Plymouth bomb: Thousands back home after WW2 device detonated

February 25, 2024
Military personnel involved in this highly complex operation of detonating an unexploded device in Plymouth. — courtesy X
Military personnel involved in this highly complex operation of detonating an unexploded device in Plymouth. — courtesy X

LONDON — Thousands of people evacuated from their homes in Plymouth have returned after days of disruption caused by the discovery of a World War Two bomb.

More than 10,000 people had to move out of the area around Keyham as a convoy of military vehicles carried away the unexploded device.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the 500kg (1,102lb) bomb, found on Tuesday, was detonated at 21:51 GMT on Friday.

One resident who was evacuated said the experience had been difficult.

Jenny Dunn told the BBC: "It's been challenging at times, but Keyham always comes together. The resources that were put in to help us residents was amazing.

"It was tough, but it was the best [the situation] could be."

The discovery of the bomb in a garden prompted "one of the largest UK peacetime evacuation operations", according to the MoD.

Resident Elle Clarke, who was reunited with her pets, said she was glad it was over.

Like many people, Clarke, who was sent to a leisure center, had to leave a number of pets in her home.

"It's been inconvenient, but I'm glad there's been a conclusion to the situation," she said.

Clarke added: "I was mainly concerned for the animals because this is their territory. We were more concerned for them than ourselves really.

"Sitting in suspension not knowing what is going on has been excruciating."

Joe Pearse, who lives in St Michael Avenue where the bomb was found, said: "We were told to grab everything you can because you might not have anything to come back to.

"So I got the pooch and grabbed what I could and left.

"I've just put a five grand bathroom in and was expecting it to be blown up, so at least I've still got the house."

Pearse, who stayed with his mother, said he was now involved with neighbors in a "major clear-up".

"I didn't know many of my neighbors before, but this has brought people closer," he said.

Bomb disposal specialists worked around the clock to assess the condition of the device, an air-dropped German bomb, designated SC-500, which was discovered at a garden on St Michael Avenue.

On Friday, a military convoy carried the unexploded bomb on the back of a truck from the site through a densely populated residential area to Torpoint Ferry slipway, where it was taken out to sea.

About 10,320 people and 1,219 properties were affected by the 300m (984ft) cordon placed along the route.

Lt. Col. Rob Swan, who was at the scene, explained that, before detonation, the bomb would be taken to a depth of at least 14m (46ft) before a diver would place a charge to ignite the explosive.

On Friday at 17:32 GMT, Plymouth City Council said residents could return.

Plymouth Police Commander, Ch Supt Matt Longman wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that police were "right alongside communities as they get back to normal life".

"The success last night was amazing, but work continues today," he said. "We're visiting every house in the area just to ensure people are safe and sound."

Council leader Tudor Evans said: "I think it is fair to say that the last few days will go down in history for Plymouth."

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said: "I would like to express my thanks to all our personnel involved in this highly complex operation, who worked both night and day this week to keep the public safe and minimize the risk of damage, as well as the public for their patience and cooperation.

"The success of this operation is testament to the level of skill and expertise across our armed forces, as well as the bravery and fortitude of our personnel when faced with high-risk situations and working under extreme pressure." — BBC

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