Unexploded WW2 bomb temporarily shuts down London City Airport

Published: 13 February 2018 Image credit: Reuters


A 500-kilogram unexploded German bomb, dropped on London more than seventy years ago during World War Two, has been safely detonated by Royal Navy bomb disposal experts, after the shell earlier caused major disruptions for passengers attempting to travel in and out of London City Airport.

The bomb was discovered by construction workers at George V Dock on the River Thames, as they carried out work on a planned extension to London City Airport.

The “powerful” 1.5 metre device was found submerged in 15 metres of water beneath the dock.  Despite its age, the bomb was still volatile. A 214-metre exclusion zone was set up around it, and all flights in and out of London City Airport were cancelled.

“London City is currently closed. All flights are cancelled,” said Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport, “The airport is cooperating fully with the Met Police and Royal Navy and working hard to safely remove the device and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

The airport reopened today.

London City Airport is one of London’s smaller international airports, but it is popular with business travelers, as it is situated close to Canary Wharf, one of London’s financial hubs. Last year it serviced 4.5 million passengers.

It is estimated that up to 9000 passengers were affected by the closure of the airport.

Though inconvenienced, most seemed to understand the potential danger of the situation.

“We are annoyed, but we have no choice, because it’s a bomb so…” A displaced passenger told AP News at the time.

Between 1940 and 1941, the German air force dropped more than 30,000 tonnes worth of bombs on London and other parts of Britain, in an offensive known as ‘The Blitz’.  More than 40,000 people, mostly civilians were killed, and tens of thousands more were injured. 

It is not uncommon for unexploded WW2 bombs to be unearthed by construction workers, both in the UK and Europe. In 2015, a 50kg device known as ‘The Wembley Bomb’ was discovered near Wembley Stadium. It was safely removed and detonated.

A Royal Navy spokesman, who worked on the London City Airport bomb, explained the process of removing and detonating a still potentially deadly relic of the Blitz.

“We assess that we’ve got good control, that the bomb is in relatively good condition,” Lieutenant Commander Jonny Campbell told press, “We want to take it away and remove it, but we want to make sure it's done properly”

All went to plan. The bomb was ‘floated’ down the River Thames to a secure location and detonated underwater overnight.

There are no more expected delays to flights.