By LOUISE THOMASON
They were manufactured in 1943 and issued to the Home Guard to help protect Shetlanders in the event of an invasion by the Nazis. At the end of World War II they were dumped on a hillside between Lerwick and Scalloway.
And there the 31 grenades had lain for over 60 years until two boys, Nathan Robertson and Larri Goodlad, both 12, who were out for a walk on Sunday stumbled across them and had the good sense to phone the police.
As a result of their find a major operation swung into action with the Black Gaet road being closed for several hours and the bomb squad called upon to travel north and deal with the old ordnance.
Finally, on Wednesday morning the boys were allowed time off school to watch as the grenades were detonated by army officers, producing a resounding boom and a shower of peat.
Recollecting the find, Nathan said: “We were out for a walk and Larri was walking ahead of me. I thought it was tatties sticking out of the ground but stopped for a better look.”
The outcome might not have been so good for the boys had Nathan not spotted them. Larri said: “I nearly stood on them, I was kind of surprised.”
When the boys realised what they had found they decided to get some help. Larri said: “We sat on the hill and phoned the police.”
After the police received the call the road was closed off until a risk assessment was carried out and the area declared safe.
The boys’ actions have been praised both by their teachers and the police.
Scalloway Junior High pupil support teacher Patrick Robertson said: “We’re really pleased with the way they handled it, they could easy have picked them up or even taken them home but they did the sensible thing.”
PC Dave Sweeney, who was at the site on Wednesday morning, said of the boys: “We are really proud of them and that they’ve done the right thing and contacted us. They didn’t touch them and recognised that they could have been dangerous. We’re really proud … and pleased with the outcome of it.”
Staff sergeant John Younger and sergeant Gavin Rowe, from the bomb disposal unit at Craigiehall military base in Edinburgh, arrived on the boat on Wednesday.
They confirmed that the find comprised number 36 “M” type grenades from World War II and that there were 31 in total.
Staff sgt Younger said: “It’s not very rare to find these – they can be found in back gardens all over the UK. On average four or five a week can be found.”
Sgt Rowe continued: “They’re quite often found in village ponds, places like that. The quantity here is quite unusual though.”
Staff sgt Younger explained that they would have been disposed of – albeit not very carefully – at the end of the war.
He said: “The year of manufacture was stamped on the base – 1943. They would have been issued to the Home Guard to protect the British Isles and probably got dumped at the end of the war.”
Both men agreed that the boys had done the right thing in alerting the police as these types of explosives are, by nature, extremely unpredictable. “At this age they probably wouldn’t function but I wouldn’t like to take that risk,” Staff sgt Younger said.
Getting the morning off school was always going to be appealing for 12-year-old boys, but adding an army bomb disposal team and the promise of grenades going off made their weekday morning.
Prior to the grenades being destroyed, Larri and Nathan were able to see how it would all be carried out. Larri said: “I hope there’s a big explosion!” They were not disappointed.
Sgt Rowe said that if the grenades had been disturbed and gone off they could have produced an explosion with potentially a “two metre radius” so that if anyone had been hit, “it would be fatal”.
A bomb disposal team was in the isles last week to investigate two separate incidents. A large flare washed up at Scatness and an unexploded device was discovered on Sand beach on the West Side on Wednesday.
Both items were also destroyed under controlled explosions.