Bomb de terre: Unexploded First World War grenade found in French potato shipment

An unexploded First World War hand grenade was found among a shipment of French potatoes when they were unloaded at a Hong Kong crisp factory.

The German grenade is believed to have been left in a trench during the war and accidentally gathered up with potatoes planted a century later in the former battlefield.

Hong Kong police safely detonated the grenade at the Calbee snacks factory. Superintendent Wilfred Wong Ho-hon said it “was in an unstable condition because it had been previously discharged but failed to detonate.”

A police video showed bomb disposal officers packing the 3-inch wide grenade in a drainage channel before exploding it. It weighed more than 2lbs.

“All the information to date suggested that the grenade was imported from France together with the other potatoes,” Superintendent Wong said.

Dave Macri, a military historian at Hong Kong University, said it could have been easily mistaken for a potato.

“If it was covered in mud, the grenade was likely to have been left behind, dropped by soldiers there during the war, or left there after it was thrown,” he told the South China Morning Post.

“The ditch was then filled up and used as a growing field, and the explosive was tossed into the mix of harvested potatoes.”

Hong Kong police are accustomed to disposing of old munitions, usually American bombs dropped on the city after  the then British colony fell to the Japanese during the Second World War.

The bomb disposal squad defused three large Second World War bombs last year, two of which were found at a site in the busy Wanchai district during construction of a new Mass Transit Railway station.

But it is the first time a bomb has been found in a shipment of “pommes de terre”.

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