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Tracked Road Grader at full power versus Aerial Mine

36 cwt high explosive World War relic lay in the line of the autobahn bed

Wolpertshausen (iol)  Construction workers yesterday discovered the biggest ever post-war bomb in the district when with a grader they uncovered a 36 cwt British bomb whose casing contained no less than 27 cwt of pure explosive.

There must have been several guardian angels watching over grader driver Emil Landwehr yesterday morning at around 10 o’clock. At the site of the construction firm Tender, between Hergershof and Hohenberg he was supposed to be clearing mud from the autobahn bed.  Suddenly, unexpected difficulties arose.  “I headed for the thing at full speed!” reported Landwehr. 

“I caught up on something, went into reverse, and drove again and then again at it!  There’s nothing there I told myself, it’s just mud!”

After the third attempt, the grader driver gave up.  It was luck that he had gone at it from the wrong side.  A colleague, Erwin Rauschenberger, then freed the bomb.  The monster bore little resemblance to a bomb; it looked more like an old water geyser.

 At the Bomb Disposal Squad in Stuttgart, armourer Paul Kolesnikow had no idea when the police called for help, what he would be confronted with.  Otherwise engaged in the squad workshop, he was standing in for a sick colleague and he now had to defuse a bomb and this one was in a farm area at Ruppertshofen and had to take away a live shell.

What Paul Kolesnikow found on the bed of the autobahn was the “fattest egg” found in North Wuerttemberg for almost ten years.  During this period only one other bomb of this size had been found.  Blowing it in situ, what they thought of doing based on what had been reported, was now of course out of the question.  The 27 cwt of explosive would have blown a large hole which would not have been so easily filled in.

Shortly after 3 o’clock the bed was evacuated. Workers and vehicles withdrew about 500 metres to a new bridge.  Armourer  Kolesnikow ordered this. He also sent Blitz (“I call him Moritz”) his beautiful setter back – he wanted to be undisturbed and the dog safe!

All were at the bridge.  A quarter past three:  a single faint horn blast reached them.  This was Kolesnikow’s signal that he was beginning. His tools, pliers and screwdrivers lay ready.

At the bridge the conversation was frantic.  Nobody could believe what was about to happen. Many of them crowded behind the bridge.  It seemed to be going on a while.  They were all waiting for the signal: “when I sound the horn twice, that’s the all clear”, the armourer had told them.  They heard nothing, but saw him waving; they had missed the signal.

Click image to enlarge

It’s all over.  The “rubberneckers” are risking a glimpse of the inner works of such a monster. On top of the aerial mine: Erwin Rauschenberger.


“Rusted off!” was how he greeted the returning rubberneckers, and showed off the condition of the three fuses.  They shone as if brand new.  The armourer was remarkably composed; he willingly showed them how he had got the better of the British bomb, official designation “HC 4000”.  For Erwin Rauschenberger it was then something of an honour to allow himself be lifted out on the almost 70 cm thick bomb by the digger.

It’s unusual for a bomb of this size to be excavated from open ground. There are two explanations.  The first is that at the beginning of the war, for a while at Ilshofen, there had been a “dummy airfield” to lure the Allies away from Hessenthal.  The second and perhaps more likely, is emergency jettisoning.  One thing is certain; it was a four engined aircraft that had this “cargo” on board.

As a postscript, the motorway embankment was only being worked on with the grader because it was damp.  And it was only because of this that the bomb was discovered.  Otherwise, from 1980, the autobahn traffic would have been driving over it.


Follow up article - 28th April 1977



 An HT reader recalls the crash of a British bomber.

 SCHWAEBISCH HALL, (iol). The 36 cwt British bomb, uncovered in adventurous circumstances on the autobahn bed between Hergershof and Hohenberg is very likely to have come from a four engined Lancaster which crashed above Geislinger.

So a reader of our paper has suggested, after reading yesterday’s report “Caterpillar Grader at full power versus a Bomb”, which made him think of an incident in August 1942 or 1943, and as a result proffers a third version of the origin of this relic of the war.

 He reported further, that the British bomber, crewed by Canadians, had been attacked by a German night fighter from Giebelstadt and exploded in mid air at a height of about 4000 metres.  He obtained this information at the time from officers at the Hessental aerodrome.  The wreckage of the aircraft was scattered over an area of about a kilometre, he added.  The reason he knows this so exactly is illuminating; at the time, he was detailed to protect the crash site.

 After a precise description of the location where the bomb was found, he was convinced of this fact: “that was where the main part of the wreckage lay!” The Lancaster engines were laying in a line on the height.  In the crash, he believed six Canadian aircrew had lost their lives.