WWI Hand Grenade Mistaken For Potato Found In Chinese Chips Factory

Published February 4, 2019

The century-old grenade was still functional and Hong Kong police had to quickly detonate the device in an abandoned alley.

Grenade Mid Explosion

Hong Kong Police ForceThe grenade, mid-explosion, in a Hong Kong alley.

The automated machinery in a potato chip factory in Hong Kong was unable to process one particular spud on Saturday and overseers quickly realized why: somehow, a German-made World War I hand grenade had found its way into the company’s supply shipments.

The century-old device had a rusty, mud-covered exterior, with its innards still very much capable of causing a dangerous blast. Built for Germany’s combat efforts in the Great War, the grenade was reportedly harvested alongside potatoes in France and shipped to Hong Kong’s Calbee Four Seas Company with the rest of the vegetables.

The Hong Kong Police Force quickly deemed the device in an unstable condition and resorted to a “high-pressure water firing technique” to safely explode the century-old grenade in a sewer grate in an empty alley, The New York Times reported.

“Since the grenade had not blown up at the time it was thrown, there was an immediate danger that needed to be handled right away,” said Superintendent Wong Ho-hon.

The 2.2-pound explosive war device, while nearly five-times as heavy as a potato, was certainly close enough in size to a spud as to be accidentally included in the harvest.

Cities in countries across the continent unearth undetonated bombs and explosive devices from the Great War to this day. “Many hand grenades are left behind during bombardments when an entire trench is buried,” explained Kwong Chi-Man, a military historian and assistant professor of history at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Ww2 Mine Found In Koblenz

Wikimedia CommonsA British 1.8-ton WWII mine found in Koblenz, Germany, 2011.

Only last year, the Hong Kong Police Force itself defused three 1,000-pound American-made bombs from WWII. Thousands had to be evacuated that night as the device was discovered at a construction site in Wan Chai, a busy residential area.

“It doesn’t matter how old these things are, they can still be a threat,” said Franco David Macri, a senior research fellow in the history department at Hong Kong University.

As for this particular chip factory and its surprising interruption of production on Saturday, the police were able to safely detonate the discovered device and prevent any injury or harm. How the Calbee Four Seas Company managed to miss such a glaringly dangerous faux-potato in its midst is unclear, though the odds of routinely finding explosives amidst potato shipments are admittedly highly unlikely.

“I don’t know what mechanical means the plant uses to scoop up the potatoes, but I imagine they don’t routinely run magnet detectors through potatoes,” said Macri.

Fortunately, the century-old hand grenade was safely put to rest, and fulfilled its purpose without any human casualties.

After reading about this German WWI grenade discovery, read about a Russian genius who pulled the pin on a live grenade and blew himself to smithereens. Then, read about a father who chopped his son’s hand off for watching porn.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Leah Silverman
A former associate editor for All That's Interesting, Leah Silverman holds a Master's in Fine Arts from Columbia University's Creative Writing Program and her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "WWI Hand Grenade Mistaken For Potato Found In Chinese Chips Factory." AllThatsInteresting.com, February 4, 2019, https://allthatsinteresting.com/grenade-hong-kong. Accessed May 23, 2024.