I think enough time has now elapsed to tell the story of ‘The Grimspound Mystery’. Back in 2008 I recieved the following email:
‘Hi on Saturday 13th me and my father went up to the old Grimspound settlement on Dartmoor to do some Metal Detecting after about 10 minutes I decided to check around the outside of where the outer wall once stood I wasn’t searching long before I detected something deep in the ground right up against one of the large bricks that was once part of the ancient wall so I started to dig up what ever it was and to both mine and my fathers amazement it was a small hand gun.
I understand that on 21st march 1941 a Hampden crashed very near to Grimspound somewhere on Hameldown Tor. I know we will never know the exact story of how this gun became hidden right beside this rock but with a plane crash site in the area it makes me wonder if shortly after the crash in 1941 this was taken from the crash scene and hidden by someone meaning to go back for it but never did.
Today we were told that it does look like one of the small hand guns that pilots used to carry but due to the extent of rust and the wooden part of the handle rotted and missing its very hard to tell the shape and model anyway I thought this might be of interest to you and you are very welcome to add this to your website‘.
I have not included the senders name as it is against the law to go metal detecting on scheduled sites (Grimspound is now managed by English Heritage) without an official licence. The poor lad was in a proper dilemma, if he took it to the police or to the Portable Antiquities Supervisor he could well get charged with night-hawking on a scheduled site and if he said nothing then the story would never be told.
However, where the pistol came from is a complete mystery as is the identity of the person who buried it there in the first place.. The actual findspot was beside the Grim’s Lake on the outer wall of the pound at roughly OS grid reference SX 700 809. As you can see from the photographs below the pistol is in a very corroded state:
The pistol prior to ‘cleaning’
The pistol after ‘cleaning
Is it a British Enfield Revolver?
Unfortunately I have no idea what model of pistol this is but after scanning Google for WWII RAF pistols the nearest match I found was that of a British Enfield Revolver. If you click on the third thumbnail you will see an image of ‘The Grimspound Pistol‘ with that of the Enfield Revolver superimposed on top. Allowing for the accumulation of rust I would hazard a guess that it’s a fairly good match but I am no expert. However, I do know there are a few possibilities as to how it got buried at Grimspound. As noted above, just maybe it was salvaged from the nearby Hampden crash and hidden to be reclaimed at a later date? It could well be that the pistol had been disposed of in this manner as opposed to be handed in at one of the police firearms amnesties? Even more sinister, was this a firearm used in a serious crime? and being evidence it was buried, although there are a lot more easier places to lose such an article on Dartmoor. You never know, could it be that the ancient prehistoric dwellers of Grimspound were more advanced than we think?
Whatever the reason for the pistol being buried at Grimspound it certainly is another mystery to be added to the others surrounding this ancient site. If by any chance anyone knows what make of pistol this is, or even better how and why it got there I would love to know.