Esher Common has been closed off due two WW1 unexploded ordnance finds. A member of the public stumbled across the suspicious items and immediately called the Police.

On inspection, an MOD bomb disposal team identified the devices as British made Stokes Mortars. The items were moved to a secure site before a controlled explosion was carried out.

Police are urging people who use the common to remain vigilant and if they see a suspicious device, to withdraw to a safe distance, and contact the Police immediately.

How dangerous are WW1 mortar bombs?

Expended yet unexploded mortar bombs are highly dangerous because they have been through the firing process and therefore a delicate detonating mechanism has likely failed. Any small shock could cause the mechanism to complete its function and explode the main charge.

Mortar bombs are dropped into the launcher pipe base first. The impact on the base detonates the propellant charge, expelling the device from the launcher. It also ignites the delayed action fuse which eventually explodes the main charge once the weapon reaches its intended target area. Therefore, if an unused mortar were to be dropped in such a way, this could cause the bomb to explode.

A WW1 mortar found today is likely to be over 100 years old. Many decades of exposure to the elements will have degraded the item, leaving it fragile and vulnerable to impact. Furthermore, submerging high explosive in water does not render it harmless.

Any item of UXO should also be dealt with by highly trained and experienced EOD professionals.

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