Details of the potentially lethal “Iron Harvest” came as members of the Royal family including Princes Charles and Harry were due to arrive in northern France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the bloody battle.
Claude Samain, a 76-year-old who farms land by Basin Wood, near Serre – which was on the British front line on July 1st 1916 and contains the Somme’s largest cemetery – said: ‘We find shells every time we turn the earth over for potatoes or sugar beet.’
Offering an empty one to the Telegraph, he said: “When I was a lad we used to plough with a horse and cart so were much nearer the soil to spot shells or guns. Now a lot of it gets turned over by our tractors.”
Mr Samain added: “You Brits are so respectful of what happened here on the Somme. Three coachloads of British children arrive every day to learn what happened one hundred years ago – you never see any French children.”
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will attend evening events at the Thiepval Memorial in France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave are commemorated.