THE family of an ex-serviceman has confirmed the contents of a box removed from his home in Oakley by a bomb disposal team yesterday.

Derek Kearns, 88, served in the armed forces from conscription into national service, until the mid-1980s, after the end of the Falklands War, when he was medically retired.

He moved to the home on Kennet Way in 1969, and was one of the first on the street, with many of the surrounding houses not yet built.

Earlier this year, he transferred from hospital to residential care in Winchester, and his home has now been sold.

His daughter Hilary Atkinson, 56, was clearing out his belongings with her brothers on Sunday, October 25, when they came across the “suspected explosives.”

“Dad had munitions boxes that he used for storing lots of things, in the garden and stuff like that,” Hilary explained.

“We discovered this one at the back door. It could well have been sitting there for years - with children passing it and grandchildren passing it on visits.

“It was just a few flares and one detonator - sort of glorified fireworks!”

Hilary said she didn’t know why her dad had kept the equipment, but admitted he is a “bit of a collector” and it wasn’t a complete surprise to find the unusual items.

Amongst his belongings, the family also found “umpteen drills, and lots of new things that he had re-bought because he couldn’t find the old one”, but nothing else quite as dramatic as the flares.

“He is a bit of a hoarder, but a generous one. When I have spoken to the neighbours it’s clear they thought fondly of him, and my mum. They were popular.”

Knowing there was no other way to safely dispose of the contents, on Monday Hilary called the police on 101.

“I knew the bomb squad would probably be called and it would be more dramatic than it needed to be, because the police don’t know what it could be.

“We were asked to leave the house, so we went across the road to a neighbour and had coffee there.”

The road was closed from the end where Kennet Way meets Oakley Lane, until the middle. This would usually only affect around a dozen houses, but due to another diversion in the village, meant many people using the road as a cut-through had to go an even longer route. Only one other house was evacuated.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said yesterday: "We were called at 9.45am today, 26 October, after suspected explosives was found at an address on Kennet Way, Oakley.

"A road closure and a 50 metre cordon was put in place as a precaution.

"An Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit attended and disposed of the explosives.

"No offences were committed."

Next-door-neighbour Dave Thomas, 74, said: “I was out shopping and we were banned from going in the house for an hour or so - but my wife was in and she was allowed to stay at one side of the house. The bomb team dealt with it quickly. It was just a precaution, that’s my view of it anyway. It was some training, ordinance equipment. The box they carried it out in was only small.”

Sandra Jamieson, 74, also of Kennet Way, was at home awaiting her weekly shop when her husband saw that the road was closed and went out to see what was going on.

“I missed my delivery!” said Sandra with a laugh

“But it’s ok, it was Sainsbury’s and they’re coming tomorrow. It was quite exciting really.”

Another neighbour added: “We went and stayed with my brother-in-law for a couple of hours. All I heard was that it was a flare, which is not very problematic, but I don’t know if the police knew that at the time.

“He is a lovely man, we have been neighbours for nearly 20 years and just a few years ago I would go out and see him picking apples - in the tree! A very active man.

“I did realise that he would not have had [the flares] for sinister reasons.”

Chris Walsh has also lived on the street for around 23 years.

The ex-firefighter got a call from another neighbour who was out, when she received an alert on her phone from her camera door-bell, that police had approached her house.

“It all happened on my birthday!” said Chris, 54.

“We were stuck inside so it didn’t ruin it - it actually made it interesting.

“I went to speak to the policeman and he told me they had found some sort of army paraphernalia and I said, that’ll be Derek’s!

“I wasn’t surprised when I heard it was his. He did something like 15 years in the army and he is a smashing guy to talk to.”

After all the excitement, Hilary wants to spread the message to others not to be afraid to dial 101 if they think they’ve found something potentially explosive.

Despite coronavirus restrictions meaning it will be through perspex shields, she hopes to see her dad at the weekend but, in the meantime, has written him a letter to tell him the story.

“He can sit and have a chuckle, and he will!” she said.