Gardener unearths unexploded bomb

The unkept allotment looked like a bomb site when Roger and Barbara Welham took it over.But after four days of back-breaking clearing and digging they made a startling discovery - it really was a bomb site.

The unkept allotment looked like a bomb site when Roger and Barbara Welham took it over.

But after four days of back-breaking clearing and digging they made a startling discovery - it really was a bomb site.

As police yesterday cordoned off a 100m zone around the allotments in Caister Road, Yarmouth, and army bomb-squad officers were summoned from Colchester, Mr Welham, 62, relived the moment he picked up a 10in shell. He said: “I was clearing the compost heap at about 11am yesterday and found this large silver metal object. I picked it up and recognised what it was from my days as a police officer.”

The retired constable gingerly put down the shell, weighing 10kg to 15kg, and called the army bomb-squad number he remembered from his days in the force.

He said: “They instructed us not to panic and to evacuate the other 12 allotment holders from the area, although most of them were curious enough to come and have a look first.”

Although Mr Welham had seen such shells blow up and create 20ft holes, he said he and his wife stayed calm.

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They had only thought about having an allotment three years ago when they moved into their current home in Eden Place, Yarmouth, which does not have a garden.

He said: “We were on a waiting list for years and we only took it over four days ago. Now after all this drama I am worried we might get chucked off.” Mr Welham said it was a complete mystery how what appeared to be a tank shell had ended up on the allotments by the river.

“One possibility is that it was dumped by someone who had maybe used it as a doorstep for years without knowing what it was,” he said.

While they waited for the bomb-squad's arrival, Mrs Welham, 56, who runs an internet swimwear company, said: “I fear we'll be in the dog- house if it blows up everyone else's seedlings. One positive thing is that it could save us some digging - although we might have to have a pond instead.”

Twelve police officers were called to seal off the area at around lunchtime, closing most of Tar Works Road and stopping public access to the riverside and allotments.

The drama was heightened when a pensioner went missing from a nearby old people's home and it was feared he might stray near the site. However, after a search involving the force helicopter, the man was found safe.

Sgt Pat Jack, the officer in charge, said plans had been put in place to extend the exclusion zone, involving significant road closures, but the alert was ended at about 3.30pm when the bomb- disposal experts found the shell was not live ammunition and could be safely moved.