in WW II at Pittsburgh,California both of which involved ammunition ships.

:E :E

14th Apr 2004, 13:18
Thanks Lu,

I'm not entirely sure about the relative sizes of the explosions, you might well be correct. The WW1 trench explosion and its aftermath sounds very similar to the Fauld disaster, where the water from a 6 million gallon reservoir went into the crater and many unexploded bombs etc are thought to litter the area to this day. I fly over this area regularly and the local fields seem to have more than their fair share of ponds. I think their origin was possibly disturbed ordnance from the original explosion falling into the surrounding fields, certainly the RAF ground to air photo taken the folowing day shows many small craters around the main one.

I have been told of another similar "Danger" site on the north west coast of England where there used to be nitro-glycerine production plant (I think it's Cumbria, but the chap who told me wouldn't divulge exactly where, he said he had worked there for a while and his contract forbade it).

Apparently, due to a plant leak which continued undiscovered for a long time, many tons of this stuff is now festering quietly away under the sand and again, no-one knows if one day there will be a large explosion. The area has been cordoned off for many years, to protect public safety.

14th Apr 2004, 13:25
I hope it's not where I think it might be as the land up in Cumbria that was MOD land and an ordinance factory is not, shall we say the place you want and explosion to happen :ooh:
ps, I think the area is cordoned off for more reasons than just to protect the public.

14th Apr 2004, 20:54

From what I WAS told, the actual location is "inconvenient" and of some concern.

Just mind where you tread and don't wear those hob-nailed boots. :ooh:

Agaricus bisporus
21st Apr 2004, 16:04
There is still a spectacular tonnage of ordnance on board the wreck of a Liberty ship sunk just off Gravesend. It was deemed too dangerous to move it during the War, and it must be far more unstable now...

Re largest explosion, I remember reading about a US military experiment to replicate a nuclear sized blast using conventional explosives back in the early '50s. I recall this to have been approaching half a (real) megaton, and for some reason think it might have been in the arctic somewhere. Any memories jogged?

And a couple of minutes on Google shows a 4000+ ton demolition job on German defenses in Helgoland in 1947, so the Tatenhill event was probably only UK's biggest.

Yellow Sun
24th Apr 2004, 19:19
Shy Torque wrote:

The largest man made explosion apart from the 'A' bombs!

AFAIK it was the largest conventional explosion of World War 2.

The Helgoland demolition referred to by Agaricus bisposrus

And a couple of minutes on Google shows a 4000+ ton demolition job on German defenses in Helgoland in 1947

is, I think, the largest conventional explosion of all time. Unless anyone knows different?

BTW, the pub in the village of Hanbury just to the west of the crater has a good display of contemporary photos of the event and much interesting information. If you are in the vicinity it's worth a visit to the crater, just to stand on the edge and think "This appeared all of a sudden one morning". It's quite a sobering thought.


25th Apr 2004, 10:47
There is an item about the Fauld explosion on Countryfile (BBC1 TV) today.

My mother told me that she felt the ground shudder when the explosion occured - she was in Derby at the time.

The ship near Gravesend is the Liberty ship "Richard L Montgomery". She dragged her anchor in a storm in 1944 and ended up in shallow water just off Sheerness. The experts reckon that the weight of explosives she has on board is sufficient to wipe Sheerness off the map if they went up.

The wreck is very close to the main shipping channel into the River Medway. I visited the Medway ports frequently while in the Merchant Navy - always had a funny feeling in my gut as we sailed (slowly) past the wreck.

Lu Zuckerman
26th Apr 2004, 02:07
From a civilian devastation point of view the Ammunition ship explosion at Halifax, Nova Scotia during WW 1 was the largest. I believe there were 9000 wounded and 2000 dead. This does not include the British cave explosions in Belgium where about 14,000 German soldiers were killed.

:E :E