THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Mortar shell unearthed in Wellesley

WWII ordnance found by children posed no threat

By Sarah Thomas
Globe Correspondent / April 15, 2011

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An innocent day digging in a Wellesley backyard sparked a visit by the State Police bomb squad, as authorities investigated a piece of World War II ordnance uncovered by neighborhood children.

The device, which was determined to be a mortar shell, was not live and posed no danger to residents of Framar Road, where it was discovered.

“We were pretty surprised,’’ said Diane Warren, who lives on Framar Road with her husband, Daniel. “I was inside doing laundry when Daniel told me police were outside, and then I went out to find out they were investigating my own yard.’’

The incident began at around 6 p.m. when residents of Framar Road contacted Wellesley police saying local children had uncovered a suspicious device in the Warrens’ yard.

“We’ve lived in the house for 37 years, and our children never found anything like that when they were small,’’ Warren said. “I can only think that the heavy rains last year might have washed off enough topsoil to uncover it.’’

Lieutenant Marie Cleary of the Wellesley police said that the incident was reported by the parents of the children playing.

“The kids found the shell, and one of them brought it home,’’ said Cleary. “The family called the police, who responded, and once the nature of the threat was realized the State Police bomb squad was called to assist.’’

“It has been a crazy night,’’ said Susan Morris, who also lives on Framar Road. It was her son, Parker Wiegman, 9, who found the shell, while playing with his friend Will Dougherty, 8.

“My husband is a big military buff and watches military shows on television, so he was really interested when the boys told them what they found,’’ Morris said. “And of course, when the police showed up, the boys were so excited to tell them all about it. They thought it was great.

“They’re out there every day playing, and I bet this will just increase their enthusiasm for exploring the yard. They thought the whole thing was an adventure.’’

Police closed the road briefly while bomb squad officials analyzed the device.

“At first I was chatting with the officers, but then all of a sudden they told us to get back, and put up yellow police tape, which I took a picture of,’’ Warren said. “They asked us to evacuate the house briefly, and Daniel and I went to dinner.’’

Eventually, bomb squad investigators were able to determine the device was harmless.

“They scanned the item and found that there were no explosives inside it,’’ said Wellesley police Sergeant Steve Whittemore. “We have no idea how long ago it went off or even how long it’s been in the ground.’’

The road was reopened at around 7:30 p.m. Initially, local police were not sure if the device was an original or replica, but Cleary said the bomb squad believed it was a genuine World War II mortar shell.

“Sometimes we do hear about incidents like this — veterans will bring home spent shells or other pieces of ordnance as souvenirs,’’ Cleary said. “But whenever we hear of one being found we take every precaution.’’

Whittemore said that State Police bomb squad officials took the shell.

It is unknown if it will be returned to the family.

Warren said that she does not know how the shell ended up in her yard — but she has a hunch.

“The gentleman who lived in the house before the people who sold it to us was a soldier in World War II,’’ Warren said. “His name was Major Harry Barton. We still get mail for him sometimes, and I’ve always been curious about him.’’

She said neither she nor her husband had ever found anything like the shell.

“The closest thing we ever found was a silver dollar buried in the yard,’’ Warren said. “But this is a first.’’

Sarah Thomas can be reached at sarah.m.thomas@gmail.com.