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Talc Bomb

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G W Smith. 23rd March 1835 – 27th Oct 1917. 82


Messrs Harrison Carter in Bull Pond Lane , a bomb from a Zeppelin damaged their premises in 1917. One casualty of this event was Mr Worthington Smith, the elderly Dunstable historian. His curiosity led him to walk from his cottage in High Street South to view the bomb crater. He caught a chill in the cold weather and this developed into an illness from which he died.

Harrison Charter were milling engineers and manufacturers of chain lubricator.


We have no information as to who picked this fragment up and where it was before it ended up in Bedford record offices. Nor how talc is written on the label.


Right let’s start again.


<I have a photograph of the sealed envelope, containing an unidentifiable hard material, which was discovered amongst the papers of F. G. Gurney (1878-1947) at the Bedfordshire County Archive & Records office.>


So nobody knows what it look likes or what it actually is?


Oct 1917.  A bomb from a Zeppelin is dropped on the premises of Messrs Harrison Carter in Bull Pond Lane, damaging their milling chain lubricator Works.


Allegedly a Mr Worthington Smith, the elderly Dunstable historian two days later picks this fragment up and when he dies the fragment falls into the hands of F. G. Gurney who puts in in an envelope and labels it thus


- - -




Fragment of talc from the bomb wh. fell s.w. & just outside Dunstable Fri. 19th. Oct. 1917.


[Mr. Worthington Smith remarked to his housekeeper, when the noise of the earlier & more distant bomb was heard: "I shan't bother; I shall go to bed". But indirectly this bomb caused his death, for in spite of a cold wind he insisted upon visiting the hole and sketching




and measuring it on the Monday following.


He caught a severe chill, of wh. he died on Sat. 27 Oct., a loss which I sorely feel.


Fredk. G. Gurney.


Now 98 years later someone wants to know what a talc bomb is, but very reluctant to impart information to help solve the problem it’s like asking a detective to solve a murder without telling him who the victim is.


Now let’s go back to 1917, now this was the first time any bombs were dropped anywhere in the world, so there would have been very little knowledge of what they were made of or what was left of them, when they had exploded.


So Mr Worthington Smith, the elderly Dunstable historian would have very scant knowledge of any explosives or engineering matters, potters along to the bomb site picks this discoloured fragment up examines it possible rubs it along the ground or a wall and sees it leaves a white talcum powder like substance takes it home shows it to his housekeeper and tells her it’s part of the Germany bomb.


Pops his clogs, the house keeper passes it to Mr Gurney who looks at it and it looks like solid talcum powder, so labels it up as Talc. But in doing so he misses of some letters as he seems to have done twice with the word which.


So what should the word have been, there are several such as Talcking, Talcous or Talcy all mean the same. composed of or resembling Talc.


Nowadays even the layman can instantly look up the word talc.


Where you will notice


Soapstone is a metamorphic rock composed predominantly of talc.


And what is soapstone used for to make


Engineers French Chalk (also known as Welder's Chalk and Soapstone) is mainly used for marking Metal & Steel.


So I suggest that’s actually what’s in the envelope.


And if that’s not right I will say what mr Smith said


"I shan't bother; I shall go to bed"


Strange old world, a week ago I posted on here a theory of what could be in the envelope labeled Talc bomb in which I thought it could be this.


Not every a reply that it could not be that, as we tested the envelope with a magnet and found that it is metal.


But then again if the said Item was in my possession, I would have analysed it years ago.


Makes me wonder if it is worth bothering to try and help answering questions.



"I'm new to the forum and I was wondering if any of you could help with a query I have. I stumbled across this thread while doing some research on an envelope I found in a used book that I got in Paris. The envelope has some handwriting on it "Pieces of lining of zepp torpedo shot at Dunstable on Oct. 19, 1917 about 9:30." Inside the envelope are what I believe to be pieces of this torpedo lining. Inside the book is a label with a name and a number "G. Leonard Phelps, no. 538".


I believe that the torpedo referenced by this envelope is this same torpedo that you all have been discussing. I'm trying to find out who this G. Leonard Phelps was and I'm trying to find out some more about this torpedo. I was wondering if any of you could help me out with information about this torpedo or even recommend sources I could use to try and track down who this man was. I've already looked at websites like Ancestry or FindMyPast, to no avail. I also can't for the life of me find out what "538" means.


A most interesting find.

The number 5381 could be a membership no or similar.

What do we know about G. Leonard Phelps.

Would say that he would have been well educated and interested in Shakespeare.

What nationality was he? not sure if he was English as the way the name is laid out, normally you would have first name, than initial for middle name, then surname.


Then the writing on the envelope if it was him that wrote it. Maybe points to an American.

Pieces of lining of zepp torpedo shot at Dunstable on Oct. 19, 1917 about 9:30.


I'm thinking an Englishman would have written Zeppelin and used the word dropped instead of shot.


It also suggests that it was someone in the know, about armaments as the word torpedo is used instead of bomb.


In October 1914, Dr. Wilhelm von Siemens proposed what became was to become known as the Siemens torpedo glider, a wire-guided flying missile which would have comprised a naval torpedo with an attached airframe.

Flight testing was performed under the supervision of Dipl. Ing. Dorner from January 1915 onwards, using airships as carriers


Will mull this over for awhile to see what I can come up with."