‘DANGER! Unexploded Bomb’ – RAF Hillman Minx

The Shuttleworth Trust doesn’t just restore, preserve and display aircraft, its collections include motor vehicles, farm machinery and many other items. I really enjoy delving into the far corners of the display hangars. Here we can see a reminder of a vital and dangerous job, undertaken during the dark days of the Blitz and the rest of WW2. This 1938 Hillman Minx, a product of the Rootes Group of companies, was one of the many vehicles of all types which were impressed at the start of WW2. Powered by a 1,148cc four-cylinder side-valve engine, the Minx was a popular family car with a top speed of 60 mph, and the Services swept the dealers’ showrooms clean and, after an appropriate  coat of paint, were used by the Army, Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

The Minx shown here is in the colours of No. 15 Bomb Disposal Flight, headquartered at RAF Church Fenton, North Yorkshire. The Army had responsibility for UXO (UneXploded Ordnance) on Army property and civilian property, the Royal Navy was responsible for their establishments and all underwater devices, and the Royal Air Force was responsible for enemy UXO on their bases, bombs in and around aircraft, as well as all Allied bombs. There was obviously a great deal of inter-Service co-operation, with details on the latest Axis weapons, techniques for their successful disarming and notes about any ‘anti-handling devices’ – such as the Luftwaffe’s ZUS40 Anti-Removal Bomb Fuse – being swapped as soon as possible. The Luftwaffe’s bombs were exploded by means of the Rheinmetall Electric Fuse, which could be set for instantaneous action (as with the Allies mechanical fuses) or delays up to 7 days.

The Army sent personnel to its Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal School at Ripon, but the RAF’s Bomb Disposal Courses took place at the School of Technical Training at RAF Melksham in Wiltshire. During the early part of WW2, the Royal Air Force organized 29 Bomb Disposal Flights, each commanded by a Flying Officer, 15 specialist NCO Armourers, plus airmen (for digging and general duties) and drivers. This excellently restored Minx carries a civilian number plate ‘FUM 310’, as well as an RAF serial number ‘RAF 184832’, and is fitted with the typically heavily masked headlights of the war period. The Shuttleworth Trust bought the Minx from its restorer in 2006.

Oddly, the Rootes Group, headed by William Edward Rootes (1st Baron Rootes, GBE) made an even more direct contribution to the RAF’s war effort than a few hundred Hillman Minx cars. They produced large quantities of Hillman Utility vehicles, and thousands of Bristol Blenheim Mk I/II/IV and V and Handley Page Halifax B. Mk II/III/V, and A. Mk III aircraft. So it could be said that Rootes were involved with both the Axis and Allied bombing campaigns.





9 comments on “‘DANGER! Unexploded Bomb’ – RAF Hillman Minx”

  1. Ross – Another interesting post! This was reminiscent of the “Danger UXB” BBC/PBS series in the 1980s. While serving at Eglin AFB I was the proud owner of a later vintage Hillman Minx (1957), with RHD. ‘Twas quite a challenge, on US roads!


  2. Thanks, Ross: Another interesting post. This was reminiscent of “Danger UXB,” the BBC/PBS series inn the early 1980s. While serving in the Air Force in Florida I owned a later vintage Hillman Minx (1957) with right-hand steering. ‘Twas a bit of a challenge on American roads!


    • Glad you liked it. One of my uncles, in Derbyshire, had a string of Hillman Minx, staying with them until the marque went under! I was surprised at the thousands of aircraft produced by the Rootes Group during WW2, also (mostly Blenheim and Halifax). I drove a left-hand drive car on U.K. roads once, and that was a challenge!


  3. Nice viewpoint about the Rootes “serving on both sides” regarding bombing in WW II 😉


    • Thanks, Joe. This is almost a ‘follow up’ on the post about the Merlin engine at MOSI in Manchester. The ‘shadow factory’ scheme was a HUGE success; indeed, it might well have aided in the final Allied victory. ‘Shadow’ factories built Merlin engines, Spitfires, Blenheims, Halifax, Lancasters, Battles as well as tanks and armoured cars. An amazing record!


  4. I bought FUM 310 in about 1988 in quite poor condition.I restored the vehicle to the point where the wings needed putting on and a few other odd jobs to put it back on the road.Loss of interest saw the minx sold to Dennis Rothwell at Woolston who actually put the car back on the road and then to Terry Feltham Peter Clarke Graham Church.The headlining was missing and I used a whole pack of 1000 tacks to replace the grey lining.The front lever arm shock absorbers I replaced with telescopic units (the original lever arms are still under my garage bench) and the slinging flanges on the wheels are aluminium castings screwed on to look the part.My wife made the canvas radiator muff on her sewing machine.The car was painted in the colour it is now with the engine painted in the postwar military green high visibility colour.
    Regards Jon Wright Leicester


    • Thank you very much for this – and thank you, and your wife, for all your hard work in making it possible for FUM 310 to achieve road-worthy status, again. As a matter of interest, I was once on the staff of the old Leicestershire Museum of Technology, when it was based at the Abbey Road Pumping Station!


  5. The museum at Abbey Pumping Station is still going strong and I have attended their Urban Rally for the past 25 odd years both with my other Hillman and later with Willys Jeep or BSA M20.
    Regards Jon Leicester


    • As you drive through the gates, you will see a low brick building on the right…..I used to work in there! I’m very glad to hear that things are still going strong; thank you for the update.


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