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Somme ‘Iron Harvest’ will take 500 years to clear, say bomb disposal experts on centenary of bloody battle


It will take another five centuries to clear the Somme battlefields before the area is safe, bomb disposal experts warned on Thursday after collecting 25 tons of munitions this year alone.

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.

Michel Colling, head of the Amiens bomb disposal unit that handles the Somme, said: “Since the start of the year we’ve been called out 300 times to dispose of 25 tons of bombs.

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 and his son divide the shells and grenades up into two piles – one harmless, another dangerous. They often lie for months in the open air before bomb disposal teams come to remove them.

“I’m quite happy to hand over such souvenirs to the British,’ said Mr Samain. ‘These shells are part of their history.”