The dis­cov­ery

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY WIL­LIAM BOOTH wil­liam.booth@wash­


of an un­ex­ploded World War II bomb in the Thames closed Lon­don City Air­port for a day.

lon­don — All flights to and from Lon­don City Air­port were can­celed Mon­day af­ter an un­ex­ploded World War II bomb was found buried in the muck of the River Thames near the end of a run­way.

The lo­cal Evening Standard re­ported, “The air­port will re­main shut through­out Mon­day, af­fect­ing up to 16,000 pas­sen­gers.”

Scot­land Yard said, es­sen­tially, that it is a very big, very old bomb — a ta­pered-end shell about five feet long that weighs half a ton. Think the heft of a grand pi­ano.

There is no word yet from the navy divers on whose bomb it was — al­though a good guess as to the owner might be the Ger­man Luft­waffe. Start­ing in 1940, it hit Bri­tain with “the Blitz,” an eight­month aerial bom­bard­ment of mil­i­tary and civil­ian tar­gets. Lon­don at one point en­dured 57 con­sec­u­tive nights of bomb­ing. About 43,000 peo­ple died, and 1 mil­lion were left home­less.

Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle in the Express news­pa­per about the Blitz, “Fears of bomb­ing led to 750,000 do­mes­tic pets be­ing put down. Lon­don Zoo de­stroyed all its poi­sonous snakes and spi­ders.”

In to­tal, ac­cord­ing to the Express, about 50,000 tons of high­ex­plo­sive bombs were dropped dur­ing the air as­sault. Wide swaths of Lon­don were de­stroyed the bombs and re­sult­ing fires. But half the shells were duds. A spokesman for the Lon­don po­lice said Mon­day that con­struc­tion crews dis­cov­ered this par­tic­u­lar bomb buried un­der 30 feet of ooze in the Thames at the King Ge­orge V Dock near one end of Lon­don City Air­port. The dock area was a fre­quent tar­get of Ger­man bomb­ing dur­ing the war.

“It is ly­ing in a bed of dense silt, and the first stage of the re­moval op­er­a­tion is to free the shell from the silt so that it can be floated for re­moval,” Scot­land Yard said in a state­ment.

“The op­er­a­tion to re­move the ord­nance is on­go­ing in part­ner­ship with our col­leagues in the Royal Navy. The tim­ing of re­moval is de­pen­dent on the tides, how­ever, at this stage we es­ti­mate that the re­moval of the de­vice from lo­ca­tion will be com­pleted by to­mor­row morn­ing,” the state­ment said.

Emer­gency crews set up a seby cu­rity zone of about 300 yards around the bomb for most of Mon­day. They later al­lowed lo­cal res­i­dents to re­turn to their homes and shops.

The navy said it would tow the bomb by in­flat­able craft down the Thames and ex­plode the ord­nance un­der­wa­ter in an empty stretch of the river. More at wash­ing­ton­ news/ world­views

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