Unexploded bomb in Plymouth safely removed during complex disposal operation and major evacuation

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The 500kg bomb discovered in the back garden of a residential property prompted one of the largest evacuation operations since the end of the Second World War. Photo credit: Twitter

More than 100 personnel from the British Army and Royal Navy have been involved in a complex operation to remove a WW2 bomb discovered at a residential property.

A 500kg bomb discovered in the back garden of a residential property in Plymouth, which prompted one of the largest evacuation operations since the end of the Second World War, has been safely removed by bomb disposal experts from the British Army and Royal Navy.

Around 30 of the Armed Forces’ most experienced bomb disposal specialists worked around the clock since Tuesday to assess the condition of the bomb – before it was successfully removed from a densely populated residential area, and towed out to sea, where it is scheduled to be detonated in the next 24 hours.

The munition, identified as an air-dropped German bomb from World War Two – designated SC-500 – was assessed as posing a significant risk to public safety, prompting the evacuation of residents within a radius of approximately 300 metres.

Plymouth City Council, with support from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Devon and Cornwall Police, and members of the Armed Forces, led a major operation to safely evacuate more than 10,000 residents from the vicinity of where the bomb was found, then from the surrounding area of the route it was transported along today before it was taken to sea.

Defence 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 minimise 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.

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street. CC BY 2.0 DEED

The complex disposal operation required hours of careful analysis by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts from both the Army and Navy, supported by specialist scientific advice from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, to establish the condition of both the explosive payload contained within the bomb – and the status of its fuze – before further action could be taken.

If the fuze or the explosive payload had significantly degraded, it may not have been possible to move the bomb and there would have been a significant risk of an uncontrolled explosion – with several residential houses within the projected blast radius.

After careful assessment, it was decided that moving the bomb would present a lower risk to the residential area – and it was transported in a convoy to a slipway near the HMNB Devonport base, before being towed behind a Navy vessel and submerged to a safe depth at sea. Royal Navy divers are scheduled to plant an explosive charge on the bomb in the next 24 hours, to complete the disposal operation.

The disposal team was comprised of members of the Army’s 11 EOD & Search Regiment, who are often the first responders from the Armed Forces when called upon by local authorities to assist with disposal of unexploded munitions. They have been supported by elements from 35 Engineer Regiment (EOD&S) who provide vital mitigation measures around the immediate location of the munition, and 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographic). The team was further supported by members of the Royal Navy’s Diving & Threat Exploitation Group, based nearby at Plymouth’s HMNB Devonport.

More than 80 further Navy personnel from HMNB Devonport provided support to the Council and emergency services, after acceptance of a Military Aid to Civilian Authorities (MACA) request to the MOD.

The actions carried out today as part of the operation prompted the first ever use of the Government’s Emergency Alert system in a non-test context. Residents in Plymouth received an update to their phones warning them of the transportation of the bomb to the Torpoint Ferry slipway, along with an estimated timeframe for the movement. The system is activated in instances that may present a risk to life, where essential information can help keep the public safe.

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