UK

A major operation to remove an unexploded bomb is a ‘success’

Devon and Cornwall Police were called to St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area of Plymouth.

Emergency workers gather in Albert Road near to the Torpoint Ferry crossing in Plymouth, where a suspected Second World War explosive device, discovered in a garden in St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area of Plymouth, was taken by military convoy to the Torpoint Ferry slipway
Plymouth incident Emergency workers gather in Albert Road near to the Torpoint Ferry crossing in Plymouth, where a suspected Second World War explosive device, discovered in a garden in St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area of Plymouth, was taken by military convoy to the Torpoint Ferry slipway (Ben Birchall/PA)

The military operation to remove a Second World War bomb found in a garden in Plymouth has been declared a “success” and the device has “gone to sea”.

On Friday at 5.32pm after the 500kg unexploded bomb had been moved in a military convoy  to the sea  where it is to be disposed of , Plymouth City Council lifted a 300-metre cordon of evacuated nearby properties.

It announced “you can now return to your homes in Keyham”.

Devon and Cornwall Police were called on Tuesday morning to St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area of Plymouth after the object, which is believed to date from the Second World War, was discovered in a garden.

Since then, a 300-metre cordon has been put in place around the site, affecting 1,219 properties and an estimated 3,250 people.

On Friday Devon and Cornwall Chief Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith said on X, formerly Twitter, said: “The bomb has gone to sea!

“Thank you to everyone for your patience and good spirits.”

He also praised the British Army and Royal Navy for their “amazing bravery” and also the escorting officers from the Devon and Cornwall force.

The Ministry of Defence, who had earlier described the scene as “one of the largest UK peacetime evacuation operations since WW2”, to ensure the bomb was made safe and the device would be transported on Friday at 2pm to Torpoint Ferry slipway via Saltash Road.

Highly trained bomb disposal experts had carefully removed the bomb from the garden before it is transported by road in a military convoy.

Members of the public watched as the bomb, which was clad in sandbags, was transported.

As it told residents the cordon was being lifted, Plymouth City 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.

“Roads will be busy!”

Johnny Mercer, the MP for Plymouth, Moor View, who is also the Veterans’ Affairs minister, wrote on X, previously know as Twitter: “A huge thank you and massive respect to all the Police, coastguard, military, mountain rescue, Plymouth City Council staff and multiple volunteers who have worked around the clock to deal with this bomb in Keyham.

“I expect all 10,000 evacuated residents to return this evening.”

The Government’s emergency alert, first tested last April, was sent to all phones nearby warning them to evacuate.

Earlier, Plymouth City Council had announced that the bomb would be taken by military convoy  to be disposed of at sea as this was considered the “safest and least impactful option”.

An alert was sent to mobile devices in the area shortly after noon on Friday, stating: “Severe Alert. Issued by Plymouth City Council.

“The WWII bomb found in Keyham will be transported today 23 February 2024 at 2pm to Torpoint Ferry slipway via Saltash Road.

“A time limited cordon will be in place along this route between 2pm until an estimated 5pm. You are asked to leave and stay away from the cordoned area for this time period.”

More than 1,000 staff and officers were involved in the operation to remove the bomb safely, according to the council’s assistant chief executive Giles Perritt.

He had said: “Today is the 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.”

He added: “I believe that after an enormous amount of work, we’ve taken an approach which reduces the risk to human life and also reduces what might have been a devastating impact on properties around where the device is situated at the moment.

“I think we’ve come up with a solution that lowers the risk to the least amount.

“There are still risks that we face but we think we’ve managed them the best.

“I’d just at this time like to say that the colleagues from the military who will be at the wheel of that 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.”