The “Iron Harvest” – The Cost Of War

Many people believe that the worst thing that can happen in war is the dropping of a nuclear bomb.  Look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The death toll from those two events were absolutely horrendous.  From Wikipedia:

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,00080,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day.

Casualties of the first day of the Battle Of The Somme numbered much less:

The first day of the Somme offensive, July 1, 1916, resulted in 57,470 British casualties, greater than the total combined British casualties in the Crimean, Boer, and Korean wars. In contrast, the French, with fewer divisions, suffered only around 2,000 casualties.


Total casualties from the Battle of The Somme (01 July to 18 November 1916) were 1,088,907 (both sides).  Let’s not play with that number and try and extrapolate future population that doesn’t exist due to these deaths.

But, what is the cost of clearing up on The Somme, known by bomb disposal experts as “The Iron Harvest”?

Nagasaki and Hiroshima recovered relatively quickly.  According to this Reddit post, by August of 1947 people were still living in temporary accommodation but stores and homes were being rebuilt, mostly by private individuals.  This was mostly due to the lack of budget and no federal government assistance.

Lochnagar Crater, The Somme


In comparison, a recent report published in the Daily Telegraph suggests that The Iron Harvest will take five hundred years to properly clean and make safe. Five HUNDRED years.

This is simply due to the lack of funds and manpower available, reports from farmers so far in 2016 alone mean that the bomb disposal team has been called out 300 times and recovered 25 tons of munitions.

“We have accidents quite frequently. The rotor blades from tractors can set them off, though the farmers are generally protected as they are inside the vehicle and above ground.

“There are accidents with collectors who want to empty munitions either for their collections or to sell them.

“Also, when trenches are built on construction sites, these can set off devastating explosions. All the towns around here have been built on ground teeming with bombs.”

So, here’s my suggestion:

Every country that had a part in the war should donate money and/or manpower to the cleanup effort.

As the UK will be so rich from not having to send £350 million to the EU every week*, perhaps we should take a couple of weeks of that money every year and throw it in the pot to assist with the cleanup in France.

If Germany, Australia, India, Canada, and the others did the same then that 500 year estimate would be significantly reduced.

The likelihood of this happening?  Minimal, unfortunately, I suspect.

*Yes, I know the £350m number was crap, but you get the idea.  Even if we only take the £190m or whatever the reckoned number is, that’s a hell of an investment in making France safer for the residents.  It, of course, does nothing for the people that lost loved ones, family, friends etc in the war, but surely we should be doing something other than relying on volunteers?