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New map reveals locations of unexploded World War Two bombs

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New map reveals locations of unexploded World War Two bombs

Article

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 first time.

The ruins of Coventry Cathedral, Warwickshire, in 1940 Photo: PA

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 effects.

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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