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An Unexploded World War II bomb Prompted an Evacuation in England

On Friday, a military convoy carefully moved a World War II-era unexploded bomb through the deserted streets of Plymouth, a port city in the southwest of England, to the coast. There, it was loaded onto a vessel for its final voyage out to sea, where naval divers planned its controlled detonation.

This operation led to one of the most significant evacuations in the United Kingdom since World War II, with the bomb being transported from a residential area to the water’s edge of Plymouth.

Following an extensive security effort, approximately 10,000 residents were informed they could return to their homes.

Plymouth City Council announced the successful completion of the operation, stating that the military had safely removed the bomb, allowing the evacuation orders to be lifted and residents to return.

During the evacuation, many residents congregated in pubs, seeking refuge and community.

Plymouth has historical significance as a naval port from which the Mayflower embarked in 1620, carrying Pilgrims to America. It was heavily bombarded by the German Luftwaffe during the Blitz in World War II, suffering significant damage and loss of life.

The Luftwaffe dropped over 2,500 high explosive bombs on Plymouth, causing extensive civilian casualties and damage. The recently discovered bomb, weighing about 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), was located in a residential garden and subsequently moved to the Torpoint Ferry slipway for disposal at sea, as per the U.K. Ministry of Defence.

Experts determined that detonating the bomb on-site posed too great a risk of substantial damage, including potential destruction of homes, leading to the decision to remove it for a safer detonation at sea.

Phil Williams, a superintendent with Devon and Cornwall Police, described the relocation of the bomb as the option with the least impact on the community.

The operation necessitated the closure of the main train line into Plymouth, along with adjustments to ferry services and bus routes. Educational institutions and businesses within the affected area were also closed or evacuated.

Giles Perritt of Plymouth City Council highlighted the collaborative effort of over 1,000 staff and officers in the bomb’s safe removal, extending special thanks to the military personnel involved.

Unexploded ordnance from World War II continues to be discovered throughout the U.K., with an estimated 10% of German bombs never having detonated. While such findings often result in localized detonations, large-scale evacuations such as this are rare.

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