During construction work in the River Thames on Sunday evening, a World War II bomb was discovered near the end of the runway at London City Airport. The discovery of the bomb, which has been reported as a 5-foot, 1,100 lb. undetonated German bomb, has caused the complete closure of London City Airport all day Monday and the evacuation of part of the city.
“Following the discovery of a World War Two ordnance in King George V Dock as part of planned development works, a 214m exclusion zone has been implemented as a precaution by the Met Police. As a result, London City Airport is currently closed,” the London City Airport stated on Twitter Sunday evening.
Bomb disposal experts from the Royal Navy and British Army are working to safely remove the 1,100 pound bomb from the silt in the river. It will then be floated to a safe location and destroyed with a controlled explosion. Its discovered location at King George V Dock is near the end of the London City Airport runway.
Until then, nearly 300 flights have been canceled — both incoming and outgoing — and passengers are waiting for the airport to hopefully reopen on Tuesday. Until then, they are stuck waiting for the remnant of the London Blitz to be safely removed from the River Thames, where it has apparently been since the early 1940s.
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Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport, issued a statement on Twitter saying, “The airport remains closed this morning following the discovery of a World War Two ordnance in King George V Dock on Sunday. All flights in and out of London City on Monday are cancelled and an exclusion zone is in place in the immediate area. I urge any passengers due to fly today not to come to the airport and to contact their airline for further information. I recognise this is causing inconvenience for our passengers, and in particular some of our local residents. 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.”
This is not the first time an undetonated World War II bomb has been found in a populated area in recent years. In 2017, a British World War II bomb was discovered in Frankfurt, Germany, causing the evacuation of 70,000 people. In 2015, a similar-sized German bomb was discovered in an east London neighborhood, which also had to be excavated and then safely detonated.
“During the Blitz, German planes dropped nearly 30,000 bombs on London in just three months,” said NPR’s Ari Shapiro. The Blitz, named after the German word for “lightning,” was the massive and unrelenting bombing of London by the Nazis in 1940-41.
Matt Brosnan of the Imperial War Museum told the BBC in 2015 that it is impossible to know just how many WWII bombs may still be left in London, waiting to be discovered. “Clearly not all of those would have exploded, because of defects or other reasons,” Brosnan said, referencing the number of bombs dropped during the Blitz, “and they could have buried themselves tens of feet below the surface so we simply don’t know where they are.”
The situation is ongoing, but British authorities were confident that they would be able to safely remove and detonate the WWII bomb found near London City Airport by Tuesday morning, allowing the airport to open and flights to resume.
Jacob H. is an award-winning journalist and photojournalist who currently resides is West Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, Jacob enjoys writing, photography, mountain climbing, and camping.