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remote controlled ? mine on Normandy coast

Article about: As this is my first post on this forum: Greetings to you all! During my family vacation in Normandy, a few weeks ago, we visited the landing beaches quite a few times. One one day, during lo

  1. #1

    Default remote controlled ? mine on Normandy coast

    As this is my first post on this forum: Greetings to you all!

    During my family vacation in Normandy, a few weeks ago, we visited the landing beaches quite a few times.
    One one day, during low tide, my sons found an intreaging object burried in the beach sand, about 60 m from the floodline. With it's top at equal height as the surrounding sand, the object could easily be overseen. The outskirts had a rectangular shape of about 50 x 70 cm seen from above, as a 50 x 40 cm rectangle with a section of 50 x 30 cm attached to it (or better as a 50x70 cm rectangular box with deviding inner walls). It looked like some old box with the top lid rusted away, of which only the upper outlines/walls were visable (the inner filled with stones, sand and debry), with the further remains still burried in the sand. As the remaining wall-parts were of a smudgy black substance, they seemed to be of iron, corroded in seawater. Considering it's position, the object must have been flooded most of the time. My sons, eager to explore "a supposed hidden treasure" , already had taken a portion of the sand out off the 50 x 40 cm rectangular section. Slowly, a circular shape appeared in the middle: a cilinder of approx. 20 cm diameter x 40 cm length (in the 70 cm total length direction) with a black-ish outer color. One rather optimistic blow on it wit a piece of rock, revealed that the cylinder consisted of a white chalk-like substance, with some parts of rather thin copper plate bedded into it. When parts of the chalk-like stuff came off, the copper shined as isf it were brand new. I could not resist to carefully tear off a little piece of the copper plate, and to take that and a piece of "chalk" as evidence. Within a day, the copper surface corroded on the air towards the usual gold-brown to brown, so it must have been protected rather well (by the "chalk" and probably a thin tar coating around the cilinder). I "sensed" that ... most certainly, this was not an old washing machine... We went to the Gendarmerie National (French semi-military police) the next day, showed them the parts, drove to the beach with them and showed them the find. As far as I understood with my poor French, they had'nd seen this before, but were quite sure (also after smelling the "chalk", which had a petrol like smell) that this was some sort of mine, with it's chalky stuff being the explosive. I guess that there was approx. 10 to 15 kg explosive (which sort? Amatol seems unlikely to me considering the copper). I bet that it must have been some remote controlled mine, as it happened to be burried in the sand almost in front of the remains of German bunker. I guess that allied artillery must have prevented it's use?
    We visited the site 4 days after our visit with the Gendarmerie, and supposed that by then they would have covered the thing with a conrete plate or wat ever, awaiting probable demolition. Well, the French seem somewhat reluctant ... the appearant explosive was still there, uncovered (and probably still is ;-).

    It seemed a good idea to me to inform you about this find, as this may be a part of recent history of which not much information exists, and it may interest someone. I could not find anything on the internet about charges/mines like these.

    I would appreciate it, if somebody could give me some more information about the thing. Was it a common mine along the Atlantic Wall? What type of explosive could it have been? What would have been the purpose of the thin copper plates embedded in the explosive (only to give some strenghth to the cilinder of explosive, or even to serve as high speed armour piercing medium)? Probably some sort of ignitor in the middle of the cilinder, with electric cabling in the 50x30 cm part? The space around the cilinder charge seems to originally have been empty - to form a better blast-effect upwards?

    I'll try to add add a photo of the mine later (somehow it does not accept one now), which may say more to you guys, then all my words above?

    Looking forward to hearing from you, and best regards.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture 100808 (9).jpg  

  2. #2

    Default Re: remote controlled ? mine on Normandy coast

    Hey there and welcome to the forum

    Hopefully we may be able to help you.

    Going off the measurements you have given, where you found it and the effects of 65 years in the Normandy sand, it could possibly be the remains of a 'Goliath' remote controlled demolition vehicle (google'll see what it is rather quickly). However, after so many years in the sand it could be almost anything, from a chunk off a landing craft, to the remains of a metal crate that fell off a trawler or ship 20 years ago !!

    Certainly, anything found on a Normandy beach should not really be 'hit with a rock' or prodded and poked with a stick.....even after all these years you will be surprised at how totally viable AND LETHAL explosives still are.

    One thing doesn't surprise me is the French response to your report. I once reported a live 80mm mortar round, in clear view poking out the sand, just in front of the remains of the sea wall at Vierville. I duly reported it. Next day I was at the beach and saw an old feller in a tractor come trundling along the beach, dragging a battered out old trailer. He stopped at the taped off mortar, (i borrowed some plastic 'tape' from a local resident and pegged the mortar out), jumped off his tractor, took a shovel from the trailer, dug a hole under the mortar so it slipped onto the spade, carried the spade back to the trailer, dumped it AND the mortar on the trailer, and trundled off back down the beach.

    I believe he was an expert in munitions handling and disposal.

    Steve T

  3. #3

    Default Re: remote controlled ? mine on Normandy coast

    Thanks Steve T,

    It alraedy passed my mind that it could have been was a Goliath, but I doubt that. The Goliath had its explosive on the front side, but somehow the shape of the explosive found does not seem to match. I can imagine that the explosive charge of a Goliath would be more like "filling up all available space", rather then being shaped as a cilinder with much unused space around it. Sadly, I cannot find any information about the shape of a Goliath charge. There was also no trace of anything other (tracks etc.) that would have been attached to a Goliath. But on the other hand, such further remains could have been corroded away. Maybe you're right.

    Remarkable. I would have loved to have seen your expert in munitions handling and disposal in action, when we were on that beach he second time, but it was a no show. I can imagine that the French preferably would send an old feller in a old tractor with an old trailer, to finish such a disposal job. Considering the size of the mine, maybe they were busy rounding up all experts in munitions handling (left) to finish the job, maybe even prepared to expend some new shovels at the occasion?

    But, well, I am not in the position to critisize the French way of bomb disposal, considering my attempts to reveal the true nature of the thing. But, nobody told me before that it wasn't an old washing machine I must have had some first-time luck...

    Heheh, I feel tempted to tell you about "the second time...", not without some shame...

    Just a few days later we visited a bunker site. Walking passed several bunker remains, we saw one that looked like a garage-bunker, with a sloped path towards it's entrance. My son spotted a round object sticking out off the sand/clay.
    First, I must tell you that I once had an empty grenade, that I got from a garage holder (near the WW1 Somme region) in change of some of my fathers cigars. As an 11 year old boy, I liked that. Around that time, until about 16 years of age, I collected military objects, which I since then gave away.
    I thought it to be a good opportinity to regain such an object, as a likewise remembrance for my sons. So after 5 minutes of removing some sand and clay, I had an empty 12,8 cm Flak grenade in my hands. The part that originally could be seen was the dumb top, without an igniter. Obviously, this grenadel must have been disarmed during the war and then disgarded. So the grenade ended up into the car booth and we drove further to see some old castle. Once there I did not feel too much to go in one of those (again), and had a lazy picknic outside while my wife and children visited the castle. After a while, I decided to try and remove some dry clay/sand from the grenade, and to inspect the thing again. After just a minute of scratching the clay inside the threaded opening where the igniter used to be, a small plate-like closure appeared, with a small approx. 6 mm opening in it's middle still filled with clay.

    Where it took only 5 minutes to retrieve the little souvenir, it took us more than an hour to find a spot where the thing certainly would not be found by anyone for the next few decades, and could rust away in piece. What about the alternative: informing the French (again)? No way: If I were those, I would have considered eather the option of locking up as dangerous species or immediate extradiction

    The WW2 history interests me, maybe also because my father actively participated in the Dutch Navy, and was lucky enough to survive. The technical achievement of those days interest me the most. Whether the Goliath, the muillberry ports, the radar systems, the V1 and V2 rockets or the ME 262 or Dornier DO 335: it's fascinating what they achieved at that time. Sadly, that that interest, and perhaps some feeling of what to look for in the first place, just let me find such things. Is it a curse?

    I get the feeling that, choosing holliday destinations without WW2 sites in future, might be the best way to preserve my complexion

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