History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Today, I heard about seven deaths attributed to an explosion of a bomb from World War 2: Seven dead as war bomb explodes in Bangkok scrap yard

Hopefully, the last death or deaths that can be reasonably regarded as caused by World War 1 has already happened. What was it, and when did it happen?

share|improve this question
Clearly the referenced accident it caused by stupidity and not WW2. – qarma Apr 3 '14 at 11:31
@qarma The people doing this weren't doing it for fun. They were doing it to try to earn a living. – Andrew Grimm Apr 3 '14 at 11:35
Clearly the result of 1 + 2 = 3 is caused by the 2 and not the 1. Oh wait, results can have multiple factors? Gosh! – hippietrail Apr 3 '14 at 11:54
@hippietrail indeed. I apologize for having said that rashly. Not being familiar with the details, calling those workers stupid is uncalled for. Careless, maybe; lacking forethought, sure; unlucky, possibly; lacking experience to identify and handle explosives, quite so likely. – qarma Apr 3 '14 at 14:51
I don't know, I think there is a strong argument for stupid. Dismantling an old bomb with blow torches falls into the category of stupid, I would think. Where I live (New England) the equivalent is people who use blow torches to thaw frozen pipes and burn their house down (happens about 4-6 times every year). We are dealing in Darwin awards here. – Tyler Durden Apr 5 '14 at 18:13
up vote 28 down vote accepted

To expand on Sid's answer, for those who are interested. Unfortunately, it is likely to continue for a fair while. Estimates given by ordnance disposal experts in Belgium by the (BBC in 1998) and by The Telegraph in 2013 estimate that the last un-exploded munitions from WW1 won't be removed for another 50 to 400 years.

It is estimated that for every square metre of land on the western front one ton of explosives were fired, and that as many as one in 4 shells failed to detonate. (BBC, Legacies of the Great War). In the Ypres Salient alone it is estimated that 300 million dud shells were fired. (The Daily Mail, 2013)

To this day, Belgian and French farmers collect what is known colloquially as the Iron Harvest. Farmers will discover tonnes of un-exploded ordnance each year when ploughing or otherwise maintaining fields and will place them at the side of the road before notifying the authorities. These will then be collected by ordnance disposal experts and destroyed.

It's also believed that a small number of large un-exploded mines are lost in Belgium and France. Although, I can't find a source that gives a number I have found the following on thegreatwar.co.uk.

Some of the tunnels were built with the aim of laying an explosive charge at the far end in order to blow a mine under the enemy's position. This was treacherous work and many tunnellers from both sides of the Front Lines died in tunnel collapses, underground explosions and suffocation. In some cases it is known that the explosive charge did not go off, and these particular tunnels with their unexploded mines still pose a potential hazard today.

share|improve this answer
See "Battle of Messines"; or this rense.com/general47/50000lbWW1bomb.htm – DJohnM Apr 3 '14 at 0:43
Yeah, it was that kind of mine that has potentially been lost. – Kobunite Apr 3 '14 at 8:13
And if you follow the logic that WW2 and the October Revolution were the inevitable result of WW1, the cold war the inevitable result of WW2 and the emergence of communist dictatorships all over the world the inevitable result of the October revolution (both are viable assertions), every person executed by their government in places like North Korea and Cuba is a result of WW1. – jwenting Apr 3 '14 at 9:16
Counting the political consequences goes a bit far, I think. Eventually, all of history is caused by all the history that happened before it. – mcv Apr 3 '14 at 10:31
@PhilPerry: it's a well known fact in the UK that every economic downturn was caused solely by whichever of the two main parties is not currently in power. Statements by government ministers confirm this time and time again ;-) So currently the crash of '29 is Ramsey MacDonald's fault, and it can't switch back to being Churchill's until 2015 at the very earliest. – Steve Jessop Apr 3 '14 at 22:42

Still happening -- Ypres: World War One weapon explodes, killing two

share|improve this answer
Nearly add a few hundred more... twcc.com/articles/2014/04/08/w/… – Phil Perry Apr 8 '14 at 17:42

In addition to explosive shells still lurking in the ground, there are many unexploded poison gas shells turning up a century after WWI. WWII also has unexploded shells, but a bigger problem is unexploded bombs dropped by both sides. Poison gas weapons were stockpiled by both sides during WWII, and some were unaccounted for due to accident, carelessness, or enemy action.

share|improve this answer
Do you have a source /citation for this? Interesting, but more interesting with references. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 2 '14 at 17:59
It would be helpful to make it clear that UX is an abbreviation for unexploded. – Peter Taylor Apr 2 '14 at 20:45
yup, they found a nearly intact V1 recently, fueled and armed, burried in a boggy field. – jwenting Apr 3 '14 at 9:17
@PeterTaylor and the seven upvoters: that's what the edit link is for -- use it! – David Richerby Apr 3 '14 at 22:10
I can only speak for germany, but unexploded bombs are a frequent problem when building. If you are building, you are required to contact authorities first, who conduct a bomb survey using old photographs taken from the bombers. I've lived in cities like Bremerhaven, and evacuations due to bomb disposal where frequent. Even then, sometimes a bomb gets missed and construction people die - most often exvacator drivers who hit the bomb by accident. – Christian Sauer Apr 4 '14 at 6:40

To look at this in another way, you may say that the death of nearly anyone born after the start of WW1 was caused by WW1.

Which child is actually conceived is extremely variable, being dependant on a huge number of external factors such as who the parents are, timing of conception, numerous environmental factors, personality and mood of parents, etc.

An egg being fertilised by one particular sperm that would make one particular person depends on coitus happening at a precise moment by particular parents exposed to precise environmental and historical circumstances. Even the make-up of the particular egg and sperm will be influenced by infinite past factors. Then also the development of the foetus will be influenced by numerous further factors.

It is easy to imagine that in some way every potential parent after 1914 was in some way influenced by the Great War; a change in their life changes the circumstances and timing of the conception of their offspring. Perhaps some people living in the most remote places on Earth may have had no initial influence on their existence by the happenings in Europe but since then the effects would accumulate.

So, if the birth of a particular individual is dependent on exact circumstances then alterations to any of their circumstances would very likely result in a different individual being born. A huge event like the Great War would affect most humans on the planet, leading to this event causing entirely different humans to exist than would have if the war had not happened.

My limited understanding of Chaos Theory would suggest that any event could trigger a cascade of influence that could change which egg and sperm come together. For example, a woman in Croydon choosing to wear her red dress one day rather than her blue one might increase her attractiveness to a particular man, leading to a relationship, marriage and children. This effect rippling out across Croydon to England and on out to all humanity. I imagine this effect being relatively limited though; however a world-wide event like WW1 would have a huge effect on humanity.

If all or most existing humans now only exist because of WW1 they could then only die because of the war. So, anyone at all who dies at this instant is doing so only because of WW1.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.