Nearly 77 years after the end of the blitzkrieg and the legacy of terror has still not ended in the UK. Today, London City Airport are nearby residents were the latest victims of the ruthless attack that saw the death of tens of thousands of civilians.
Monday, London City Airport, located in East London, closed after nearby construction workers found a World War II era bomb. The undetonated WW2 bomb was found in the River Thames early Sunday morning. The bomb found near the King George V Dock caused the London City Airport to put an exclusion block on the airport and cancel all flights. The Royal Navy has put down an exclusion zone of 214 meters (706 feet). Police have been going door to door to evacuate residents and inform them of the WW2 bomb.
In a statement Chief Executive of London City Airport, Robert Sinclair, apologize to the inconvenience to passengers and assured Londoners and travelers alike that the airport has been cooperating with local authorities:
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I recognize this is causing inconvenience for our passengers, and in particular some of our local residents,” airport CEO Robert Sinclair said in a statement. “The airport is cooperating fully with the Met Police and Royal Navy and is working hard to safely remove the device and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
All of the 216 flights at London City Airport scheduled for Monday have been canceled, affecting some 16,000 passengers. Not only are all flights out of or into London City Airport canceled until further notice, but the exclusion zone has caused significant traffic delays. Additionally, the Docklands Light Railway will not be running between Pontoon Dock and Woolwich Arsenal. In response, the city of London has set up bus replacement services running between North Greenwich and Woolwich Arsenal and between Canning Town and King George V stations.
Those expecting to fly out of London City Airport on Monday should not travel to the airport. Sinclair wrote in a tweet:
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.
Passengers should contact their respective airlines for instructions, as some flights have been rerouted through nearby airports. Alitalia and City Jet airlines have already rerouted all of their flights through London’s Stansted airport, far outside of the city center.
The WW2 Bomb
Both the Metropolitan Police and Royal Navy have examined the archaic bomb. The Met Police issued a statement detailing the size and shape of the bomb, “500 kg (1102 pounds) tapered end shell measuring approximately 1.5 meters (4.9 feet).”
The police believe they will be able to remove the bomb by Tuesday, but because the bomb is underwater there have been some complications. A statement released by police read, “The timing of removal is dependent on the tides, however, at this stage we estimate that the removal of the device from location will be completed by tomorrow morning.”
The Royal Navy has said:
We will then attach high-grade military explosives before carrying out a controlled explosion later today. The aim is to cause as little disruption to the city of London as possible. The first stage of the operation is to free the shell from the silt so it can be floated for removal.
Reports indicate that 30,000 bombs were dropped on London in a three month time period during the Blitz. Not all of them detonated.
Matt Brosnan, a historian with the Imperial War Museum told BBC:
Clearly not all of those would have exploded, because of defects or other reasons, and they could have buried themselves tens of feet below the surface so we simply don’t know where they are.
Although the initial German Blitz only targeted industrial points, it soon expanded to attacking residential areas after failing to destroy the Royal Air Force and the British retaliatory bombing of Berlin. East London, both a populous residential area and an important industrial quarter, saw particularly ruthless blanket bombing during the war.
London City Airport is located in what was once a key point for commerce and industry. During World War II, the East London Newham borough, where the airport is located, was a heavily populated industrial area. It was also a key point for transport, drawing the attention of the Third Reich. The London City Airport runway is currently located at the Royal Docks. During World War II, the Royal Docks were the hub of commerce and transport entering the Thames. Estimates hold that ⅓ of Britain’s overseas industry relied on these docks. Destroying industry, transport, and moral were Nazi Germany’s key goals with the Blitzkrieg, making East London a particularly attractive target.
The eight month long Blitz killed some 43,000 civilians in the UK and only ended when Hitler was made to refocus his attention towards Russia.
Blast from the Past
This isn’t the first time an undetonated German bomb has surfaced in London. In 2015, a 500 lb. WW2 bomb was found in East London in the basement of a building. The 200 meter exclusion zone forced residents to evacuate and caused a major disruption to traffic. According to the UK Ministry of Defense, their bomb disposal teams remove about 60 WW2 German bombs per year.
On the other side of the coin, undetonated allied bombs have wreaked havoc in Germany. Last summer, a Russian WW2 bomb was found near the Berlin Tegel Airport, forcing the travel hub to close. Last September, an allied bomb was found in Frankfurt, causing the evacuation of 60,000 people, including 2 hospitals, and requiring the work of 1,000 people to remove the massive bomb.
During the war, 1.5 million tonnes of bombs were dropped on Germany by the British and the Americans. Experts estimate that 15% of the bombs did not detonate, instead becoming burrowed deep within the ground.
Although London City Airport is much smaller than Heathrow Airport, it is London’s only central airport and sees over 4.5 million passengers a year. The WW2 bomb is expected to be removed by Tuesday morning and London City Airport is likely to resume normal operations on Tuesday.