Residents were evacuated from their home as the police, fire brigade and the Army bomb squad were called after an eBay seller advertised a live incendiary bomb from WWII on the site.
Metal detectorist Mark Williams listed the deadly weapon despite being warned online by an expert that he was, literally, playing with fire. The bomb was designed to wreak havoc by torching houses and buildings.
Police raided the house, arrested Williams and set up a 50 metre cordon while army experts took the 1kg munition away to be destroyed in a controlled explosion.
Militaria collector Ralf Sherwin raised the alarm after he saw the weapon on eBay and was horrified to see the tell-tale signs that the bomb was still active.
He first saw the explosive listing on Monday night under the heading ‘WWII German incendiary bomb – genuine, authentic Southampton Blitz.’
Beneath, it added: ‘Condition: Used’.
Security consultant Mr Sherwin, 46, immediately messaged Williams, known on eBay as ‘Stick4186’, telling him: ‘Mate, do you realise that’s not de-activated — it’s live!’.
‘He messaged me back and asked me how I knew,’ Mr Sherwin said.
‘He said he was a metal detectorist and had dug it up in a kids’ playground in Southampton.
‘I went into great detail about that fact that you could see the iron oxide seeping out of the air holes and the join.
‘In the nose there’s a detonator, and once that dries out, it will go off, and I told him he wouldn’t be able to put it out.
‘After that, I expected him to take it down and call the police, but the idiot completely ignored me and carried on selling it. What was he going to do if someone bought it – cover it in bubble wrap and post if off in a Jiffy bag?’
Half an hour after his message received no reply Mr Sherwin contacted police.
‘I went online and reported him to Hampshire Police. I later found out that they contacted eBay, found his address and pounced. I’d never have forgiven myself if I’d done nothing and then read about a family being wiped out in a house fire.’
Millions of 1kg German incendiary bombs were dropped on Britain during the blitz.
The cylindrical bodies were made of magnesium alloy and filled with an incendiary compound called thermite. On impact, a needle in the igniter was driven into a small percussion cap, which ignited the thermite and then the casing itself, producing heat sufficient to melt steel.