Tellers & Mills

Now apart from sounding like a magic of comedy double act, this was the only thing I could think to name this site. As we always refer to this place by name, obviously you would all love me to do that and clearly its not going to happen! It was however an old RAF base, which is relevant to this tale.

This site started out like many others finding odd bits, that were now relatively dull. .303's, bits of webbing, WW2 period jam lids and odd bits of cutlery. This all indicated to WW2 activity in the area, it wasn't long before Jay found a cap badge. Not an RAF one as you would expect, but Royal Artillery? A little odd we thought as we were deep in what was the camp. We searched further into what was marked on the map as the WAF area, it was here that I got one of those signals which makes you go "what the hell is that?". I started digging, the ground being really wet and glue like. Out comes and 4.2inch mortar cap. Awesome! The I spotted another in the hole. I called to Jay to see if he wanted the second in the true ERH way. He came over and said "isn't that another there". I moved my spade out the way and wave the detector over the hole. There were certainly more and probably lots. I got out my pinpointer (a cheap crappy 'Whites' one at this point) and poked about in the hole and dug them out. I can't remember exactly how many we had but it was more than 40. After moving on, although the site was huge, we just stopped finding anything much of interest and head back to the car which was parked next to the road. We had some lunch and looked across from where the car was parked. It just looked exactly the same as the other side we ere just in and so after lunch we said we would go and have look.

The moment we turned on the detectors things go interesting. Albeit a little confusing. Someone, I forget who found the first one, I think it may have been Alan found half of a PIAT fuse case. I knew what it was as I had previously found one in Normandy that year. Then everyone started finding them every few steps. Then the fuses started popping up and different sizes of those, and different sizes of case! Then complete cases, and complete cases with fuses inside. What on earth had been going on here? This was still an RAF base; and since when do the RAF have a use for some many PIAT rounds? 

For those unfamiliar with how the PIAT works, on the back of the finds clips a tin zinc case on a sprung detectable clip. When you want to fire the PIAT you take off the clip, take out the fuse, take of the cap on the end of the round, place it in the revealed hole, place the cap back over and then fire. Should you not need to fire, you do the procedure in reverse. So unless the round was fired, you wouldn't have the case to discard. It looked like someone had fired hundreds if not thousands of PIATs at something. 

We had bags and pockets full of these things and we could still see the car from where we were standing. I poured all mine into my backpack ad set it aside next to a tree to pick up on my return back to the car. I had a camo jacket on with load of large pockets so unless I found a tank track I would have no problem carrying what ever I found. We started to jump ahead a bit as, we had far more of these that we ever needed. (If anyone wants one case and a fuse, they will be on the sales page under 'relics') We then started to find small arms, .303, 30-06, 9mm and .45s and even the tiny .22! "What was this place used for?" I heard someone ask. We came to a typical wartime concrete roadway, cheaply made and now a disused feature in this wood. We scanned around this and had signals everywhere. We started to pull out all sorts of things. What we nick-named 'ninja death stars' which are in fact the base protectors off shells. Ranging from 2, up to the occasional 18 pounder. It was here that Jay found a block of Bakelite, when he wiped it we could see RZM markings. What an odd thing (turn out later that it was some block to put inside artillery rounds.) Alan would later find one also, I sadly never found one and no more were ever found. The daylight started to fade and we had had only a few more holes to dig. The roadway was D shaped, so we all got inside the D and started scanning and just like everywhere else, there were signals too. Alan pulled out a British made zinc Teller Mine fuse, mainly used for training Royal Engineers. Then we all found one, next to appear where solid zinc bullets? The whole thing being made from a one piece cast with a hollow inside leading out the bottom. These were so crude you could never insert them into a breech, the casting lines were terrible. How odd. Later it would be revealed that these were made by Lion Toys, (later Tri-ang) as training aids. You could give them to the very inexperienced and train them in how to handle small arms. Ideal for Home Guard training etc.  These were coming up in .45 and .30-06. Most of the .30-06 were sadly very rotten in the nose and only the odd one being complete. It was far too late and dark to continue any more. We packed up and head back to the car, retrieving my bag along the way. The first trip would certainly not be the last, even before making it back to the car we made plans to return the next weekend.

For some reason next weekend wasn't going to happen. The guys told me, its just up the road from you, just go. So I asked a friend of mine, another Dan, although called Fishy, if he wanted to come along and help. Now the best bit about taking Fishy was that he doesn't keep anything! So what ever we found would go into my collection, unless we found multiples, then Jay and Alan would certainly get some. We headed into the woods and in the direction of the D. I told Fishy not to bother putting his detector on yet as I knew what he would find. We got close and put the machines on, Fishy started scanning right next to the concrete road but on the mud. Signals were crazy, trashy, then good, then trash again, then good... it just screamed of a dump. So I came over just dug down beside the road. Sure enough, lumps of iron, cans, then odd things, like 2 inch mortar fins and a few .303s. I hit the bottom and decided to follow along next to the road digging a shallow trench. After pulling out all sorts of crap I then found what look like a bin lid? It then hit me and I screamed, Fishy looking confused and asked "what is it?". I was a Teller Mine, a British training version, not the concrete type, but a hollow pressed steel version. I hadn't seen one of these before. After putting on the road next to me, I carried 

on and pulled out another, then another! Then a Teller Mine fuse. I couldn't dig fast enough. Then all of a sudden a Mills grenade just rolled out the wall next to me. This was my first encounter with a grenade and I jumped out the hole. Fishy having seen this also jumped back. How funny we both must have looked. After realising what an idiot I had just been I went back over to examine this Mills. After all, everything else on this site was training items. Why would this be different. However, it could just as well be HE. I looked at it carefully, sure enough, it had no base-nut and turning it on the spot I could see it was totally empty inside. RESULT!

A little further up my trench we found two 2 inch mortars, one being a drill version and other being a used smoke round. Apart from all finds I mention, what you don't read here is all the rubbish and mud I am digging through in between these finds. It probably reads like this was easy, trust me it was slow going and hard work. All the time, we are scanning for tiny items and 99% of the time they are PIAT cases and nothing special. Then we found an artillery fuse, it was hollow and I didn't recognise it. It was Alan who identified it later that evening as a British made 'German' 88mm flak fuse! The other thing that can be seen in the top right of the photo above is a Spigot mortar fuse that is marked DRILL down the side.

On later trips with Jay and Alan we finished the trench revealing over 25 Teller Mines, most of which were beyond saving. Although we greedy young member took the lot home with him. More Mills came out, I think I ended up with about 5 from that site. All white painted No.36 Mills and despite being empty and containing nothing but air, the morons at Thames Valley Police had them seized from my house, and then had them blown 3 of them up! Returning one to me? Why that one, I have no idea. As all four were identical. The amazing thing about this size, was the sheer volume from one tiny patch of ground.