Royal Navy bomb disposal experts were called to a house in Paignton, Devon, after a tip-off that 68-year-old Thelma Bonnett was rather ill-advisedly using a live First World War German shell as a doorstop, the Daily Mail reports.
The seven-inch-long "squat shell", which Bonnett's grandad Arthur acquired during his Navy days, was "packed with its original payload and with its firing mechanism primed". Bonnet explained: "Grandfather picked it up on his travels with the Merchant Navy in 1918. My father used to polish it all the time and kept it on the mantelpiece.
"It looked German because of the writing on the top. When I was young, five of us children would play with it. I don't think he would have brought it back if he'd known it was live."
The explosive "family heirloom" was clocked by neighbour John Malinovskis, who said: "I put two and two together and thought, 'That really shouldn't be there'. I asked Thelma if she knew about it and she said, 'Oh yes, it's from the war'. She said her father had polished it and kept it on the sideboard."
Bomb disposal operatives moved in, evacuated several neighbouring houses before removing the ordnance to a local quarry where it was blown up. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The shell was packed full of explosives and it could have gone off at any time. It was brought back from France in 1914 and had been used in battle when it had been fired but failed to go off.
"There is a time delay on these type of shells. A brass ring could be turned on top which gave them enough time to fire it to go off in the air or on the ground." ®