Unexploded WW2 shell discovered in harbour

The 12-15-inch long World War Two shell was safely detonated by Royal Navy bomb disposal experts. Photo: Shoreham Coastguard Rescue Team
The 12-15-inch long World War Two shell was safely detonated by Royal Navy bomb disposal experts. Photo: Shoreham Coastguard Rescue Team

An unexploded World War Two shell found on a ship in Shoreham Harbour yesterday has been safely disposed of.

The explosive device was picked up by the ‘Arco Dee’ ship, which had been dredging off Selsey. It likely scooped it up off the sea floor along with its intended haul, with the crew only discovering the shell during the unloading process back in Shoreham Harbour.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “At 10.20 yesterday morning the UK coastguard received a report from a vessel that they dredged up some possible ordnance.

“It was metal in appearance, cone shaped and 12-15 inches long. It was very rusted and had probably been on the seabed for some time.”

The Shoreham and Littlehampton coastguard rescue teams were dispatched to the scene at the harbour, and Sussex Police were informed.

The shell was then removed from the Arco Dee by Royal Navy bomb disposal experts from Portsmouth.

A Royal Navy spokesperson confirmed the device was later destroyed in a “controlled explosion in an open area away from residents”. He added that such operations were “routine business”.

Dredgers usually collect materials including sand and pebbles from the sea which are used for construction. While not an everyday event, it is not uncommon for them to accidentally pick up ordnance while trawling the seabed of the Channel, in this case a three-inch calibre British shell from the Second World War.

“It’s not a regular occurrence but it does occur”, said Rodney Lunn, chief executive of Shoreham Port.

“Dredgers come in regularly to the port”, he added. “They usually go out into the Channel, east of the Isle of Wight.”

The Arco Dee, a 68-metre long ship built in 1990, had been working off Selsey before making port in Shoreham.

The Royal Navy Southern Diving Group conducts bomb disposals over a large area of coastline from Hull clockwise around the British Isles to Liverpool.

Many of these areas were heavily bombed during World War Two, with a considerable amount of mines and shells yet to be unearthed, which would present a significant danger were it not for the work of this specialised unit.