London City Airport was shut down in February 2018 as a WW2 bomb was discovered near the Thames in what is now an unfamiliar site.
Between September 1940 and May 1941, it’s estimated that the Germans dropped about 24,000 tonnes of explosives on London but 10% of all bombs that dropped did not detonate. As a result it’s not uncommon to hear of unexploded bombs getting discovered and being a reoccurring subject when you switch on the news.
London City airport was shut at 22:00 last Sunday when the bomb was discovered lying 15m underwater during planned work at the airport. Leader of the bomb disposal unit Jonny Campbell said his team were in for a long night before the bomb was eventually controlled subject to exploding safely underwater on Wednesday morning. MP Anne Marie Trevelyan tweeted praise of the unit’s bravery:
"I never cease to be profoundly amazed by the individual bravery & team skills of our Royal Navy bomb disposal drivers to clear unstable WW2 bombs".
Commander Del Mcknight told of how Royal Navy divers moved the bomb at a distance from the coast in which to safely detonate the bomb. McKnight said: ‘The bomb presents no risk to the public in its current location. It’s been put in 10m of water so we are expecting quite a large plum when we explode it. It’s not every day, we find a bomb this big, it’s one of the larger bombs the Germans dropped.’’ The disruptions soon ceased as the bomb exploded underwater on Wednesday morning. While it was business as usual as London City airport reopened its services the previous morning due to the bombs safe removal from the docks vicinity.
It’s not possible to say how many unexploded bombs remain undiscovered due to lack of data of how many of the 10% are found. Bombs are typically buried deep within the ground only to be made discoverable by construction workers or deep sea divers, with other members of the public extremely unlikely to ever see one. According to the ministry of defence it’s estimated that around 60 German WW2 bombs are discovered a year with a fraction of them being in the news due to their larger size or location. Major areas such as ports, railways and junctions were key strategic targets for German bombs particularly of course in London. A typical German bomb was up to 250kg with larger bombs up to 1000kg becoming more frequent on our shores towards the end of the war. London City airport is now the site of the fourth 500kg bomb found in the last 15 months.
You could say it’s an impressive feat that 75 years on a bomb can still pose a huge threat but its failure to explode could also been seen as a failure of engineering. It still presents an ever present reminder of the hardship this country once overcame.