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Inches below his plough lay 500lbs of explosives
EVERY autumn for 47 years, arable farmer Peter Rudge ploughed his 100-acre field in Aldborough Hatch, little realising that just inches below the surface lay a 500lb unexploded German bomb.
During the Second World War, Aldborough Hall Farm was next door to RAF Fairlop, an airbase for fighter aircraft that became a regular target for Nazi bombers.
Mr Rudge said: "When we took over here in 1956 nobody told us there was the likelihood of anything here. I'm grateful that it hadn't gone up when we were ploughing it because it would have been a lot more sensitive when we started going over the top of it."
Two years ago the farm had its tenancy of the field removed by Redbridge Council which now leases the land to excavation company Brett Lafarge, and it was while it was removing the topsoil that the device was found.
Mr Rudge's daughter Anne Wilderspin, who lives at Willow Farm in Billet Road, was with her father when the alarm was raised. She said: "Yesterday afternoon a man from the pit came up and told us in a bit of a panic. He said the police were there and the bomb squad were on their way."
The farm was sealed off within a 400-metre exclusion zone as army bomb disposal experts moved in to deal with the grisly harvest.
Mr Rudge lived at Willow Farm and went to school in the area during the war and has vivid memories of the pounding it suffered.
He said: "RAF Fairlop was a relief airfield for Hornchurch, and if that airfield got damaged, they used to come here. Fifteen Spitfires would take off at one time and they would go two to four times a day. I went to William Talbot school and it had its windows blown out several times."
A bomb destroyed the front of the Dick Turpin pub in Aldborough Road North, and it seems that the latest bomb may not be the last unexploded device in the area.
For 60 years Mr Rudge has harboured the belief that one still lies beneath his daughter's driveway.
He said: "My father was out in the yard one night and some dropped the other side of the A12 and some dropped this side.
"He used to grow vegetables and he used to go to Stratford market with a horse and cart, and at 4am that morning he went up the drive and the horse wouldn't move, and when he got down to look there was a hole in the drive.
"It went about two or three feet along under the drive, so he got in touch with the police. They came down, stuck a stick up it and said Oh that'll be all right'."