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from Manchester Metro 8 November 2002

My war grenade souvenir was live
by Andrew Nott

AN ELEVEN-year-old girl who visited the Great War killing fields of Ypres was handed a lethal live shell to bring home as a souvenir.

The danger was spotted by a guide who realised the shell was potentially deadly and Poppy Higham was given a safe souvenir instead.
But now, with her daughter safely back at home in Alderley Edge, her mother called for an inquiry into how it could happen.

Sarah Higham said: Poppy was told if she had dropped the shell it could have exploded and blown her up. It is astonishing.
Now is a period of wartime remembrance when a large number of people, including schoolchildren, may be travelling to France to visit the cemeteries.

They need to know that there is a risk that some people are selling live ammunition. The suggestion seemed so outrageous when Poppy told me that at first I assumed she had got things confused, but clearly it happened.

"We need to establish how it came about and warn other people of the danger.

Poppy from Woodbrook lane, was one of a 29-strong group from Therra Nova School, Jodrell Bank, who went on the pilgrimage as part of their French studies.

They examined thousands of war graves in an effort to find the last resting places of more than two dozen people connected with the school. Memorabilia, including shell cases and other items dug up from the trenches is sold to tourists visiting the museum shops.

Poppy picked out the shell she wanted because it was particularly shiny and paid 10 euros.

But the horrified childrens guide realised it still had the detonator intact. The guide took the shell from her and handed it in to be safely detonated.

A school spokeswoman said: "Poppy wasnt upset about the event. In fact she was particularly pleased that in the circumstances she was able to do a very good deal on another shell casing which she has brought home.

"Poppy's experience proved one of the more unusual aspects to the visit but the French guide dealt with the shell efficiently and it thd not defract from the students trip."

Aftermath - when the boys came home

Thursday 10 February 2005

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