The great British garage has long become synonymous with clutter and the storage of anything other than cars and accessories. For many, the humble garage is viewed as a monument to motor vehicles, a shrine to scrap and protector of precious paraphernalia across the land. Or in Alan Tissington’s case, a veritable treasure trove of war memorabilia, weapons and ammunition.
Mr Tissington, a 48 year old military enthusiast from St Albans was arrested this week following an investigation into illegal metal detecting within the UK and Europe. A joint investigation involving local police and English Heritage specialists led them to a residential garage in Hertfordshire. Here they discovered a hoard of munitions and artefacts from the First and Second World Wars. After sealing off the property, police seized items such as hand and stick grenades, artillery shells, mortar bombs, bullets, gas masks and military uniforms. The sizeable collection also included a Vicker’s belt-fed machine gun which was originally produced for the British army. This solid, reliable weapon was utilised during both the First and Second World Wars and typically required a team of up to eight men to operate.
Police uncovered the collection following reports of a theft from a heritage site in Batford near Harpenden. The former prisoner of war camp, once the home of approximately 600 WW2 prisoners, is situated approximately six miles from Mr. Tissington’s residence. He is believed to have illegally removed items from this site, as well as travelling to battlefields across Europe in search of other valuable material to add to his growing collection. Mr Tissington is alleged to have committed an offence in removing items from the grounds of a protected historical site after using a metal detector. Metal detecting hobbyists are urged to research and adhere to any restrictions before visiting historical and archaeological sites.
A search of the property and garden culminated with an army bomb disposal unit removing items from the garage on Wednesday September 17th. Although some of the items were potentially dangerous, police confirmed that they did not pose any threat to members of the public. As a safety precaution, residents in nearby properties were asked to leave their homes and take shelter in a nearby community centre. Army experts were then able to carry out a controlled explosion in a field close to Mr Tissington’s home on Wednesday afternoon. Hertfordshire police confirmed that a number of detonations had taken place.
Photo Credit: Kerry Davies/INS