A father and his two children stumbled across the item of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on Warren Beach, Kent. However, the mortar turned out to be a chemical weapon, as opposed to a high explosive munition.

An explosive ordnance disposal team later identified the device as a Second World War phosphorus mortar.

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After the Battle of France in mid-1940, the German Wehrmacht began planning Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain. This operation would have involved large scale amphibious landings and parachute drops in Kent. This resulted in a large military build-up in these counties and fortification of coastal areas throughout 1940 and into 1941.

Within a few weeks Folkestone became a prohibited area and 35,000 residents left. The beaches were cordoned off and the army began preparing defences. Mortar systems would have been a common army weapon in Folkestone and throughout Kent during WW2.

Picture1 1 Chemical weapon goes up in smoke on a beach near Folkestone
The typical white cloud produced when white phosphorus is destroyed by explosive means.
Military Grade White Phosphorus

White phosphorus munitions use one of the common allotropes of the chemical element phosphorus. It is used in smoke, illumination and incendiary munitions. It is also commonly the burning element of tracer ammunition.

White phosphorus is pyrophoric (self-ignites on contact with air), burns fiercely, and can easily ignite other combustibles. It burns with a brilliant yellow flame, while producing copious amounts of white smoke.

The British Army introduced the first factory-built white phosphorus grenades in late 1916. White phosphorus mortars, artillery shells, rockets, and grenades were used extensively during both world wars.

British 3 inch mortars

The 3 inch mortar was first introduced in the early 1930s and was a replacement for the Stokes mortar of WW1. The ML 3-inch is a conventional Stokes-type mortar that is muzzle-loaded and drop-fired. It also reuses many of the Brandt mortar features. Although referred to as the 3 inch, it was in fact just over 3.2 inches in calibre.

This type of UXO is frequently found on beaches and at former army training areas around the UK.

Capture3 Chemical weapon goes up in smoke on a beach near Folkestone
A WW2 British 3 inch mortar.