Leading Aircraftman William Deuchars was killed in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and the largest in the UK. Only three other larger blasts were recorded during World War Two, those at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the US New Mexico desert nuclear bomb test.
In 1937, 450 square feet of disused gypsum workings in Staffordshire, England were purchased by the Air Ministry for weapons and ordnance storage. On Monday 27 November 1944, at 11.11am, an explosion occurred at RAF Fauld, No. 21 Maintenance Unit Bomb Storage Dump. Up to 4,500 tonnes (3.6 million kg) exploded, including 3,500 tonnes of bombs packed with high explosives. It created a crater with a depth of 30m and 230m diameter. A nearby reservoir containing 450,000 cubic metres of water along with several buildings including a complete farm were obliterated in the incident. Flooding caused by the destruction of the reservoir added to the damage. In addition an open dump of incendiary bombs caught fire and it was allowed to burn itself out without further damage or casualties.
It is estimated that 70 to 78 people died because of the explosion. The rescue work took months and was hindered by pockets of gas, 6 million gallons of water and 10,000 tons of rubble. The entire mine completely disappeared, seismographs recorded the shock waves at Casablanca, Morocco.
A court of inquiry found that the likely cause of the explosion was due to a site worker removing a detonator from a live bomb using a brass chisel, rather than a wooden batten, resulting in sparks. This was in direct contravention of the regulations in force at the time.
Leading Aircraftman William Deuchars, RAFVR, 1341152 was 38 years old and the son of Mr John and Mrs Christina Deuchars, King Street, Crieff. William was a painter before he joined the RAF and a keen member of Crieff Bowling Club. He is buried in Crieff Cemetery.
Research by Ken Bruce