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Pré-publication, Document de travail

How to finish with Armageddon? The history and consequences of industrial-scale, old-ammunition destruction in the interwar period on the western front

Abstract : During the First Word War (WWI), the power, accuracy, firing rates and ranges of artillery reached an unprecedented scale. When hostility ceased 1.7 million tonnes of Excess, Obsolete, Unserviceable Ammunition (EOUA) had been abandoned by all belligerents. Plus around 25% of the one billion fired artillery projectiles had failed to detonate, meaning that the amount of old ammunition (OA) grew when Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) emerged out farm fields when ploughing started again. The destruction of OA quickly became an urgent need during postwar reconstruction, but such a huge task had never been undertaken before. The French and Allied armies started disposal and destruction of OA using common open-detonation methods. Stacked OA was blown in place using an explosive charge. From 1920, civilian companies took over this work on an industrial scale. New methods (including defuzing, open-burning or washing-out) for safely breaking down a large variety of ammunition were developed to recover valuable scrap materials. This paper draws on recent and detailed archive research which indicates that approximately 2.5 to 3 million tonnes of OA were destroyed in France during the interwar period. These operations had serious health and environmental consequences. Numerous workers were wounded or killed during operations that also caused severe soil contamination. To this day, no vegetation grows on the location of some former ammunition destruction factories. Furthermore, there is some evidence indicating that regional scale perchlorate groundwater contamination in northeastern France may be linked to the destruction of OA after WWI. Nevertheless, industrial scale ammunition destruction facilities have disappeared from the collective memory, but the contamination from a hundred years ago still endangers people, threatens land-use planning, and the management of water resources. This original paper discusses the reasons why this history of demilitarization has been forgotten.
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Pré-publication, Document de travail
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https://hal-brgm.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02481076
Contributeur : Daniel Hubé <>
Soumis le : lundi 17 février 2020 - 11:31:14
Dernière modification le : vendredi 15 mai 2020 - 02:37:09
Archivage à long terme le : : lundi 18 mai 2020 - 14:31:00

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SMH PANEL 2020.pdf
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  • HAL Id : hal-02481076, version 1

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Daniel Hubé. How to finish with Armageddon? The history and consequences of industrial-scale, old-ammunition destruction in the interwar period on the western front. 2020. ⟨hal-02481076⟩

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