Unexploded WWII mortar found at Ford Rodd Hill on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA – A warden at Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site in Colwood got more than he expected when he dug up an unexploded mortar.
The Parks Canada worker was removing invasive plants from an unused portion of the site when he discovered a shell over 80 years old.
The mortar was located partly under the ground of a rocky and heavily forested ravine not open to the public.
“It was only by accident that one of our maintenance workers was there,” Kate Humble of Parks Canada said Wednesday. “This was found in a place the public never goes and is rarely even tampered with by our own team.”
Humble says the staff member immediately called their manager and the area was cordoned off. Parks Canada staff then notified CFB Esquimalt authorities of the find.
“We received a call from the base MP indicating that a two inch mortar was found at Fort Rodd Hill,” said Sebastian Guay, explosive ordnance chief of the Pacific PO Fleet Diving Unit. First Class (RCN).
(Ministry of National Defence)
“The cartridge itself did not have a fuse, but it is not known whether it contained actual explosives or if it was an old training cartridge. He was so old that it was too difficult to identify, ”he said.
Fort Rodd Hill was established in the mid-1890s as a coastal defense stronghold by the Royal Navy. It remained a key part of Canada’s west coast defense network and a military training facility during WWI and WWII.
It was decommissioned as a military installation in 1956 and was turned over to Parks Canada in the early 1960s to make it a national historic site. Prior to the decommissioning of the facility, the site’s terrain was widely swept in search of unused military ammunition.
“It’s extremely unusual to find something like (a mortar) on this site,” Humble said. “A thorough scan of this site has been carried out on several occasions to ensure unexploded ordnance is not found here.”
Humble says the 1930s shell was extremely degraded and there was no identifiable mark on it.
“It was difficult for us to read the marks on it. However, the mortars have a very distinctive shape so that we can identify it visually, ”she said.
“It’s been there for a long time, I can only assume, and there has never been a danger to the public at any time.”
(Ministry of National Defence)
Guay says it’s possible the mortar shell was used for training in the years leading up to World War II.
“Back then, they used to carry the stuff live with them, without a fuse, when they were training,” Gauy said. “They could always shoot them without the fuse and sometimes they just forgot to put the fuse in.”
Guay says the team of two Navy Ordinance Disposal Experts are highly trained professionals with many years of experience. Once the team determined that the unexploded mortar could be moved safely, it was secured.
“It was placed in a ‘protective bag’ that can support the explosion in case it goes off,” Guay said. “They took him to a bomb disposal zone and detonated him as soon as they got there.”
Guay says members of the Fleet Diving Unit Pacific’s Order Disposal Unit respond to nearly 150 calls for unexploded military orders per year. He says most calls for the expertise of the unit based at CFB Esquimalt come from the Vancouver area.
Guay says if people find an object that looks like a bomb, it’s probably a bomb.
“Don’t touch it and don’t move it,” he said. “If possible, take a picture of it, step back and call the RCMP. The RCMP will call the regional joint operations center that is here on the base and they will let us know that we have a call to answer.