Plymouth WW2 bomb: 500kg device detonated at sea, Ministry of Defence confirms

  • Watch as military convoy moves through Plymouth as the WW2 bomb is taken to the sea

A Second World War bomb that forced thousands to evacuate in Plymouth has been detonated at sea, The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.

An MoD spokeswoman said the bomb had been “detonated successfully at 9.51pm”.

Thousands of people were forced to leave their homes while the suspected World War Two bomb was moved through the streets by military convoy.

The MoD said the munition, identified as an air-dropped German bomb from the Second World War – designated SC-500 – was assessed as posing a significant risk to public safety with people living within the cordon evacuated.

More than 100 personnel from the British Army and Royal Navy, including bomb disposal experts, were involved in the complex operation along with Plymouth City Council officials, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Devon and Cornwall Police and members of the armed forces, to ensure the device was removed and people were safe.

Many residents whose homes were evacuated have now returned after the bomb was successfully removed by a military disposal team and detonated, Plymouth City Council said.

The device was taken by convoy to the Torpoint Ferry slipway to be disposed of at sea.

In a statement, the council said: “We have been notified by the military that operation has been a success and the bomb has been removed.

“We can now start removing the cordon so people who have been evacuated can return to their homes.”

The 500kg explosive was discovered in a back garden on Tuesday, which prompted “one of the largest UK peacetime evacuation operations”, according to the MoD.

A 300-metre cordon was been put in place around the site, affecting 1,219 properties and an estimated 3,250 people.

Plymouth City Council says the cordon has now been lifted after a 'successful military operation'.

The evacuation was one of the largest of its kind since the Second World War, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The unexploded device was found in a garden on St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area. Credit: FPS Images

Superintendent Phil Williams from Devon and Cornwall Police said: "We appreciate we’re asking a lot of the public and we have done over the last few days.

"We’d like to thank them for their continued support and we’d ask that they help us through with this hopefully final phase of this operation.

The device traveled along Parkside and Royal Navy Avenue, joining at the junction on Saltash Road to continue south joining Albert Road, turning right along Park Avenue and travelling down Ferry Road to the Torpoint Ferry terminal.

Giles Perritt, Plymouth City Council's Assistant Chief Executive, said: "Today is as a result of an enormous amount of planning.

"You won’t be surprised to hear that officers and partners have been working around the clock since this incident started to come up with the best and safest solution to deal with this device.

"You’ll be aware particularly in this part of Plymouth that we’ve had to deal with some really serious incidents in the past.

A police cordon in place on Friday four days after the discovery. Credit: PA

"We have a fantastic team within the council but also our partners are experienced working together and I’ve had staff who’ve turned around on their way home and come back to work to help with this.

"We’ve taken an approach that reduces risk to human life and also reduced what might have been devastating impact on properties around where the device is situated.

"I’d like to say the colleagues at the military who will be at the wheel of the vehicle are taking risks that I think any of us would struggle to contemplate on a daily basis and my hat is absolutely off to them.

"It’ll be well over a thousand officers and staff who are engaged in this operation today."

A rest centre at the Life Centre was set up as a possible place that people can stay.

A council spokesperson said: "We are very grateful for the patience of residents at this difficult time and all agencies are doing everything they can to minimise any ongoing disruption."

Military and emergency services remain at the scene where the unexploded device was found.

More than 3,000 people have been affected by the incident, many of whom have evacuated their homes.

A military vehicle at the scene near St Michael Avenue on Friday morning.

Devon and Cornwall Police said they were called on the morning of 20 February after the object was found in a garden on St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area.

Plymouth City Council said 1,219 properties and an estimated 3,250 people were impacted by the 300-metre cordon which has been imposed.

What will happen to the bomb now and why has it only just been found?

On examination it became apparent that if the bomb was detonated where it was found, there would be too high a risk of significant damage to properties in Keyham, the council said.

Several houses could have been destroyed and others damaged by flying debris.

The council said “there are still risks with moving the device”, but experts consider them to be much lower following further work.

St Michael Avenue lies around 800m west of the HMNB Devonport, which were a major Luftwaffe target during the war, according to 1st Line Defence, a company which manages risks posed by unexploded bombs.

A military vehicle seen in Plymouth, where residents were evacuated and a cordon was put in place following the discovery of a WWII bomb Credit: PA

More than 2,500 high explosive bombs were dropped on the city during the war, with many missing their intended target and falling on residential areas.

Around 10% of bombs dropped on the UK did not explode, it is estimated.

A map obtained from local archives “shows the locations of an astonishing number of recorded unexploded and delayed action bombs (removed or exploded) which fell in the area”, the company added on its website.

The reason the bomb did not explode “will never be known”, it added, but it may have been that some of the properties in the area were evacuated for a time, and the bomb was simply overlooked.