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Historic Military Items Discovered By Newhaven

As well as quarrying sand and gravel Brett Aggregates also accepts material that has been sea-dredged into its wharves for processing. Often, items of historical interest are brought ashore in the cargo, such as parts of sunken ships and military ordnance.

As part of its wharf operations Brett employees are trained to look out for and correctly handle such items. Recently, at Newhaven, dredging operations uncovered a cache of historical military items – including WW2-era aircraft components and ordnance. These were discovered by Brett Aggregates Operatives Conrad Stuckey and Paul Russell. The three aircraft parts and 43 munitions were retrieved in two batches and were both from the same dredge zone, this signalled to the Newhaven team that they may have come across an aircraft crash site. The team also highlighted that there was still paint remaining on one of the aircraft parts, possibly in a camouflage pattern.

“I regularly check the magnet on the main conveyor for metal as we have to routinely clean this off, and I am also very interested in any unusual items that we may discover,” said Conrad. “On this occasion I found a lot of parts that appeared to be not the usual scrap metal or munitions we often find. I believed the parts were possibly from an aircraft as I know about engines and thought they were too big to be from a car or lorry. I was very interested when we found out they could be from a B52 Flying Fortress.”

An external specialist, Steve Vizard, reported that the larger of the aircraft pieces could be a valve from a radial engine, and the accompanying ammunition .50 calibre in size – both characteristics of most WW2-era American aircraft. Further research suggested that the discovered engine valve may have come from a Wright Cyclone, a large radial engine predominantly fitted to the American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. 

These were not the only significant findings to have come from Newhaven’s dredging operations. Earlier this year a large stone cannonball was found by the Newhaven team on the feed hopper grill, having a circumference of 550mm, and weighing almost 20kg. 

Newhaven's Conrad Stuckey with the discovered Cannonball

Charles Trollope, an expert in historical ordnance, suggested that the cannonball is a Perrier stone shot, dating from the 16th to early 17th century, and most likely being Spanish in origin. Mr Trollope said that the cannonball could conceivably be from one of the ships belonging to the Spanish Armada.

Additionally, two cannonballs and a munitions base were discovered by the Brett Aggregates team at Cliffe Wharf. The area these finds were dredged is currently unknown. However, some historical context was provided by Mr Trollope, who reported that the smaller of the two cannonballs is most likely an English six pounder, with the larger one possibly being a French 16 pounder. 

These findings, along with others from the Marine Aggregate Industry, were originally reported by Issue 30 of Dredged Up, an archaeology finds newsletter.