Live grenade found at RSA

CARYN WIGMORE
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2014

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An air force veteran who specialised in explosives may have saved fellow servicemen at the Kaipara Memorial RSA after alerting them that a grenade stored in a cupboard at the club was live.

The American explosive, probably from the Vietnam War, was tucked away in the lounge of the RSA in Helensville, a town north of Auckland.

"The vice-president of the club knew I had a background in explosives and asked me to have a look at it," Graham Matthews said.

"Because the transit clip was still there and based on its weight I was 80 per cent certain it was live, but I wasn't going to prove it."

The steel container that held it was fine and he noted no crystallisation, "but I didn't throw it around or play cricket with it".

Matthews replaced the pin to boost safety, isolated the grenade in a canvas money bag, and locked it in a steel filing cabinet.

He alerted police. who called the army bomb disposal unit from Auckland. They took the grenade to a concrete and sand plant at Mt Rex and detonated it.

Matthews served from 1965 to 1980 as an armourer, but specialised in explosives.

"When aircraft dropped missiles and they didn't go off, we were the guys who retrieved them," he said.

"We were also the silly sods that dug the bombs up at the weapons range and blew them up."

He believed a visitor brought the grenade in to the RSA this month and suggested the club might like to display it.

"It just goes to show the danger people put themselves in by doing that sort of thing."

The veteran has survived other near misses from well-meaning but misguided people.

"I had a World War I era shell or projectile dropped off in my living room right next to the fire. I very carefully took it out to my shed."

Calder said people have even brought grenades into the police station.

He warns finders to avoid touching grenades and to contact police immediately.

"Don't pick it up and don't bring it into the station because it could be live."

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