By Jasper Copping
18 July 2008
A milkman delivers in a London street after a German bombing
raid Photo: GETTY
Maps showing the likely locations of thousands of unexploded
bombs dropped during World War Two have been created for the
The ruins of Coventry Cathedral, Warwickshire, in 1940 Photo:
New map reveals locations of unexploded World War Two bombs
Up to one in ten bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe failed
to detonate leaving a deadly legacy which still lies under
the nation's streets and fields. The new map will be used
by builders to tell them the risks from unexploded bombs where
they are working. Members of the public will also be able
to access the map, which identifies 21,000 locations where
there could be unexploded bombs.
Experts have studied aerial photographs taken by the RAF after
the war and maps created by insurance companies to assess
the extent of the bombing damage.
They have been able to pinpoint sites across the UK where
unexploded munitions are most likely to be concealed. The
cities with the highest number of sites are London, Plymouth,
Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham.
David Mole, from the Landmark Information Group, which has
compiled the charts, said: "Bombs were dropped in sequence
and the photographs and maps show where buildings have been
demolished. From that we can work out the patterns and where
there is most likely to be unexploded ordnance.
"In between the areas that were cleared by bombs are
pockets that were untouched. Looking at them now, 60 years
later, with detailed images of the pattern of destruction
around them, you know there is a very good chance there is
a bomb in the vicinity."
The online maps are available for all major cities and areas
of the countryside where bombings took place.
Unexploded German bombs are still unearthed across Britain,
with relative frequency, in gardens, fields, allotments and
building sites, where their sudden discovery can cause lengthy
and expensive disruptions.
Last month, work on the Olympic site, in east London, had
to be halted, after the discovery of a 1,000kg unexploded
device. A survey has found that the site could contain as
many as 200 devices.
If a bomb is suspected in an area, specialist firms are able
to use electromagnetic equipment to scan for buried metal
that may be ordnance. They can also sink probes into the ground
to search for deeply buried devices.
At the Weld Arms, a thatched pub in East Lulworth, Dorset,
a 50kg bomb was unearthed last year while a new patio was
being laid in the beer garden.
Krista Pall, who works at the pub, said: "It was a pretty
big surprise. We don't know if there are any more around but
if we find another, at least we won't be quite so surprised.
Many of the bombs dropped over Britain by the Luftwaffe were
faulty and failed to explode when dropped.
Historians believe many were sabotaged by workers in occupied
Europe who were forced to produce them for the Germans.
Some devices were timed to go off some time after hitting
the ground, in order to maximise their disruptive and destructive
However, the clockwork mechanisms jammed in several cases.
Their impact created shallow craters and they were then covered
up by earth disturbed by nearby explosions or later construction
work. The bombs can become inert over time, but when disturbed,
the timing mechanism can restart.
Terry Charman, senior historian at the Imperial War Museum,
in London, said: "It was often sheer carelessness in
their manufacture that meant they didn't explode. In some
cases, there was perhaps sabotage as well.
"There is still great interest when these things turn
up, because for so many people it is still a living memory.
Bombings were far more widespread than just in London."
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