The Fauld Explosion
The tiny village of Hanbury in the county of Staffordshire seems an unlikely place to have witnessed the largest wartime explosion ever to have taken place on mainland Europe, only the two atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were larger.!
The crater can be seen beyond the sign
During the Second World War safe places for the storage of large quantities of bombs would have been at their minimum, Hanbury had been selected due to the fact that there was a disused gypsum mine located deep underground and safe from any stray German bombers.
It is not known who or what triggered the explosion which took place at 11am on the 27th November 1944, it has been suggested that an ex Italian prisoner of war, of which there were many working at this bomb storage area at R.A.F Fauld may have accidently triggered a bomb to go off.
A view of the Fauld crater
The workers were not very well supervised and it is thought that one of them may have caused a spark when using a metallic tool which was prohibited for obvious reasons. Some witnesses claim to have heard a small explosion first which suggests one bomb blew up which caused a chain reaction detonating somewhere between 3,500-4000 tons of bombs, the blast from this incredible amount of high explosives in a confined area created a massive crater three quarters of a mile in length, a quarter of a mile in width and three hundred feet deep.
The blast was so great it removed one million tons of earth and the flash from the blast was seen one hundred miles away by a pilot. The shockwave measured 4.3 on the Richter scale and was detected as far away as mainland Europe. The news of the blast having taken place in wartime would have been suppressed for morale reasons and also to stop the Germans capitalising on the unfortunate event.
Many deaths were caused by a reservoir being destroyed causing a tidal wave which destroyed a plaster board factory, this event alone killed 31 people. A farm which was sited above the gypsum mine where the bombs were stored was never seen again along with the family and workers who lived there, presumably they would have been vapourised in the blast.
The Cock Inn public house in the village of Hanbury along with many houses in the village were destroyed, in the aftermath of the event a cow was found still standing upright, and although dead it had been inflated like a balloon from the blast wave given off by the explosion.
The Cock Inn at Hanbury
These days peace has returned to the quiet village of Hanbury and it seems to want to forget the tragic events that took place all those years ago, no signposts can be found which would lead a curious person wishing to view the crater to its location, where one of the biggest explosions ever to have taken place happened. I myself had to ask for directions before I could find its location, and when I was able to visit it I could detect a definite atmosphere where the lives of seventy people had come to an abrupt end in this terrible and tragic accident.
A memorial to the people who lost their lives.
Below is an ariel view of the crater which would have been around half a mile in length.