A cache of pre-World War II wine found in a suburban garden was destroyed by the British army bomb squad, a reader recounts in this month's issue of Decanter magazine.
A mortar similar to the one found in Woodall’s garden [image: kentonline.co.uk]
Decanter subscriber Tim Woodall describes how he found a metal cylinder ‘rather like a model airship’ while digging in his garden in Saffron Walden, Suffolk.
Alerted to danger by the ‘uncanny’ howling of his dog, and thinking it might be an unexploded World War II mortar, he ‘stepped away from the flower bed’ and called the police.
A bomb disposal unit duly arrived, and a controlled explosion was set off. This revealed a bomb shelter, a common feature of war-time gardens in Britain.
‘Within the shelter,’ Woodall writes, ‘the bomb squad found a wine rack holding a large number of full French bottles, the dates ranging from 1931 to 1937. This information was communicated to us via radio by one of the heavily armoured soldiers who, throughout the exercise, provided a running commentary.’
Unfortunately, two more unexploded bombs were found, which also had to be destroyed, collapsing the shelter.
The soldiers, Woodall later told Decanter.com, had no choice once the other bombs were found.
‘When he discovered the wine the sergeant read aloud a handful of dates from the 1930’s, said “French! They’re all French!” and that was it. They found another two mortars and very quickly made the decision to blow them up. They were concerned that the earlier explosion could have made any other live ammunition “extremely volatile”.’
Woodall’s letter goes on, ‘A secret wine cellar containing old vintage wine had just been blown up in front of our eyes…It was depressing to end the most exciting day inour lives with a cup of tea, instead of something infinitely more interesting.’
Read the full letter in the latest issue of Decanter magazine, on sale now
Written by Adam Lechmere