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Box said harpoons but bombs found inside: WWII surprise for staff at The Rooms

Staff at The Rooms found air bombs from the Second World War buried in a box labelled "harpoons" that had been transferred from the old Newfoundland Museum.

RNC officers were called to The Rooms Wednesday to deal with mislabelled artifacts

The Rooms is a St. John's cultural museum and art gallery and holds the provincial archives for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Something surprising showed up in an old box at The Rooms museum Wednesday causing Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers to be called in — Royal Canadian Air Force air bombs from the Second World War. 

"We have a protocol here at The Rooms that any time our staff [is] working on collections and discover military ordnance that they're not quite sure about … we automatically call the RNC to come over and inspect the material," said Anne Chafe, director of The Rooms Provincial Museum Division.

According to the police overnight report, the Operational Patrol Services responded to the museum on Wednesday in relation to a possible live WWII shell. Police said the two shells were removed and disposed of.

Anne Chafe is the director of The Rooms Provincial Museum Division. (Twitter.com/AnneChafe)

Chafe said officers told staff the bombs did not pose any danger to them or the public and that evacuating the building wasn't necessary.

"They came over right away and took a look at it. They determined that yes, potentially, they could be live, but there was no immediate threat to the staff or the public. One of them actually took it and shook one of them just to show us that there wasn't any immediate danger," she said.

Chafe estimated the bombs to be about 18 inches long and four inches in diameter. She said they were cream coloured and had RCAF — Royal Canadian Air Force — written on them.

Souvenirs?

The air bombs were tucked away in a box labelled "harpoons." Records at The Rooms show they were collected in the early 1980s. Chafe said staff had been doing thorough inventory of artifacts transferred from the old Newfoundland Museum when they found them. 

"It's quite common across the country with institutions that do collect military material to find grenades or bullets and things like that, that potentially could still be live," she said, adding that staff have firearm licences to handle such material.

They may have to be destroyed, but we're hoping that at least the casings can be maintained.- Anne Chafe

Chafe thinks the shells landed in St. John's quite innocently — she said it was common for soldiers to bring them back as souvenirs. 

"In fact, the RNC officers told us that. As soon as they saw them they said, 'Oh yes we've seen those in other locations in the city here,'" she said.

"So they were used to receiving calls about these exact same bombs. They knew exactly what they were and had indicated that they were quite known to them and had been found in other collections, personal collections, in the city."

Chafe said the military and munitions experts will have a look at the bombs to determine whether anything can be returned to The Rooms.

"They may have to be destroyed, but we're hoping that at least the casings can be maintained."