A secret store of weapons, which formed part of Galloway’s defence against Nazi invasion 80 years ago, has been accidentally unearthed, sparking a safety alert.
Bomb squad experts were quickly on the scene at Tongland Dam when a Scottish Power work party uncovered 70 unexploded Home Guard phosphorus grenades, still dangerous eight decades after they were hidden and then forgotten in woodland.
The SP Energy Networks team was carrying out routine improvement works on local electricity lines when they came across the the glass bottled explosives, intended to be used in what would have been a near-suicidal attempt by the local, so-called ‘Dad’s Army’ volunteers to repel German tanks.
At first the find was thought to be a harmless collection of old milk bottles – until one of them, exposed to the air for the first time since the 1940s, started to smoke!
The workers quickly reburied the bottles and called the emergency services.
The bomb squad rushed to the scene and an exclusion zone quickly thrown up around the wartime stash.
Three nearby homes were evacuated and power was temporarily cut to a further 60 houses in the area.
The grenades were safely blown up in a controlled explosion.
Power supplies were re-routed to keep any disruption to a minimum and full power was restored in under an hour.
Duncan Muir, the SP team leader, commented afterwards: “The lads thought it was old milk at first when they saw the yellowed glass bottles.
“Then one started slowly smoking and that’s when our health and safety training kicked in. #
“We covered them back over with soil and retreated to a safe distance to call the fire brigade and the Ministry of Defence.
“The bomb squad were soon on site and knew exactly what to do. A 100m exclusion zone was put in place and we played our part in turning off the power supply in the immediate area to allow for a safe controlled explosion to be carried out.”
He went on: “I’ve worked for Scottish Power Energy Networks for almost 30 years and have never come across anything like this before.
“We’re carrying out a lot of work in the area to future-proof the network, upgrading transformers and installing new earth wire to improve the security of supply for our customers – all to support the country’s decarbonisation plans in the race to net zero.
“We certainly didn’t expect to come across something like this. It’s a first for me... and hopefully a last too.”
It is thought that there were several caches of Home Guard weapons hidden and forgotten after the ‘Dad’s Army’ units disbanded in 1944.