Historic Events 

Grenade Accident

 Created 21-06-2002   Last update 04-07-2002

The Accident

On the morning of 1st August 1945 two boys aged 14 and 12 - names known but withheld by the author-  both from Harleston Road Wymering, went out with their dog for a walk along  Portsdown. They walked some 3 miles west until they reached a Chalk Pit directly above the village of Portchester. At this point their dog discovered a live hand grenade. It was being examined by the boys when it exploded.

Sgt. Thomas Joseph Cross (RAF No 884120) was on duty at the RAF site alongside No 3 Chalk Pit when he heard a loud explosion at 11:50 hours. He searched the site and found both boys covered in blood lying on the floor of the Chalk Pit. The dog was dead. He alerted the Fort Southwick Guard who called an Ambulance. 

A Police Ambulance manned by PC 61 Grall, and WR 630 Ronald Stevens, was called to Fort Southwick, and they were subsequently sent on to 'Number 3 Chalk Pit' southwest of the Fort. On arrival they found the boys had been wrapped in blankets, and were in the care of Surgeon Lt Walter John Patton RNVR who was attached to Fort Southwick. Since they were very badly injured and had lost a lot of blood, they were transported to the Queen Alexandra (Ministry of Pensions Hospital) and passed into the care of Mr. Hurley a Surgeon at the Hospital.


The Aftermath

A investigation took place which showed that the Chalk Pit had been used by the Royal Marines on 24 occasions in the past 12 months, the RMSA on 4, and the Fort Southwick Military Unit once. It was also revealed that the same area had been used by the Home Guard, but the exact nature of the use and the number of occasions had not been recorded. Prior to August 1944 many and various Military Units had used the Quarry for operational training. 

The matter eventually reached the peacetime High Court in late 1948, when the case rested on the meaning of the wording on the 'Danger Notices' displayed at the three entrances in to the Chalk Pit. It transpired that in 'Class A Orders' three different forms of wording could be used on such notices. Things were further complicated by the fact that a 'Right of Way' over a footpath through the Quarry existed pre-war, and had not been deleted in accordance with the Defence Regulations of 1940.

It could not be established exactly which Military Unit should have recovered the Grenade, nor could it be said that the boys had been trespassing as the wording on the notices - actually the third form of notice - was considered to be ambiguous.

The boys were assessed by the National Assistance Board on behalf of the High Court as to the full extent of their wounds during June 1948. Both of them were considered - by the criteria of the time - to be 80% permanently disabled, and that they could not be expected ever to be able to gain employment. The nature of the final Court Judgment is unknown.


The Location

The exact location of 'No 3 Chalk Pit' was a bit of a problem. It is known that the Royal Marines and Home Guard both used the much larger Paulsgrove Chalk Pit for training, but this is to the southeast of Fort Southwick. The account states that No 3 Chalk Pit was southwest of Fort Southwick, and assuming that this is correct then the only candidate site is a series of three small pits to the east of Hill Road which runs North from Portchester village. The fact that there are three pits maybe accounts for the numbering system i.e. No 3 Chalk Pit. 


Map of the Chalk Pits

 Map of the location of the Chalk Pits. The access road is Hill Road which run north from Portchester.

Grid Ref SU616065


The chalk pits at Hill Road

 Photo of the chalk pits taken in 2002, looking southwest (Gosport is in the far background). The site has changed dramatically due to building work. There is no trace of the mentioned RAF site.

The chalk pits at Hill Road - Portchester Heights

 As far as I can tell this housing development is sited within No 3 Chalk Pit -  -  and is quaintly named 'Portchester Heights'. I wonder if there is any more un-exploded ordnance around?