My booty amounted to some old bits of horseshoe, probably from one of my sister's ponies circa 1974, some rusty nails, small bits of motorcycle and a decimal ha'penny. But the thing that stirred the big kid in me was the ammo. Yes, I dug up bits of bullets. And a live cannon shell. I think.
It is not unknown for young lads in the country to play around with guns. Every now and then one goes off and relieves the gene pool of something unnecessary and gets the protagonist a mention in the Darwin Awards. Part of what I found though was the kind of stuff you see nutters in Montana loosing off in those documentaries about the right to bear arms (of course, every man should have the right to man his own anti-aircraft battery in his back garden just in case the gummint dun git uppity. US readers, please correct my condescension there). There were a couple of what looked like small bore cartridge cases - not uncommon - and there was a .303 case. There isn't anything to hunt in the woods though and closer examination revealed it was dated 1939 and had the War Department symbol on. But the big prize was this:
"Eeuurr. What have you got a poo in your hand for?" puzzled Luke, my nephew. And indeed yes, it did look like a jobby but metal detectors generally have a problem uncovering anything faecal. It also looked like an incredibly corroded something else. Something else that fleetingly crossed my mind and made me think twice as I went to show my mother. Although were those kinds of things ever made of anything but plastic? The shape was a giveaway though, you could make out the conical nose and the flattened end, making it out to be one of this lineup, probably the fourth from the left, a 20mm Hispano cannon shell. Although it could be any of the 20mm ones of course but there's a certain amount of romance to be had here for any 46 year old schoolboy brought up in Battle of Britain country and Hispanos were fitted to allied planes so this had to come from a Spitfire. Didn't it of course. * Also, it had stuff in. Stuff that my dad wanted to play with, so he did. Oohh...fun! He scraped a little bit out and got a magnifying glass. And set fire to the stuff, which went phhhssss and then flared a little bit. Good game, good game, which I tried a couple of times, too. It didn't smell and is obviously not particularly volatile. Whatever. I'll meander down to the museum in Brenzett tomorrow and see what they think. How many places nowadays can you legitimately walk into with several ounces of degraded high explosive in a Tesco bag and ask them to have look? What is the world coming to? **
*Doh! I know what you're all thinking. Hispano cannon weren't fitted in planes during the Battle of Britain, except for two Spifire MkIBs, and they weren't any good because they had to be side-mounted. No, all allied planes fired rifle rounds, .303s at that point.
**Paul Woodward. At primary school one day, Paul came in with something very rusty and was showing a group of us in the playground. He said he'd been dropping it out of his bedroom window. Mr Crossley, the headmaster, came over to see what we were talking about so we showed him. At which point we were all evacuated to the furthest classroom and the bomb disposal squad were called in to perform a controlled explosion on the severely corroded live 14" mortar shell we'd all been farting around with.