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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?

  • Clearly the referenced accident it caused by stupidity and not WW2. – Dima Tisnek Apr 3 '14 at 11:31
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    @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
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    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
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    @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. – Dima Tisnek 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
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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.

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    See "Battle of Messines"; or this rense.com/general47/50000lbWW1bomb.htm – DJohnM Apr 3 '14 at 0:43
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    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
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    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
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    @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
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    If we go all the way back, the one responsible for everything is either Adam who bit into that strange piece of fruit, or that strange ape who decided to climb down from the tree. – vsz Apr 4 '14 at 6:12
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Still happening -- Ypres: World War One weapon explodes, killing two

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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.

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    Do you have a source /citation for this? Interesting, but more interesting with references. – Mark C. Wallace Apr 2 '14 at 17:59
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    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
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    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

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