Armscor centre offers unique insights into defective munitions


Sited in Pretoria’s secluded Salvokop and close to the headquarters of the SA Army, is a collection of ammunition and associated equipment with a difference – it’s all defective to a greater or lesser extent.

Armscor’s Munitions Defect Centre (MDC), now located next to the Transvaal Staatsartillerie “Groen Magasyn”, is the brainchild of now retired Armscor man Harry Bouch. A lifelong association with arms and ammunition saw him beg, borrow and steal sufficient space, time and some funding from Armscor management to set up what was then called the Defective Munitions Museum (DMM) in a disused shed on the Pretoria Metal Pressings (PMP) property in Pretoria West in October 1992. It was officially opened by the then chairman of Armscor, Tielman de Waal, with Bouch officially named museum curator in January 1993.

The museum came into being primarily as a result of a need identified by the then SA Explosive Board to show the outcomes of malfunctioning ammunition.
Defective Munitions CentreMDC today provides what is termed a focussed display of military munitions and weapons that malfunctioned during either operations or testing. Apart from physically seeing what happens when things go wrong – impressive, whether it’s an artillery piece barrel that has either mushroomed or burst or, at the other end of the scale, a small calibre pistol barrel with no less than four rounds impacted on one another – the descriptions accompanying each exhibit add value. Typically a description will include what happened, the findings of investigations and recommendations to prevent similar occurrences.

 The display, according to Armscor’s Henry Arends, is to show people working in the military weapons/ammunition environment what happens when “things go wrong”.

The main purposes of the MDC are to ensure that knowledge gained during the investigation of an accident is not lost over the years and to serve as an educational research institution to show people what to expect if something goes wrong by mishandling explosives or weapons. “This will hopefully make people more careful and prevent future accidents through negligence,” Armscor said.

Some of the noteworthy items on display include a destroyed barrel from a 140 mm howitzer after a cleaning brush was left inside the barrel; an Eland armoured car with the tip of its barrel blown off; modified Boer war artillery shells; a Mirage F1’s destroyed 30 mm cannon; burst 155 mm artillery barrels; and various other destroyed barrels and defective munitions.

Since moving from Pretoria West to the Salvokop environment late in 2009, the MDC has decreased in terms of the number of exhibits but still remains one-of-a-kind. This is evidenced by it being a regular must call for students attending the senior staff and other programmes at the SA War College as well as those at the SANDF Defence College in nearby Thaba Tshwane for the Security and Defence Studies Programme (SDSP). The defect centre also features on the must call lists of both the SA Police Service and the Military Attaché Advisory Corps.

The work done by Bouch in making the facility reality was rewarded in 1993 when he was one of six Armscor employees who were honoured with Executive General Manager awards. The Armscor newsletter of the time reports “Harry (Bouch) received the award for his exceptional contribution towards the establishment of the Defence Munitions Museum. Much of the equipment in the museum was made by Harry himself – a unique contribution”.

Visits to the MDC, believed to be the world’s only defective munitions museum, can be arranged by appointment with Armscor.

Photo: From top to bottom: the entrance to the Defective Munitions Centre; a destroyed 140 mm G2 howitzer barrel; four impacted bullets inside a pistol barrel; the result of a premature in an 88 mm barrel fitted inside a G5 barrel; and an Eland armoured car with a blown barrel.

An Eland with a blown barrel.