As he digs into the ground, with the beaming sunshine overhead, Dom Lowe notices that something is amiss in his back garden. It turns out that there’s a strange void under the earth, filled with all sorts of historic objects. Then when his son passes him an even stranger-looking item from deep within the hole, Dom realizes that something is seriously wrong – and he immediately calls the cops.
Gardening is an incredibly popular pastime, and it’s not hard to see why. After all, not only can it have tangible benefits for anybody who grows their own herbs and vegetables, but it’s also a great way to relax. In fact, studies have shown that gardening can even help in combatting depression and anxiety.
And in April 2018 Dom Lowe decided to partake in a little gardening himself. Lowe originally hails from Los Angeles but now lives close to Bristol, England, where before his retirement he worked as the managing director of a local brewery.
Anyway, that spring Dom had decided to take advantage of the good weather and do some work on the yard with some help from his son Jon. But in a little-used area of Dom’s garden lay a mysterious void beneath the ground; speaking to the Bristol Post, the man himself would later describe this area as a “cesspit.”
Between them, the duo were aiming to dig out the ground in order to install a fence in the garden. First, though, they decided to investigate the strange hole and find out what treasures – or otherwise – lay within. And it wasn’t long before they made a startling discovery.
At first, all Dom and Jon turned up was rusted vintage items and debris: old glass bottles, a metal iron, a colander and even an OXO gravy tin. While interesting, they clearly weren’t anything worth running to the police over. Indeed, they were simply everyday objects, presumably buried decades earlier. Then, however, they pulled out something a little less familiar.
Yes, Jon handed his father an object that looked scarily like a fin from the tail-end of a bomb, although the younger Lowe didn’t recognize it at first. So, he went back into the hole – and pulled up something even more alarming.
Specifically, Jon had retrieved what appeared to be an intact, unexploded bomb from the Lowes’ garden. Furthermore, this item most likely hailed from the Second World War. After all, Bristol was fifth on the list of Britain’s most-bombed cities during the conflict; Luftwaffe pilots had used the River Avon to find their way there by moonlight.
In the months from November 1940 to April 1941, six huge bombing raids and 77 smaller air raids took place in Bristol, killing 1,299 people. A further 1,303 victims suffered notable injuries, and a total of 697 people were pulled out of the city’s rubble.
The first major bombing raid occurred on November 24, 1940, with 12,000 incendiary explosives falling on Bristol as the result of German planes. In that one event, 207 people lost their lives, with several of the city’s old places of worship on the receiving end of the onslaught. Bristol’s Lord Mayor at the time, Alderman Thomas Underwood, would later say of the raid, “The City of Churches had in one night become the city of ruins.”
The longest bombardment the city suffered came in January 1941, however, and this endured for 12 terrifying hours. During the raid, the German air force dropped its largest incendiary device – nicknamed “Satan” – which weighed a staggering 4,400 pounds. Fortunately, though, the explosive didn’t work properly, and a bomb disposal outfit managed to recover it in 1943.
And while the final major spate of bombing in Bristol took place in April 1941, the smaller raids continued. Indeed, these aerial attacks didn’t end until May 1944, just over a year before the conclusion of World War II. All in all, more than 89,000 Bristolian buildings were damaged during the conflict, with over 81,000 homes totally eradicated.
Even with that in mind, however, the Lowes may have been surprised when they pulled the explosive from the ground. “Jon didn’t know what it was. But then I said, ‘That looks like part of a bomb to me,’” Dom told the Bristol Post. “He handed it over straight away.”
However, Dom also noted that the pair didn’t panic – at least, not at first. But when the dad placed the bomb on the fence that they were building, it fell off. He and Jon then instinctively dived for cover, presumably in case the impact triggered some long-dormant mechanism in the device.
Fortunately, though, the bomb didn’t go off; instead, it lay quietly on the ground. But Dom and Jon didn’t dare touch the item after that. And as a result, they decided to call in the professionals to take care of it. Not long after, then, a pair of officers from the Avon and Somerset police force arrived on the scene; the Lowes also waited for the bomb disposal squad.
Finally, a member of the Royal Logistic Corps’ bomb disposal unit turned up to investigate the device. And once he’d completed his inspection, he confirmed that it did indeed originate from the Second World War. Yes, the strange object the Lowes had dug up from their garden was a genuine German incendiary.
However, as part of his work, the bomb squad officer had performed an X-ray. After that, it was determined that the item was totally inert and therefore harmless. Thankfully, then, the bomb wasn’t about to explode decades after it had been dropped.
And according to the Royal Logistic Corps member, World War II-era German planes would add insult to injury during raids by launching these kinds of inert devices after they’d completed their initial bombing runs. “He said that they dropped empty ones amongst the live ones to hinder clean-up operations,” Dom told the Bristol Post.
Once it had been confirmed that the bomb was safe, however, officers allowed the Lowes to keep their astonishing find. Indeed, to say it’s a memorable souvenir of their afternoon in the garden would be something of an understatement.
So, while it’s not every day that you find an unexploded bomb in your garden, thankfully for all involved in this story, this particular slice of wartime history wasn’t about to put anyone in mortal danger. Instead, it’s simply a tangible reminder of the horrors of conflict – and an experience that the Lowes likely won’t forget any time soon.