Killed by mortar bombs 1943/44

Daily Post June 15th 1943

Killed by mortar practice

A Liverpool Guardsman

Struck on the head by a 2 inch mortar smoke bomb during battle practice with live ammunition at a training ground in the Home Counties, Guardsman Allan THORNLEY, 19, whose home is at 109 Asser Rd, West Derby, Liverpool, died four hours later in hospital from laceration of the brain due to a compound fracture of the skull.

At the inquest at Uxbridge Lance Corporal J. SUTHERLAND who was firing the mortar, said he had fired seven shots and watched the flight of each of them. They had passed over the heads of the men in the direction of the cliff face.

When he fired the eighth there seemed to be a louder explosion then the others, the mortar jumped back and struck him in the chest and he could not follow the flight of the bomb. He had been on the mortar for two years and nothing of the kind had happened before.

There were three possible causes of the mishap. One was that the mortar shifted from its bed, which he afterwards discovered was an ant hill, two that the elevating pin might have slipped, three that the bomb might have been faulty.

Police Inspector WHITE said the mortar had been in a position about four feet above the rest of the ground which was loose, though the surrounding ground was chalky and firm. THORNLEY had been about 64 yds from the mortar.

Recording a verdict of “Accidental death” Dr GORSKI deputy coroner, said he was satisfied it was a pure accident under active service conditions.


Evening Express Feb 28th 1944

Bomb kills three boys

Two others hurt

Three boys were killed outright and two seriously injured yesterday when a mortar bomb with which they were playing exploded in a field near an old anti-aircraft gun site in Childwall Valley Rd, Liverpool. The dead are David NIXON, aged 16 AND Dennis URMSON, aged 15, and Raymond URMSON, his brother aged 13.

The two seriously injured and detained in the Northern Hospital, Taggart Ave, are Ralph WOODS, 14, Thomas CLARE 15, reported today as very poorly.

All the boys lived in Aldcote Rd, Dovecote.

Two other boys escaped without injury having run behind trees when their playmates picked up the bomb.

Evening Express March 1st, 1944

The Liverpool inquest on three boys killed when a mortar bomb exploded in a field in an old anti-aircraft gun site in Childwall Valley Rd, on Sunday was formerly opened today and adjourned until March 15th by the coroner Mr G. C. MORT.

The boys David NIXON, Dennis URMSON and his brother Raymond all of Adcote Rd, Dovecote, Liverpool. Of the two other boys injured at the time one Ralph WOODS, also of Adcote Rd, died in hospital today. Thomas CLARE is seriously ill in hospital.

Evening Express March 15th 1944

How bomb killed four boys

One boy held a live bomb in his hand while his companion hammered it with a brick. There was an explosion and three boys were killed, another died later in hospital.

This was the story related at an inquest held by the Liverpool City Coroner, Mr G. C. MORT, today, when a verdict of Accidental death was returned on, David NIXON, 16, Raymond URMSTON, 13, Dennis URMSTON, 14, and Ralph WOODS, 14, all lived at Adcote Rd, Dovecote, Liverpool. A fifth boy Thomas CLARE, 15, is still lying seriously injured in hospital.

The accident occurred on an old anti-aircraft site at Liverpool on Sunday, February 27th.

Principal witness at the inquest was 14 years old John Francis PRICE of Adcote Rd, who said that earlier on the Sunday he saw WOODS leaning out of an upper window of his home, swinging a bomb on a piece of string. When they got to the old site, the other boys started tampering with a bomb, which WOODS carried.

“I became alarmed” said PRICE, “and ran away I hid behind some trees, thinking I would be safe there if anything happened. Dennis URMSTON came there with me but he went back. After the explosion everything went black. Then I got up and ran for the road. I thought they had all been killed.”

Answering Mr A, D, PAPPWORTH, who appeared for the parents of two of the boys. PRICE said it was easy to get to the site, they had found the bombs lying in the field nearby, some of these were lying on the surface. He did not see any notices prohibiting the public from entering the field


Evidence of the explosion was also given by Joseph CONWAY, aged 13 of Adcote Rd. He told the Coroner that on a previous occasion he and some other boys had gathered a sack full of bombs and had hidden them near his home. On the day of the tragedy he saw NIXON and WOODS tampering with the brass head of a bomb. “I knew it was a bomb because I had seen pictures of it at home.” He added. Just before the explosion he heard one of the boys remark, “There is black powder in this one.”

Chief Inspector T. LANGFORD, Liverpool City Police, read a statement made by one of the injured boys, Thomas CLARE, 15, who, he said was likely to stay in hospital for a considerable time. In this statement CLARE described finding a number of bombs sticking out of the ground/

“On the Sunday” the statement proceeded “a gang of us were playing football in a field. I saw WOODS with a bomb in his hand, and while we played he placed the bomb in a ditch.

After the match he brought out the bomb and he and NIXON started hammering it with a brick. I was facing them WOODS was holding the bomb in his hands and NIXON was knocking it. Suddenly there was an explosion and I saw no more. When I came to I saw the other boys lying about.

Answering the Coroner, Chief Inspector LANGFORD said that complaints had been made regarding trespass in this particular field. Latest complaint had been made by the authorities four days before this tragedy.

Police had visited schools in that area warning children to keep away from that field. Exploded bombs recovered from the area had been given to the police.

An officer commanding a unit said that all bombs which had failed to explode during exercises had been accounted for. During exercises when bombs were fired in this field, sentries were posted on picquet duty. There was a number of notices posted near the field.

Replying to questions put by Mr R. K. MILNE who represented the parents of the Urmston boys, Captain  ROBERTS said there was no suggestion of danger in the notices that had been posted in the field. The notice merely prohibited the general public from trespassing.


Evening Express June 24th 1944


A verdict of accidental death at the inquest in the north west today on Francis Arthur SHARPE, aged 15, office boy of a shipping clerk, 79 Sedgemoor Rd, Norris Green, Liverpool, who died in hospital after having his right arm amputated as the result of a bomb explosion.

Eric BROWNRIGG, 15, of 84 Sedgemoor Rd, said they found the bomb lying in sand, SHARPE placed the bomb in his haversack, and when they were returning on the train to their homes SHARPE took the bomb from the sack and was told to put it back because it was dangerous. Numerous bomb fins were lying about in the area where the bomb was found.

Leslie SHARPE said his brother Francis showed him the bomb. Witness told him it was a trench mortar bomb and was dangerous, He was going on Home Guard duty three nights after his brother had brought the bomb home, he told him to bury it until he was able to take it to the Home Guard Headquarters.

Cyril EWING, 13, 17 Utting Ave, East, said Francis SHARPE called to him when he was near his home, and told him he had a bomb and invited witness to see it.


SHARPE, added the witness, dug the bomb up and they tried to take the cap off, they were unsuccessful. They then took it to a playing field nearby were SHARPE dragged the bomb along the railings and the cap came off. They both looked inside the bomb and saw a small aluminium pin. Witness told SHARPE to throw it away as it was likely to explode. SHARPE put the bomb on the floor and started to throw stones at it.

The bomb failed to explode so SHARPE again picked it up and told witness he was going to throw it against a wall, Witness then told SHARPE he was going to leave him and ran away. He then saw SHARPE throw the bomb at the wall, there was an explosion and SHARPS fell to the ground.

A military officer said the bomb contained a large quantity of explosive material and it was liable to explode as soon as the boy picked it up.


Daily Post June 26th 1944

Boy killed by bomb

The Liverpool Coroner Mr G. C. MORT, at an inquest on Saturday again warned children no to handle bombs or other strange objects they might find lying about

The inquest was upon Francis Arthur SHARPE aged 15, of 79 Sedgemoor Rd, Litherland, killed by the explosion of a bomb found on the fore shore.

Medical evidence was that the boys right arm had been blown off and there was a spinal injury which would have meant paralysis had he lived.


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