When WWII Spies Created Explosive Coal To Sabotage the Third Reich
In 1940, as Hitler’s armies consolidated their hold on Europe, Britain’s spymasters charged with keeping the resistance alive came up with a novel concept. The result was “explosive coal,” an explosive charge that appeared to be an innocuous piece of coal. The explosive charge would wreck the boilers of a factory or a ship, causing severe damage. A similar project undertaken during the Vietnam War seeded exploding ammo among Viet Cong guerillas.
In 1940 UK’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) began looking at ways to sabotage German forces in occupied Europe. Tasked by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze,” SOE smuggled weapons, explosives, and agents into occupied Europe to assist resistance forces fighting back against their German occupiers.
One piece of kit developed for saboteurs was “explosive coal.” Explosive coal, according to The Armorer’s Bench, was a large piece of coal with the center drilled out. The cavity was filled with plastic explosives and a detonator, and the coal would be snuck into the coal supply of a coal-fired ship, factory furnace, or other coal burning generator in German hands. The coal would go into the furnac