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Plymouth WW2 bomb: As hero forces carry out daredevil operation to detonate Nazi bomb, the city pulls together and hits the boozers


The discovery of an unexploded wartime bomb in suburban Plymouth prompted the first official use of the UK’s emergency alert system – and observers would be forgiven for thinking it had ordered locals to evacuate to the Devon city’s pubs.

Some of the 10,000 people advised to either decamp or stay indoors after the Nazi warhead was discovered beneath a home in St Michael Avenue chose to use the alert as an excuse to nip out for a pint while military chiefs plotted its removal.

Devon and Cornwall Police were alerted to the unexploded device on Tuesday after Ian Jary uncovered it while digging foundations for his daughter’s kitchen extension, prompting one of the UK’s biggest ever peacetime evacuations.

The bomb was later delicately transported to a ferry slip and loaded into a special casing to be transported into the English Channel, where it awaits detonation – and all the while, Janners took the weight off in their local watering holes.

Locals joked the mass evacuation was the perfect excuse to ‘go to the pub’ and described the experience as ‘very surreal’ – with some sharing pictures of their pints on social media as the Army’s explosive disposal experts moved in.

Social media was buzzing with jokes about retreating to the safety of Plymouth's watering holes on Friday while the World War 2 bomb was transported to the waterfront

Social media was buzzing with jokes about retreating to the safety of Plymouth’s watering holes on Friday while the World War 2 bomb was transported to the waterfront

People in Plymouth packed out the pubs after being told to evacuate from an exclusion zone

People in Plymouth packed out the pubs after being told to evacuate from an exclusion zone

A Russian visitor filmed her friend ordering drinks at the bar, seemingly oblivious to the chaos happening a short distance away

A Russian visitor filmed her friend ordering drinks at the bar, seemingly oblivious to the chaos happening a short distance away 

The world watched as army experts begin the nerve-jangling process of carrying a live Nazi bomb through the streets of Plymouth after one of the largest ever UK peacetime evacuations - while locals and tourists alike used the incident as an excuse for a pint

The world watched as army experts begin the nerve-jangling process of carrying a live Nazi bomb through the streets of Plymouth after one of the largest ever UK peacetime evacuations – while locals and tourists alike used the incident as an excuse for a pint

The WW2 bomb has been transported by military convoy to the sea to be disposed of sometime in the next 24 hours

The WW2 bomb has been transported by military convoy to the sea to be disposed of sometime in the next 24 hours

The unexploded bomb (circled) was brought to the edge of the harbour before being loaded into the waiting yellow container

The unexploded bomb (circled) was brought to the edge of the harbour before being loaded into the waiting yellow container

Going, going...bomb! The explosive is moved into open water off the coast of Plymouth inside a yellow container (centre) - it is expected to be submerged before being detonated remotely

Going, going…bomb! The explosive is moved into open water off the coast of Plymouth inside a yellow container (centre) – it is expected to be submerged before being detonated remotely

A video shared on Instagram by a tourist at the Eagle bar on the city’s Cornwall Street showed drinkers apparently oblivious to the drama happening less than two miles away.

And one man who lived outside the exclusion zone joked he had nipped to another pub two miles from the danger zone ‘in solidarity’ with those who had taken shelter in the local pubs.

On X, formerly Twitter, locals commended their fellow Janners – an old nickname for Plymouth natives – for their approach to the otherwise alarming discovery of an unexploded bomb in their figurative, and literal, back garden.

One man wrote: ‘Phenomenal janner mentality here. Street here in Plymouth has been evacuated due to the moving of the WW2 bomb.

‘Closest pub outside the cordon is enjoying great custom, first song on the jukebox was Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb and all songs have followed a similar theme since.’

He added: ‘Appreciate it’s a worry for some, but my backshift in the naval dockyard was cancelled so I’ll take the little wins.’

Adam Guy, a University of Plymouth researcher, wrote on Facebook: ‘In Plymouth news – we here have all been receiving multiple massive BOMB ALERTS on our phones while the Keyham WWII bomb is taken to sea. Luckily I am in the pub.’

One venue even used the bomb as a cheeky marketing opportunity, writing online: ‘At last the rain has gone – and so has the bomb!’  

The 80-year-old bomb will be detonated sometime in the next 24 hours, the Ministry of Defence said, after the Nazi device was successfully towed out to sea during the nail-biting retrieval mission.

Hundreds of offices, shops, schools and houses were cleared in one of the largest ever UK peacetime evacuations to allow Army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts to safely move the bomb on a nerve-shredding journey to the coast.

Army bosses decided the bomb would cause too much damage if it had been detonated where it lay, potentially destroying multiple homes and risking lives. 

Instead, the explosive was driven slowly through Plymouth’s narrow streets on the back of a lorry, packed in sand – with 10,320 people and 4,300 properties within the cordon advised to either stay indoors or evacuate.

The device will be sunk underwater before being fitted with a ‘doughnut’ charge by a diver in order to provoke the explosion of the device itself, military chiefs say.

Blowing the bomb up underwater will temper the explosion, minimising the risk of anyone or anything being damaged. The sub-aquatic blast is likely to create a large plume of water when the explosive is set off.

The unexploded ordnance – UXO, in Army lingo – may not be destroyed until tomorrow, according to the Ministry of Defence, which said in a statement it was ‘scheduled to be detonated in the next 24 hours’.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps praised the ‘bravery and fortitude’ of personnel involved in the ‘highly complex operation’ and the ‘patience and cooperation’ of members of the public.

In a statement on Friday, he said: ‘I would like to express my thanks to all our personnel involved in this highly complex operation, who worked both night and day this week to keep the public safe and minimise the risk of damage, as well as the public for their patience and cooperation.

‘The success of this operation is testament to the level of skill and expertise across our Armed Forces, as well as the bravery and fortitude of our personnel when faced with high-risk situations and working under extreme pressure.’

The bomb's journey across Plymouth saw an exclusion zone affecting 10,000 people drawn up

The bomb’s journey across Plymouth saw an exclusion zone affecting 10,000 people drawn up

A large open-backed military truck containing heavy bags, believed to be packed with sand, is seen near the scene of St Michael Avenue in Plymouth as the bomb is removed

A large open-backed military truck containing heavy bags, believed to be packed with sand, is seen near the scene of St Michael Avenue in Plymouth as the bomb is removed

Police at the edge of the cordon after residents were evacuated - the cordon eventually stretched to cover more than 10,000 people

Police at the edge of the cordon after residents were evacuated – the cordon eventually stretched to cover more than 10,000 people

People have now been allowed to return home following the delicate military operation on Friday afternoon, which has been hailed as an unmitigated success

People have now been allowed to return home following the delicate military operation on Friday afternoon, which has been hailed as an unmitigated success

Superintendent Phil Williams of Devon and Cornwall Police told Sky News earlier of the successful retrieval of the bomb: ‘It’s been the outcome that everyone wanted. We’re obviously all really pleased and relieved that people are able to return to their homes.

‘It got taken down to the slipway as was the plan and the military took it out on a boat and I believe it’s just past the breakwater now. Speaking to military colleagues they have said the plan is that it will either be detonated this evening or tomorrow morning.

‘I don’t have all those details nor am I expert on that, particularly, but my understanding is that it will be submerged approximately 14 metres before detonation will take place but that is something the military will now be handling.

‘It’s been a huge operation, logistically it has been a challenge – but everyone has rallied around. The public on the whole have been brilliant. 

‘We know it’s not been an easy ask of them to leave their homes for the period of time that they have but they’ve been cooperative and many of them are just relieved they can return this evening.’



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