As It Happens

Ontario man finds live WW I-era artillery shell in neighbour's trash

Danny Vellow was pretty certain what he was looking at, set on the curb with his neighbour's trash: an antique artillery shell, possibly 100 years old.

'It was solid brass. And I knew it was old,' says Danny Vellow, who reported the discovery to police

Danny Vellow and the WW I-era shell he noticed in his neighbour's garbage. (Danny Vellow)

This story was originally published May 18, 2018.


It was a normal garbage day in London, Ont., this week. Everyone hauled their trash out to the curb and left it for pick-up.

But in one case, it wasn't a garbage truck that came to collect. It was the local police, the army, and the bomb squad. 

Danny Vellow lives in the neighbourhood and stumbled on the dangerous trash. He spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off.

Here is part of their conversation.

Danny, what did you see in your neighbour's garbage?

Well, I wasn't garbage-picking. I was just taking the path through the back yard. When I stepped over my fence, I almost stepped on an artillery shell. 

He must have put it there, and he should've phoned the police right off the bat.

But wait a second — were you sure right away what you were looking at?

Yeah. I worked at the Lac La Biche bombing range many times, because I've worked as an iron worker all over Canada.

So every year you go out to Lac La Biche bombing range, they teach you — three hours of the most boring video about bombs. When I seen that bomb, I knew it wasn't an inert bomb, because I didn't see no drill holes in it.

It was solid brass. And I knew it was old.

Someone put this First World War-era artillery shell out to the curb with their trash, even though it contained 20 to 30 pounds of live ordnance, according to police. (London Police Service)

Were you worried? Did you think maybe this could explode?

Oh yeah. I had a doctor's appointment to get my broken shoulder looked at, because I cracked my shoulder blade.

And on the way, I phoned the police. 

So I got a phone call. I was at the Beer Store. And he said, "What are you doing at the Beer Store?"

I said, "Well, I'm not going to the doctor, [not] going stand there all day. I'm going to get some beer and I'll be right back there in 10 minutes."

So I got back there. OK, now the bomb is three feet from me. And the police officer drove up with his car, right up to me: "Are you Danny from the Beer Store?"

"Yes."

And he says, "Where's this bomb?"

Like, where the hell has that bomb been in a hundred years? Like that's a military shell that should have been found in Europe — that you dig up in the farmlands somewhere. Not here in Canada.- Danny Vellow

And I pointed down to it, right where his front tire was — two feet away. He backed up right away, and he come over and took two pictures.

Ten minutes later, the bomb squad's here. Ten minutes later, the bomb squad took a picture.

Ten minutes later, Wisconsin, U.S.A., phoned them and said, "Hey! Don't touch it. It's military."

And they're sending somebody out here, and then we sat out there for 12, 14 hours until they picked it up.

You sat where? How close were you to the bomb?

Probably about 70 feet. I made sure there was a big tree in front of me, and the police were all away on the other side of the intersection over there, [in] a culvert. And they sat there all day watching that bomb.

Do you have any theories as to why there was this artillery shell in your neighbour's garbage?

The people that were renting that apartment — they told me they're brothers. Apparently they're not brothers. 

They offered me some empties. I went over there to pick up the empties. They were kicked out. I heard yelling the night before.

And then they had new neighbours in there. The next day, looked like somebody was sorting out — I think it was the landlord — the good stuff from the bad stuff, you know what I mean?

Yeah.

Anyways, these two brothers were nefarious. The truck they were driving had no door handles on either side. They said they were broken into. It was probably a stolen vehicle.

Why would they have an artillery shell from World War I?

No kidding. How does a 100-year-old bomb make it from a hundred years ago until today without blowing up? Just like, where the hell has that bomb been in 100 years? Like, that's a military shell that should have been found in Europe, that you dig up in the farmlands somewhere. Not here in Canada.

Anyways, the police told me I broke two records: I found the biggest bomb by a civilian. And I found the oldest bomb by a civilian.

A World War I artillery shell. A 90-pound shell. Two feet long. And they said it had a dynamite power of 24 sticks. And it was very hot. 

But they did eventually take it away, right?

Yeah, the military showed up and they took it to [Canadian Forces Base] Borden. And they blew it up there. They have facilities there.

And the police told me: "That was a spectacular explosion."

No kidding, eh? I wanted to make a lamp out of it. I said, "Hey! can I get it back?"

[They] said, "Danny, we blew it up this morning."

And nobody got blewed up.


Written by Donya Ziaee and Kevin Ball. Interview produced by Donya Ziaee. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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