1/3 Left: Vince (11), Vince (9) and Abel (10), right: the mortar shell they found (photo: Devie van der Heijder).
Vince (11) from Berlicum found a mortar shell in the Engelenstede nature reserve on Sunday afternoon. The 11-year-old boy was searching the woods with his father and neighbors with metal detectors when they dug up the bomb.
It’s an average Sunday afternoon. 11-year-old Vince van der Heijden goes into the woods with a metal detector, together with his father and the boys next door Abel (10) and Vince (9). Together they go looking for all kinds of old things. “Vince is really addicted to it. He does it almost every day,” says his father Devie van der Heijden (41).
Normally jewelry, old coins and bullets are found there. Occasionally they even manage to get an old shrapnel out of the ground. “He really likes history. At home he also has a display cabinet full of old things he has found.”
Many of these items come from World War II. “They fought a lot on this stretch in World War II. You see a lot of French and Canadian bullets in one place and a lot of German bullets on the other.” Normally these bullets and shell casings just go home for the display cabinet. This time they only found something that wouldn’t fit in Vince’s display case: a mortar shell.
Vince’s dad was with the boys as usual. “The four of us were walking around when the metal detector started beeping. It was near a hard piece of ground, so I started digging.”
When Devie had the piece of metal on the shovel, he quickly saw what it was. “I know quite a lot about mortars and grenades from World War II. I knew right away that this was a mortar or bomb.”
“That was a bit of a shock,” says Devie with a smile in his voice. “I put him quietly on the floor and then we quickly ran away.” Devie immediately called the police, who arrived not much later.
The police were able to take the mortar grenade with them after contacting the Defense Explosive Ordnance Disposal Service. “It is still reasonably intact and not really rusted. They shoot a mortar round and then crash somewhere. This is a variant that does not explode quickly.”
A bomb was still on 11-year-old Vince’s wish list. Despite that, he was soon back on a new quest.
Vince and his neighbor boys do this search very carefully. Devie: “They know very well when he has to stay away from something, but he is never allowed to go alone. I’m always there. They can dig things up themselves in the meadow, but I do it with harder soils.”
So a bomb was dug up in the hard ground on Sunday afternoon. The one that was at the top of the 11-year-old collector’s list. It can now be crossed off. “He really wants to find a Roman coin right now. I actually hope one day to dig up a German with his helmet still on.”
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