The explosion at the RAF base that has scarred England to this day
Accidents occur not only in our daily lives, but especially during perilous times when dangerous things like guns and explosives are part of daily activity. For example, during wars. There are a few that could just be ignored, like maybe when a newbie accidentally almost shot your right foot with their gun, no problem. Then there are those accidents that are not easy to get rid of. Something that forever changed the lives of the people and places involved. The RAF Fauld explosion accident in 1944 was one of them. The explosion was so strong that it was mistaken for an earthquake. It was also one of the largest non-nuclear explosions not only in the UK but also in history.
The devastating effect
It was November 27, 1944. Swiss seismologists thought their seismograph was detecting an earthquake. In reality, what is recorded was the tragic and massive explosion in distant England, reaching them.
Meanwhile, in Hanbury, England, some 4,000 tonnes of bombs, 500 million rounds of small arms, bombs and other high explosives stored in a former gypsum mine exploded simultaneously. These were stored in No. 21 Maintenance Unit RAF Bomb Storage. Two large explosions occurred, this is what the Swiss seismologists detected on their instruments. Two large black mushrooms also formed with a fire at the base of each.
Seventy people lost their lives that day, 18 of whom were never found. Most of the deaths were not caused directly by the impact of the explosion, but were the result of the six million gallons of water from the reservoir dam being damaged, and the water rushing and swallowed everything in its path, especially the plasterboard factory. nearby.
Structures surrounding RAF Fauld were also destroyed – homes and shops were pulverized. The Upper Castle Hayes farm was completely wiped out, while the lime and gypsum works of MM. Peter Ford to the north of the village and the Purse Cottages have all been demolished.
The large impact of the explosion also resulted in the formation of a crater 270 meters by 213 meters long and 30 meters deep, covering approximately 12 acres of land. It came from a force of about one-fifth of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
What caused it?
It is unclear what really caused the disastrous and tragic accident. It was a tangled chaos of disasters, from understaffing to leadership positions that hadn’t been filled for a year, and then add to that the 189 inexperienced Italian POWs working in the mines that day.
In 1974 it was announced that what really caused the explosion was more likely one of the site workers who tried to remove a detonator from an actual bomb and decided to use a brass chisel instead. , you know, a non-conductive wooden slat. When the chisel and the detonator made contact, it caused a spark, and we already knew what happened next. The conclusion was that there had been negligence on the part of senior staff who lacked knowledge, were irresponsible or were not properly guided by senior managers.
The rescue operation lasted three months, slowed by 10,000 tons of rubble and six million gallons of water from the aforementioned reservoir. The local population organized a relief fund for the victims of the tragedy, as well as their families. They were making payments to them until 1959.
The site was completely barricaded in 1979. Access is still restricted due to the large amount of live explosives still buried in the area. The government decided not to clean up the area as they felt it was too expensive.
Today we could still see the crater that formed that unfortunate day, a reminder of the accident, even more so, solidified by the engraved names of those who lost their lives that day. There were also memorial plaques and warning signs around the twelve acres of pristine country that were changed forever that day.