The discovery today of an unexploded German bomb in London's Spitalfields, and the evacuation of the surrounding area to make it safe to be moved, is a timely reminder of the damage that German bombs did to the capital during the blitz 75 years ago.

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It's also a reminder that a remarkably large number of munitions failed to go off, and we've been back through our newspaper archive to bring you reports from the 1940s of such bombs.



Surrey Docks on fire after a heavy daylight raid.

Needless to say, with ordnance being dropped from German bombers almost nightly over Britain in the 1940s, reports of unexploded bombs are not uncommon in the newspapers of the time. With the Germans dropping hundreds of tons of bombs in each raid (the biggest on London involved a massive 386 tons of bombs, including 10 tons of incendiary devices), it is easy to imagine that even with a 1% failure rate, that's still a lot of tonnage of unexploded bomb some of which is still out there somewhere!

The biggest German air raid on London involved a massive 386 tons of bombs, including 10 tons of incendiary devices

The author's grandmother remembers what happened when an unexploded bomb was discovered at the bottom of her garden during the Blitz. She lived in Bride Street in Islington, before moving to Ringcroft Street. She was bombed out twice: once by an unexploded bomb, the other by a V2 rocket.

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"In Bride Street we were quite lucky in that we only had one time bomb drop at the back of our garden, in between us and our neighbours, as we all lived on top of each other. We had to be evacuated for a few days while they disconnected the bomb, but then we could come back and live as it didn't cause any damage: it didn't go off."



Derry Journal - Monday 02 June 1941

Evacuations and cordons established around unexploded ordnance until they were made safe were very strictly controlled by the Police and Civil Defence, as any action could disturb and detonate an unexploded bomb before the disposal experts arrived. In a newspaper article from The Chelmsford Chronicle in 1940 shows that cordon breaching was taken very seriously by the Police and courts.

Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 22 November 1940

The men tasked with making safe this ordnance were the Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal teams, who operated throughout the UK on the home front for the duration of the conflict. These exceedingly brave men were those walking towards unexploded bombs rather than away from them, in order to make them safe enough to move. A job for someone with an unflappable personality, Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal personnel were the very definition of cool, calm and collected.



A scene from the TV series Danger, UXB. Men of the Royal Engineers fit a 'clock stopper' to an unexploded bomb

.Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal teams operated throughout the UK on the home front for the duration of the conflict and were so successful in their role that the Germans started fitting dummy and false fuses to their ordnance, and a great many RE officers and men were killed disposing of these supposed 'dud' or time sensitive bombs. Between September 1940 and July 1941, over 24,000 bombs were made safe and removed by the RE Bomb disposal teams.

Between September 1940 and July 1941, over 24,000 bombs were made safe

However, it wasn't just recent bombs the Royal Engineers had to remove. In 1939, a family in Margate digging a pit to construct their Anderson shelter made a rather alarming discovery – a German bomb, dropped from a Zeppelin, dropped 25 years previously!



Have you got any stories about the Blitz you'd like to share with us? Were you bombed out, or evacuated whilst a bomb was made safe? We'd like to hear from you! You can contact us at testimonials@findmypast.com or via social media on Twitter or Facebook.