Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.

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FURTHER ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR MILITARY ACTIVITY AT BERRY HEAD DURING WW2: The discovery of grenade parts on Berry Head Common Philip L. Armitage Introduction A previous article by the author 1 documented the WW2 artefacts recovered at the edge of Berry Head Common, during excavations at the site of a stonebuilt enclosure wall, carried out by Brixham Heritage Museum’s Field Research Team in years 2000 to 2007. Some of these artefacts are believed to have been associated with an artillery detachment manning two Bofors anti-aircraft guns located nearby. In addition to the artefacts already published, there are three others that indicate military activity at Berry Head during WW2 – all were found during a metal detector survey of Berry Head Common (for map see Armitage 2008 Fig. 1) carried out in 2003 by members of Brixham Heritage Museum’s Field Research Team. After the 2003 field survey these items (along with the other finds from the Common) were stored away in the Museum reserve collections. They remained in store until recently, when, prompted by the further discoveries made at Berry Head in 2007, the author decided to carry out more detailed research into these objects, the results of this enquiry are presented here.

Figure 4-1: Diagram showing the internal components of a WW2 Mills No. 36M grenade together with the three base plugs found at Berry Head: Brixham Heritage Museum Accession Numbers (right to left) 6584.1, 6584.2 & 6584.3. Drawing by Robert Rouse, Brixham Heritage Museum.

                                                            
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CBA SW Journal No. 21 - June 2008, pp. 16 – 22 Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Description & identification When first discovered, the three metal (copper alloy) objects were not immediately recognised and although dated to the WW2 period were believed to be simply the screw caps off petrol cans. However after inspection by Brixham Museum’s Chairman, Mr. Edgar Lawrance (Master Gunner Royal Artillery, retired) they were all identified as the base closing plugs to WW2 Mills No. 36M grenades. Although of the same design, each plug had been the product of three different manufacturers, as evidenced by letters on the base (see Figure 4-1, below). Following a lead suggested by Mr. Andrew Smith (editor of CBA SW Journal) who had located a website specifically on grenade base plugs, the author contacted the website creator Mr. David Sampson (an avid collector of grenade base plugs) who kindly provided information on two of the three manufacturers represented: P.S.C. denotes the Parkinson Stone Company, whilst Q indicates the maker was the Qualcast Company, Derby. Unfortunately the identity of the third manufacturer WML remains unknown. Further research revealed that the Qualcast foundry in Derby had been established in 1920 and before WW2 produced lawnmowers. During the war the company’s workshops in Derby were re-equipped to turn out mortar bombs and grenades. Within four months of the ending of hostilities, in 1945, Qualcast had returned to normal operations and became the largest manufacturer of lawnmowers at that time in the UK. Using the grenade Fusing (arming) procedure The base plug was an important component of the Mills 36M grenade when armed ready for use, as described below. As a safety measure, the igniter assembly of the grenade (consisting of a firing cap surmounting a five-second safety fuse linked to a fulminate of mercury detonator) was stored/transported separately from the main body of the grenade, which contained the bursting charge. When the grenade was required to be armed, the igniter assembly was inserted into the body and tightly secured in place by the base plug, as shown in Figure 4-1, below. Delivering the grenade to the target Once armed, the grenade was ready for use and subsequently could either be hand-thrown at the enemy or “fired” from an adapted (ordinary) .303 calibre Lee-Enfield rifle, which functioned as a short-range (up to 70 yards) mortar. The adapted rifle (known as the “E-Y rifle”) was equipped with a cup discharger at the muzzle and the grenade fitted with a gas check plate at its base (see Figure 4-1). Before inserting the grenade into the cup discharger, the ringed split pin would be withdrawn and the striker lever held firmly against the body of the grenade. After leaving the cup discharger on the rifle (when fired), the striker lever flew off, allowing the spring-powered striker-rod to initiate the detonation sequence by descending rapidly and impacting the firing cap, which ignited the safety fuse. The fuse burnt for five seconds and then, in turn, set off the detonator/bursting charge.

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Interpretation & Discussion Of the three base plugs found, two (accession numbers 6584.1 & 6584.2) appear to have been from unexploded grenades, whilst the third (accession number 6584.3) exhibits evidence of deriving from a detonated grenade – apparently therefore indicating firing practice had been carried out at Berry Head. If this firing practice had taken place somewhere on the Common it is unclear exactly who would have been involved as there is no record of the local Home Guard training anywhere at Berry Head (see previous article – CBA SW Journal No. 21). It is known however from a first-hand account (Coleman 2003) that the Brixham Home Guard in late 1940 had practised using the E-Y rifle at Sharkham Point just around the coast from Berry Head. Mr. Coleman in his account illustrates the inherent danger of using such a weapon – he relates how one of the E-Y rifles “must have had a duff charge as the grenade just popped out of the discharger cup and fell to the ground in front of us. There was pandemonium and everyone scattered – it was lucky that the grenade rolled down the slope out of harms way and no one was hurt” (Ibid). Acknowledgements Dr. Armitage wishes to thank the following people for their assistance in researching the grenade bases: Mr. Andrew Smith, Editor of CBA SW Journal; Mr. Edgar Lawrance, Chairman of Brixham Heritage Museum; and Mr. Dave Sampson. Sincere thanks also go to Mr. Robert Rouse for the very fine drawings, and to the three metal detectorists who carried out the survey of the Berry Head Common – Mr. John Britten, Mr. Doug Oseland and Mr. Otto Schneider. References Armitage, P. L. 2008 “A ‘lost’ WW2 Bofors anti-aircraft gun-position at Berry Head Brixham”. Archaeology South-West No. 21 – June, 2008: CBA - SW Coleman, R. 2003 Brixham Battery Heritage Centre Group Newsletter October 2003. Sampson, D. 2008 website www.millsgrenades.co.uk/no36mk1baseplugs1.htm  

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/