On November 6, 2004, an eleven year old boy from the wartime evacuation town of Dunkerque in northern France died of injuries after handling a mortar shell he had unearthed while playing in a forest with friends the day before. On August 13 the previous year at Morienval in the département of Oise in the Picardy region children were found playing with a shell they had discovered in a stream. The intervention of adults prevented them from making what they had hoped would be an exciting fireworks display -- and from suffering the fate of the eleven year old boy from Dunkerque.
The finding of 'buried treasures' such as these is not a rare occurence in France. Farmers, construction workers, people out for a Sunday walk in the woods, along with adventurous children, regularly come upon unexploded munitions of various kinds, classic as well as chemical, which have silently worked their way to the surface in fields and woodlands. Farmers have been and still are most at risk, their heavy equipment failing to distinguish between a sugar beet or potato and a recently surfced grenade or shell. Thirty-six agricultural workers were killed by such deadly remnants in 1991 alone.
(To be continued)