City Shuts Down to Remove Unexploded Bomb

Plymouth was bombed heavily by Germany during World War II
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2024 2:10 PM CST
UK City Comes to a Halt While World War II Bomb Is Removed
Members of HM Coastguard Search and Rescue gather after homes were evacuated when a suspected World War II explosive device was discovered in a garden on St Michael Avenue in Plymouth, England, Thursday Feb. 22, 2024.   (Matt Keeble/PA via AP)

An unexploded World War II bomb was safely transported Friday through the eerily empty streets of the southwestern English port city of Plymouth before being placed on a boat for its next and final journey to sea, where it will be blown up by naval divers. In what prompted one of the largest evacuations in the UK since the war, a military convoy carried the explosive from a residential backyard in the city to Plymouth's shoreline. After a huge security operation, around 10,000 people were told they could return home, the AP reports.

Many residents ended up at pubs during the evacuation as they sought a safe shelter. Plymouth, a famous naval port about 240 miles southwest of London, is where the Mayflower set sail from in 1620 carrying Pilgrim settlers to America. The city was targeted by Germany's Luftwaffe during World War II, particularly during the Blitz in 1940 and 1941. More than 2,500 high explosive bombs were dropped on the city during the war. More than 1,100 civilians in the city were killed during the air raids, per the AP.

The bomb, which was found in a residential yard on Tuesday, was taken to the Torpoint Ferry slipway to be disposed of at sea beyond the breakwater. The bomb is believed to weigh around 1,100 pounds, according to the UK Ministry of Defense. Bomb disposal experts concluded that there would be too much of a danger of significant damage, including the destruction of a number of houses, if the device were detonated in the yard. The main train line into the city was closed as the convoy traveled through the cordon, while ferries were suspended and buses diverted. Schools and nurseries closed to allow the operation to take place, while all businesses within the cordon were told to evacuate. A city official said more than 1,000 staff and officers were involved in the operation.

(More unexploded ordnance stories.)

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