View Full Version : Airfield Explosive Storage Buildings

19-09-2010, 18:37
This is the discussion forum for this archive (http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?5251-RAF-Airfield-Explosive-Storage-Buildings-WW2)

Very pleased to see your new archive, Peter. Something that's been in the back of my mind for a long long time.

Lengths added for 12725/41 huts. Drawing states these are Nissens, and are used for SAA, Pyrotechnics, Sea-Markers, Flame-floats, and Grenades. No distinction as to type.

Data added for 1932/43 incendiary stores


20-09-2010, 07:47
Thanks Graham.

Yes, when taking data from Record Site Plans and/or Schedules of Buildings one must be aware that the stated function was the intended use when the plan was drawn up. In practice a building could be used to store almost any explosive store, the limitation being the effective safety distance and siting relative to explosives in other Groups and Categories.

The ubiquitous 12725/41 Nissen and later drawing versions was probably the universal store.

20-09-2010, 17:24
Heres a question for you Peter as you are an ex armourer.

The bomb dump stores bombs obviously. They are stored unfuzed, what exactly happens to them if the dump catches fire?

21-09-2010, 08:56
The effects of fire on iron bombs depends on the temperature and duration of application. Unfused bombs may be stacked in the open or enclosed in buildings. The most likley fire is a grass fire that sweeps through the bomb store driven by the wind; this can be spectacular and frightening but is usually quick and relatively low temperature. Aircraft HE Bombs would not burn simply because they are metal but any battens or pallettes on which they are stacked can burn. I have seen palletts on which bombs were stacked reduced to ash leaving scorched but hot bombs in disarray.

Grass and undergrowth in bomb stores is deliberately maintained short to reduce fire fuel; coupled with firefighting equipment and trained personnel fires can be dealt with.

For HE bombs stored inside buildings with closed doors, grass fires are almost no threat.

Munitions which are liable to ignition from fires are Detonators, Fuzes and pyrotechnic and incendiary filled. In recognition of this Categories are assigned to different types of munition which force them to be stored in a certain way and away from some other Categories. The firefighters are alerted to the contents of a stack or store by the Fire Symbol through which they can recogise the potential hazard and fight the fire appropriately. This includes the last resort which we called RLF (Run Like F**k) I always chuckle when I see the international symbol for a Fire Exit because it illustrates the panic run precisely!

In another life we had taken receipt one morning(for overnight storage) of around twenty pallet loads of mixed Army munitions including mines, 155 gun ammo, SAA, Flares etc etc. As I departed the airfield by car late afternoon and drove down the adjacent main road I saw smoke comimg from the storage area followed by a glorious fireworks display punctuated by percussive detonations. All twenty pallet loads were destroyed. The cause was later attributed to a leaking white phosphorous shell. Our leader knew he had made the right decision to store them in an old but secure area and not in our own!

Coming back to effects of high temperatures on iron bombs. If the heat is high enough and long enough the main filling can detonate. If in direct contact with other bombs (i.e stacked)propagation can occur and mass explosion ensue. Proper storage by lateral separation of stacks will prevent propagation and this includes concrete, brick earth or sand traverses which act to intercept fragments of bomb casing for it is high velocity fragments and not blast which present the greatest risk of propagation. Sometimes a bomb will low-order, that is the filling will only partly detonate splitting the case and exposing the filling which can burn fiercely until consumed. But, if it is contained it may lead from burning to high-order detonation.

Fuzed bombs are usually stored in a separate traversed open store away from unfuzed bombs to confine explosions to that one area. Fuzed bombs are at greater risk from from fire than unfuzed because they contain sensitive explosives in detonators.

Navies with aircraft carriers are at unique and high risk from fire due to storage density, aviation fuel leaks, armed aircraft in close proximity etc and the USN in particular has had a number of incidents on their carriers which led to the introduction of special fire retarding coating applied externally to their bombs. This appears as a wrinkled paint job!

21-09-2010, 09:26
and the USN in particular has had a number of incidents on their carriers

Watch out for Seconds from Disaster:-USS Forrestal on Discovery Channel.

21-09-2010, 11:23
There is/was a massive memorial plaque on the hangar deck of the Forrestal - got a pic somewhere when I visited her in approx 1987.

My heart was in my mouth when I watched a Jaguar crash into the conventional bomb store at Bruggen in the late 1970s, following a mid-air collision overhead the field. Fortunately it did not drop directly onto any of the huge stacks of 1000-ponders or BL755 but it fell onto open ground inside the wire. That could have been a very exciting time if it had come down directly on a stack.

21-09-2010, 17:25
Thanks for all the info Peter.

ted angus
21-09-2010, 21:56
My thursday night drinking buddy Sgt John Arnold was crash crew commander that day, the crash line went to the bomb store, the other ac came down in the woods outside the perimeter south of the SSA if I remember correctly. Sgt Brian Smith who was on days doing FP duty, he grabbed some passing airman who were off B DSU and roared off to the second jet in a spare machine parked up in front of the fire section office it was the dreaded DP 3. The DP3 was reknown for its unservicability but it behaved that day They did a first rate job ; The DP 3 was damaged ploughing through the trees but was sorted by MTSS assisted by GEF metal shop. here it is in a local town.

19-11-2012, 22:32
Can anyone aid me in identifying the two stores shown below please?

The original photo caption read "Squadron Ready Use Explosives Store", but I'm guessing the appropriate title would be Ready Use Pyrotechnics Store? I've also included a close-up subset of just the stores.

The photo is taken from a helicopter in a low hover. To my eye one looks larger than the other and they appear square in plan. Others may disagree? The question is, what drawings number(s) are they?

Many thanks in advance!



20-11-2012, 03:40
Looks more like a candidate for 'What airfield' thread!

Are those Bucaneers? FAA or RAF. Looks late '60s to me. An 'expansion station'

Yes; they are RU Pyrotechnic Stores. Twin compartment. If pre-war then probably AM Drawing 2647/37 or 2847/38 or 3800/38 but also common was 7212/40.

Sometimes, a second store was added to supplement the original build so may have a later drawing date.

20-11-2012, 14:44
Hehe! :lol: Well the photo is from the late '60s, but for intrigue I won't say which airfield it is just yet! ;)

The store in the background is likely to date either from circa 1939 when this airfield first opened or from some other time during WWII. I've just looked at an archive airphoto from the time and it does appear to be slightly ractangular in plan rather than square.

Regarding the store in the foreground, it is relatively new, being constructed sometime between 1967 and 1967. Would this influence which drawing number it could be?

Thanks again! :)

20-11-2012, 19:51
Ah ha! :-D The older of the Stores is in the 1945 airfield plan as a "R.U. Pyro Store Type A" Drawing No. 5488/42.

20-11-2012, 22:06

In the mid 1970s these were used for the storage of 4lb & 28lb practice bombs.

21-11-2012, 05:20
Ah ha! The older of the Stores is in the 1945 airfield plan as a "R.U. Pyro Store Type A" Drawing No. 5488/42.

So neither structure is original build. I should have thought from your photo that this building that it was two compartments (Type B)

Regarding the store in the foreground, it is relatively new, being constructed sometime between 1967 and 1967. Would this influence which drawing number it could be?

Yes, it would have a contemporary drawing number to reflect the lighting and lighting arrester (earthing and grounding) requirements then in force.

Also, it may have been not to store Pyros but PBs as stated by superplum. Changes of function of buildings could be authorised by Command and re-liicensed if it met the regulatory requirements.

Peter Kirk
21-11-2012, 11:07
So the aerials could be lightning conductors? I notice the bucket and extinguisher, sand or water in the bucket?

21-11-2012, 12:09
Is there somewhere I can see pictures / plans of what these buildings look like?
I really enjoy nosing around old Airfields and time after time I find myself thinking "I wonder what this was used for?"

21-11-2012, 17:37
So the aerials could be lightning conductors? I notice the bucket and extinguisher, sand or water in the bucket?

The "aerials" are finials and tend to suggest "Naval" standard for LPS for such a building. The RAF standard would not require such fittings but would rely on the copper tape fitted to the roof. As for sand or water, this would be dependent upon the nature of the stores inside - I would think pyrotechnics in this case and sand; a bucket of water would disperse too quickly.

22-11-2012, 05:58
First Aid fire-fighting for explosive stores was usually a bucket of sand, the extinguisher was (then) water/acid type. There was a requirement for the content of the bucket to be inspected weekly and replaced if damp or wet ('It's outside Sergeant what do you expect!'). I have had the honour of picking up a bucket of sand to use against a minor fire and hurling a solid lump at it! There was always a sign on such buildings that stated 'NO SMOKING' which accounts for the number of stubbed out cigarette dog-ends found in the bucket.