Aniseed ball

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Aniseed balls with a metric ruler for scale. The top left ball shows the interior of the sweet.

Aniseed balls are a comfit type of hard round sweet sold in the UK, Ireland, Malta, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. They are shiny and dark reddish brown, and hard like Gobstoppers, but generally only 12 inch (13 mm) across.

They are flavoured by aniseed oil, with a strong aniseed flavour, and last for a long time in the mouth before dissolving. In the centre of the ball is normally a whole rapeseed, which is used for forming layers of sugar around, although other nuclei are sometimes used, for example sugar crystals.

Use as a timing device[edit]

In the spring of 1939 a magnetically-attached limpet mine was constructed in Britain for underwater sabotage actions in the upcoming war. The mines exploded when a cocked spring hit a detonator. Between the striker and the detonator an aniseed ball was placed, as each had precisely the same spherical shape and consistently dissolved in water after 35 minutes, leaving the saboteur time to escape. The first of these mines was sent to Yugoslavia and Egypt in the autumn of 1939.[1][2][3][4]


  1. ^ MacRae, Stuart (15 February 2010). Winston Churchill's Toyshop: The Inside Story of Military Intelligence (Research). p. 20. ISBN 9781445610290.
  2. ^ Milton, Giles (30 June 2016). Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks who Plotted Hitler's Defeat. ISBN 9781444798975.
  3. ^ Sweet-Escott, Bickham (1965). Baker Street Irregular. p. 31.
  4. ^ Clay, David (17 November 2016) [17 November 1953]. "On this day in Yorkshire 1953: Aniseed balls used to set off limpet bombs". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. Retrieved 27 October 2019.