Evacuated families return after World War bomb is defused in Temple Street
- Credit: MoD
Hundreds of families have been allowed back into their homes after the unexploded Second World War bomb unearthed in East London on a building site at Bethnal Green was made safe today.
The 500lb device dropped during a German air-raid in Hitler’s Blitz on London 74 years ago was uncovered yesterday lunchtime in the basement of a three-storey building being demolished at Temple Street, off Hackney Road.
An emergency rest centre had to be set up at Bethnal Green Academy school nearby where 150 people spent the night after a 600ft radius around Temple Street was sealed off. They were given beds, food, drink, blankets and washbags.
But the Luftwaffe’s 250kg terror device which failed to go off in 1941 was finally made harmless this-afternoon—24 hours after it was found by workmen and more than seven decades lying undisturbed in the ground.
“It has been in the ground more than 70 years—but unlike a fine wine does not improve with age,” the Army commander in charge of the operation said. “It is potentially more dangerous today than the day it was made.”
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His bomb disposal experts carefully dug round it before the fuse could be neutralised using a complex “tried and tested” chemical process called ‘immunisation’, then the whole thing had to be carefully removed from London in a convoy of Army, police and Fire Brigade.
It was a relief for the local authority that had to organise the makeshift rest centre which at first invoked the spirit of wartime press censorship by refusing to disclose which school was being used as a rest centre—despite journalists already outside.
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Families took matters into their own hands and contacted the local press using social media.
Bernie Lewis, 75, and his wife Joyce, were out shopping opposite their home when police turned up and told them the area was being evacuated.
“I thought if it was a 500lb bomb—we’d better get out quick!” Bernie said.
“I remember the War ending when I was five. My first memory was one of the evacuations when I was three.”
That was when Hitler’s V1 ‘doddlebug’ flying bombs began reining down on London in 1944—the first one destroying a row of houses in Mile End killing six people, including a teenage mum and her baby.
Bernie wasn’t bothered about having to kip rough for the night. But it was a new experience for most evacuated families, far too young to have lived through the Blitz.