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WW2 debris near Tangmere

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WW2 debris near Tangmere

Old 5th Jan 2022, 09:27
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WW2 debris near Tangmere

I went to primary school on Tangmere aerodrome in 1957/59. In subsequent years I lived nearby before leaving for university in Wales. I spent my teenage years fishing, shooting and generally rambling in the woods, fields and farms of the area. The debris of WW2 and the subsequent military presence in the area - including the Fleet Air Arm base at Ford (now the location of a penal holiday camp) - was a source of entertainment. The Great Storm of 87 destroyed a beautiful Beech wood near my home but during my teenage years it was a paradise. It seems to have once been used as an ordnance dump because a friend and I discovered the tail sections of two 1000 lb bombs there. They were completely empty apart from the shaft connected to the propeller which I assumed functioned as a mechanism for arming the fuses. We transported them home on improvised trolleys; passing traffic almost went off the road when they saw us.

There were a number of sites of aircraft crashes in the area, although I'm hard pressed to recall which and where they were. The exception was near The Royal Oak, a pub on the road to Arundel (now bypassed I believe). In the woods there we located a lot of aluminium and other scrap which I recall being told was from a P38 Lightning which had crashed there. At that time I was a keen collector of ammunition (imagine: I would probably be locked up or sent for re-education for that hobby today, and that's the least of it...) and was delighted to find part of an ammo belt holding some 50 cal rounds.

My collection was also enhanced by the discovery of plentiful 20mm cannon shells which had been crudely buried when the Ford air base was decommissioned. These provided a great source of cordite for my own experiments in self-built firearms and re-loads. In fact they were so plentiful that we would make a fire using sump-oil in an empty can full of rags and drop the rounds in to make a nice BANG. All these rounds, to the best of my recollection, had passive projectiles - no tracer or explosives - so I could just place them in a vice and extract the projectile with mole grips. Then there was the 2" mortar bomb. I didn't attempt to dismantle that.

I once did a swap with a school friend who had found a couple of military rifles in the attic of an abandoned house. One a very nice 7mm Mauser and the other a single shot 11 mm (!) Dutch Beaumont - which was a very early bolt action rifle. These, plus my ammunition collection, which included un-jacketed British 45 cal dum-dum rounds! - were disposed of by my parents when I went to university. I was pretty p!55ed off.

All this stuff, plus underage motorcycling and tractor driving, climbing huge trees to collect eggs (now, justifiably, a hanging crime) and generally behaving in relatively dangerous ways, was unremarkable among us boys living in a rural environment. I'm inclined to think that we were fortunate in many ways to arrive on earth just after WW2 - for all kinds of reasons which become more and more apparent.
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