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WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

Article about: Hey all During a recent visit to my brothers house, he was showing me a load of WW2 airfields he had visited on his motorbike. Nearly all had been returned to agricultural land or were still

  1. #1

    Default WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    Hey all

    During a recent visit to my brothers house, he was showing me a load of WW2 airfields he had visited on his motorbike. Nearly all had been returned to agricultural land or were still in use as civil airfields or industrial sites. All, that is, except one. One of the bases he had visited had a wood bordering it during the war and the wood was still there now.

    With a great deal of excitement (on my part at least), we arranged a visit to see if we could find anything.

    When we got into the woods, it became obvious that searching it was going to be a real SOD as the tree canopy was fairly sparse, meaning that the brambles and nettles had gone NUTS and were at least shoulder high over much of the area.

    However, undeterred I dived into the mass of thorns and stings and began my search. It was damn tough going with only very small areas searched, due to the fact you could only half sweep the ground with the detector before getting tangled in the undergrowth.

    But search it I did, leaving my brother to search the few areas that weren't covered in noxious plant life. Going on what we found, I am going to have to return to this site around February time when everything has died back to allow more thorough searching.

    So, onto the finds. The photos are only what I found but my brother found similar items.

    Firstly, before any cleaning and identification of bits of crap.....

    ....and then after cleaning and disposal of the junk....

    Firstly some stuff that I need help positively identifying.

    The two hasps here look very similar to ones found on 50 cal cartridge tins, but may be off other ammo boxes as they were found behind the ammo dump. Not sure if the nut is anything but the thin piece of alloy actually looks like airframe. It has a tinge of green about it and a code stamped on it. Anyone identify it as belonging to a B-17 ?

    The code reads 199195 R114 (or it could be R174)

    Next we have an old penny, (which I am always pleased to find because it indicates I am in an area where the airbase staff were and hence there will be other finds), part of a kidney plate (DAMMIT !!! I wanted a WHOLE ONE !), and some odd pieces of lead which we'll look at in more depth below.

    So the lead pellets then......They appear to be the remains of 'seals' for something but i am not sure what. I actually found about 10 of these but kept throwing them away as i thought they were pieces of crap UNTIL i suddenly realised they were marked 'US' Have a look for yourself and see if you can tell me what they're off. I found them behind the ammo dump.

    Ok, now we have my regular kind of finds. Cartridges. A strange mix here as this base was only EVER USAAF so why on earth am I finding 303's there ? The 20mm will have come from P38's that were also based at this airfield.

    Then we have the usual 50cals, one of which has been deliberately cut through, another of which I managed to chop in half accidentally with my spade

    I also took a picture of one of the 50's and a 303 as I was so amazed at how well they cleaned up, even after spending 65 years in the ground. All I used was soapy water, a wire brush and then a brillo pad. Amazing !

    Now for a short story.

    We left the ammo dump area and went to find the bomb storage area. When we found it, (it was easy to spot as the earth banks forming 'bays' were still in place'), I had already marked on an aerial photo of the period that the area to the rear of the bays had hardly changed in 60 years and that would be our best bet for finds. When I started searching it I initially thought my detector had gone wrong as it was bleeping like crazy where-ever I swept it. I came out of the area to change my batteries and tested the ground again only to find it was working fine !

    I went back into the area and tried to pinpoint one of the detections but gave up. Instead, I just dug a random hole. In the hole, a large solid iron nut/bolt, and then another. A quick sweep gave me no detection so I went on.

    The damn things were EVERYWHERE. In the small area I was searching I reckon there were easily 50 separate detections, all of them these damn nuts/bolts.

    I was just about to chuck them (and swear alot) when my brother had a bright idea. Could they be the nuts placed in the tip of bombs during transport ?

    Given the number and location, he had to be right !!! See what you think.

    And a picture of me holding one so you can get an idea of size....

    And now a picture my brother found on the web. Note the nuts in the nose of the bombs !

    So I reckon that's what they are, 'transport' nuts for nose of 1000/500lb bombs. We also found some smaller ones that are probably 250/100lbers.

    So the armourers load up the bombs on the trailers, remove the nose nuts, insert the fuses, take them to the B-17s and load them up. Cool find ! To think these are off bombs that were dropped by B-17s !

    ...but not as cool as these two beauties. Both dated 1945. (one looks like 46 but it is definitely 45.....the picture makes it look like 46)

    Bomb pistols ! (rear of bomb I believe not nose)

    When I found them I thought they were full of mud but in actual fact it was the remains of some sort of cardboard 'cap' covering the internals of the pistol. When I cleaned them at home I realised the wing shaped pieces of metal sat in small indents in the rim of the pistol and thus prevented the wing nut from undoing, and these were held in place by the disintegrated cardboard 'cap'. These were obviously to ensure nothing happened to the pistols in transit and I think they will have been removed before insertion into the bomb (although I can't be sure as I don't know how the pistols work.....anyone who does, PLEASE EXPLAIN IT TO ME !!!)

    To think that these would have been used in bombs dropped by B-17s (if the armourers hadn't chucked them over the back of the ammo dump), made my day !

    So, despite being stung/bitten/scratched/spiked/stabbed all over my arms and legs, it was worth the visit.

    Can't wait to return in the winter ! (Or maybe I'll go again soon armed with a petrol strimmer and a rake )

    Steve T
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture 20mm and 303.JPG   50cal.JPG  

    50cal and 303.JPG   after cleaning.JPG  

    airframe 1.JPG   before cleaning.JPG  

    bits 1.JPG   bomb pistols 1.JPG  

    bomb pistols 4.JPG   clasps.JPG  

    lead 1.JPG   nuts 1.JPG  

    nuts 2.JPG   Chevybombtruck.jpg  

  2. #2

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    These are great finds! I would be overjoyed to have the opportunity to relic hunt an air base. Congrat's on your finds.

    rgds, Ty

  3. #3

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    The "US" items are lead seals of either a tied wire bag/box/sealed consignment, or possibly a wired fuse .. remove to arm ..

    The hexagon heads might be the blanking plates ... removed to insert fuse ..

  4. #4

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    Thanks polski.......that's what i thought the big nuts were.

    Interesting thoughts on the lead thingies....

    Steve T

  5. #5

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    That must have been hellish hard work Steve, undergrowth is a nightmare with a detector, especially spikey undergrowth. The aluminium with the part number certainly looks like aircraft but it isn't listed under the 'resources' link here: Welcome to Aviation Archaeology You'll have to find a bigger bit!
    Done a bit of searching and there's a piece on No30 bomb pistols here: Historic Naval Ships Visitors Guide - BRITISH BOMBS AND FUZES

    The two forks would engage with the small propeller fitted to the back end of the bomb, within the tail fins. When it was released from the plane it would spin in the slipstream, undo the thread in the middle which held the detonator and allow it to fly forward and set off the bomb when it hit the ground. I'd find out quickly if the detonator was fitted in the bomb or in the end of your pistol. Probably best left at the end of the garden for now!

  6. #6

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    Hello Steve, read a bit more from the above site. Youv'e got a British Tail Pistol No30. The pistol denotes it only has the striker, not the detonatotion charge so it is completely safe! I've learned a lot in a short time. Haven't dug up a bomb myself for a year or so. - Model Aircraft

  7. #7

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    Thanks ian_ , you're a star ! Excellent bits of info.

    Shame you couldn't get that bomb would've made a fantastic display piece !

    Steve T

  8. #8
    Reg is offline

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    Nice finds Steve, well researched.


  9. #9

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !

    Hi Steve, once again ... some really great finds ... I particularly like the bomb nose plugs ... I've found a few ... but never in such quantity! Its interesting that you found them at the bomb dump because it was standard 8th Air Force practice to retain nose plugs until the bombs were delivered to the aircraft (there role, afterall was to protect the fuze pocket from grit, moisture etc. ...) Moreover .... fuzes were never, repeat never, fitted to ordnance while still located within the bomb dump ... for reasons that are pretty obvious! In fact, it was policy in some groups to only fit fuzes once the bomb was safely secured in an aircraft's bomb racks .... This was actually quite difficult .... bombs were usually loaded early in the morning while it was still dark ... necessitating the use of torches ... and the bomb bays of B-17s / B-24s were fairly cramped .... It was, however, a lot safer than fuzing bombs prior to winching them ... bomb loading accidents at Great Ashfield, Alconbury, Rattlesden & Ridgewell testify to this ...

    All the best,

  10. #10

    Default Re: WW2 8th Airforce B-17 Base - New site ---> New FINDS !


    I must admit I did wonder !

    ...but given the HUGE quantity we could have come back with, they were definitely removing the nose plugs in the bomb dump.

    Steve T

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