Andrew Worley, 11, was playing in Wied Qirda on Sunday when he innocently picked up what the army has described as the most dangerous World War II bomb you can find on the island.
The boy was rummaging among the stones of a collapsed rubble wall with a friend, just off a country road leading to the valley bed, in the limits of Qormi, when he stumbled upon what looked like a harmless can.
Clueless as to what it was, the boy picked up the device – later identified as a butterfly bomb – and ran to his father, Steve, who was picnicing with friends, just a stone’s throw away.
Mr Worley, a military enthusiast and collector, said he immediately recognised the bomb, especially after reading its German inscription. Notwithstanding, he said he was fascinated with the discovery and, together with his friend, Henry Falzon, put it on a rock to examine it closely.
“I photographed the bomb using my mobile phone so I could look it up on the internet later and then gently put it beneath a car dumped nearby,” Mr Falzon said.
The bomb was still lying under the mangled and rusted remains of the car until yesterday, when The Times informed the Armed Forces of Malta about the discovery.
An explosives’ technician from the AFM’s bomb disposal unit, who quickly arrived on the scene with the district police, said the boy was extremely lucky.
“It is the most dangerous bomb you can find on the island. You should not touch it or go anywhere near it because even if you move a stone and it hits it, the bomb may explode. It is so deadly we do not even handle it ourselves but detonate it on site,” he explained.
The technicians attached a small charge to the bomb and exploded it as several curious hunters peeped out of the vegetation nearby.
After ensuring the bomb was completely detonated, the technicians walked to the rubble wall where it was originally found for a fruitless search for other parts or bombs.
“The valley was prone to heavy bombing during the war because it is very close to the airport,” said Mr Falzon.
“While the planes were engaged in dogfights, the runway was heavily bombed, leaving them with no place to land. Therefore, the ground crew would have to quickly repair it and it was then that butterfly bombs were dropped,” he continued.
The bomb, one of the first cluster bombs to be used, earned its name because of the way it resembled a butterfly when its outer shell opened when released from a plane. This caused the bomb to spin, loosening a bolt and releasing a firing pin that armed the explosive.
One such butterfly bomb claimed the life of Paul Gauci, 41, who had found one and decided to weld a pipe as a handle onto the cylindrical tin so he could use it as a mallet on October 1, 1981 in his farmhouse in Rabat.
Meanwhile, the army urged the public not to tamper with any objects resembling bombs and said the army or the police should be immediately informed about any such discoveries.
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