‘We thought mine box was a manhole cover’ says Westhampnett site builder

The anti-tank mines were found by builders at a property in Westhampnett on Tuesday, June 4. Photo: George Hatton
The anti-tank mines were found by builders at a property in Westhampnett on Tuesday, June 4. Photo: George Hatton

A builder has described the moment his team unearthed anti-tank mines in a Westhampnett garden.

Bomb disposal experts were called in to detonate around 18 mines found at the property under construction at 10.50am yesterday.

Evacuated residents were allowed back into their homes yesterday with a police cordon lifted earlier this afternoon after the last of the mines had been exploded.

Carpenter George Hatton, one of the builders who found the mines, said the team first believed the box of mines to be a manhole cover, but soon found it to be a lid.

He said: “It wasn’t until the ground worker’s curiousity got the better of him that he pulled one out and saw it had TNT written on it.”

“He put it very carefully down and obviously we rang the police and said we’d found explosives.

“When the bomb disposal squad came they lifted the box out and found another box underneath that one.”

Experts removed the mines to a nearby field yesterday, where they carried out controlled explosions in a pit surrounded by sandbags.

Police said mines were exploded one at a time due to their high proportion of explosive content, with an gap of around 30 minutes between them.

Mr Hatton, who works for Riverdale Development, said a member of the bomb disposal unit had told him the mines were most likely given to the home guard during the Second World War.

He said: “It seems a bit more understandable now because obviously Tangmere Airfield isn’t too far away.

“In a time of invasion, all the home guard would have had them.”

He added that the mine fuses were attached to the box lid and not the mines themselves, but the group had kept their distance.

Read previous stories here: Controlled explosion of ‘anti-tank mines’ in Westhampnett causing road closures

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