Wednesday 3 January 2018

The artist David Bomberg and Britain's biggest ever explosion

Until February 4, the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester is hosting an exhibition by the British Artist David Bomberg (above is one of his pictures - Sappers at Work). In both world wars, Bomberg had a go at being an official war artist, but most of his pictures were rejected.

But the exhibition does feature two he painted of a huge Second World War bomb store in a former gypsum mine at Fauld in Staffordshire between Uttoxeter and Burton upon Trent. Nearly 15,000 tons of bombs were held there.

On the morning of 27 November 1944, the biggest man-made explosion ever in Britain ripped through the store, killing 70 people. A farm above the site just disappeared, nearly every house in the nearby village of Hanbury was damaged, while at Burton 6 miles away, 140 buildings suffered.

The Germans claimed they had hit it with one of the new V weapons, and there were also suspicions that perhaps it was sabotage by Italian prisoners of war or the IRA. But a secret inquiry concluded that shoddy work practices were to blame. It seemed that chipping away at a defective bomb with a brass chisel had caused an initial blast which was then followed by a second in which nearly 4,000 bombs exploded.

For more, see A Disastrous History of Britain.


  1. I think this picture is commonly accepted to be of Canadian sappers building mines in or around Hill 60 in France, in 1917. I would be interested in your sources for suggesting that the mine was at Fauld. See: for example. There is also a version in stores at the Tate.

  2. you are quite right, it is NOT a picture of Fauld - that's why I said in the blog it was just 'one of his pictures'. apologies for any misunderstanding