The other day, Gijsbert, our Dutch friend who has been transforming our attic space at the Tall House, made a small-sized-but-big discovery. He felt something hard on the floor:
So he dug it up:
Here’s what it looks like from another angle:
You can tell it’s man-made because of the ridges:
Gijsbert suspected it was a piece of shrapnel from WWII!
When we thought about it, that explanation made sense, because we know there were tanks on our street during the war, and we know the roof of our house had some repairs in the area right above where the shrapnel was found.
Also, when we look at the attic floor near the shrapnel, there are another 8 or so strange holes — and these holes aren’t found anywhere else in the attic, or on any other floors of the house.
I put pictures of the little piece of possible shrapnel on my Instagram stories, and a whole lot of readers confirmed it was indeed shrapnel. Some of the readers grew up in war-torn areas (like Sarajevo in the nineties) and recognized it. Others were historians and also recognized it. A couple of people pointed at that technically it would be called a shell fragment. And there’s a difference between shell fragments and shrapnel.
“Here’s the short answer: “shell fragments” is the technically correct term for metal pieces of exploding shells, bombs, and mines intended to inflict casualties, whereas “shrapnel” is an obsolete, specific type of antipersonnel artillery projectile. Unfortunately, following frequent misuse—beginning around the end of World War II—“shrapnel” has entered general usage to incorrectly mean any fragments scattered by an explosive shell, bomb, or mine.”
(You can see a photo of the two side-by-side here).
What a interesting (and sobering) discovery! There is so much history in this house it blows me away. It was built in the 1600s — 100 years before the U.S. even existed as a country! — and it’s seen so many changes. It makes me very curious: were other houses on the street also damaged in the war? Was there anyone staying in the attic at the time? Were the shells American? (I know most of the damage in our town was caused by Americans, so that is very likely.)
What would you do with the little piece of history? I’m thinking of maybe putting it in a small shadow box and hanging it in the attic bedroom.