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A Suspicious Looking Box in Chard

In late February 1915, there was a minor sensation in the Chard area when it was reported that a ‘suspicious-looking box’ was unearthed during road works near the Axewater Bridge which spanned the Dorset and Somerset county boundary just outside Winsham. Recent floods had caused the road to subside and Thorncombe contractor, Fred Reed and his gang were busy reinstating the carriageway.

Fred was shovelling some soil when he was surprised to turn up a small metal box, of ‘a suspicious character’, some five inches long, and with what appeared to be a fuse protruding from one end. Curious to see what it contained Fred, watched by his companions opened the box and found inside some wet powder emitting a strong acidic smell. On the outside of the mysterious object the words ‘Nuremburg, Germany’ could just be made out and with the fears of spies and saboteurs still engaging much of the community, the immediate thought was ‘a bomb’.

Closing the box, Fred Reed put it to one side and when work finished for the day took it home, packaged it and despatched the box to the War Officer in London. (Remember, this was thought to be a bomb!!). The following day Fred went to Chard and notified Inspector Worner of the find and the action he had taken. The Inspector, in turn notified the police at Beaminster as the mysterious object had been found on the Dorset side of the bridge.

Rumours were soon circulating of German spies and saboteurs and there was much speculation that the ‘bomb’ had been placed to blow up the Axewater Bridge or set to demolish the nearby mainline railway bridge and had been washed downstream in the recent floods.

However, the fears were soon put to rest when Fred Reed received a letter from the War Office stating that the mysterious object was not a bomb, but probably a battery similar to those used in flashlights.

Jack Sweet
January 2021

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