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The Thin Blue Line

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The Iron Harvest

It is estimated that as many as one third of the shells fired during the third battle of Ypres failed to explode in the wet clay of the area. The EOD of the Belgian Army maintains a permanent unit clearing and recovering munitions from the area around Ypres and they receive on average 3,000 calls a year.

Since 1996 four people have died as a result of these weapons and over 650 metric tonnes have been recovered. At the current removal rate it is thought that it will take at least another 70 years to clear the area.

In April 2001 it required 130 buses to evacuate the inhabitants of Vimy when Mustard Gas starting leaking from shells, stored in a compound, awaiting disposal.

If you are planning to visit any of the battlefield areas, then remember that caution should be exercised, and you must never be tempted to bring home any souvenirs that have not been purchased from reputable museums or collectors.


Under no circumstances should you try handling any munitions such as these, or be tempted to find out just what that piece of metal might be that is sticking out of the ground.