Tourist hotspots in London were temporarily closed on Sunday, June 25th, because of the presence of a suspected WWI or WWII-era bomb found in the Thames River. Those on the famed London Eye Ferris Wheel were told to evacuate immediately.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman told Metro News, “Police were called at 10:30 on Sunday, 25 of June, by a member of the public reporting a suspected WWI or WWII ordnance in the foreshore on the River Thames, near the London Eye.”
Immediately following, the Westminster Pier was evacuated and cordons were set up all around Waterloo as police boats and a bomb disposal squad headed to the scene. Those living nearby were warned that, if the shell was live, they’d have to be evacuated from their homes.
Fortunately, the shell was not found to be live. The pier was able to reopen and life resumed as usual after an hour. Officials apologized for the inconvenience, but it was a small price to pay for everyone’s safety. The area around the pier features the London Aquarium and other tourist attractions, and so it sees about 4 million visitors every year.
This precaution was plenty necessary, since finding an old WWII-era bomb isn’t quite the same thing as finding an old war relic. If it were live, it could have done a massive amount of damage. Considering the fact that around 30,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Britain during World War Two, it’s no wonder that some are still being found today. Just because they are old, doesn’t mean they don’t pose a threat.
Many WWII bombs found today are discovered by builders, buried underground. The construction industry even has access to a guide for how to handle such finds when digging into the ground. Between 2006 and 2008, an estimated 15,000 items were reported to have been found at UK construction sites. These finds ranged anywhere from unexploded bombs to mortar rounds and grenades.
Matt Brosnan, a historian at the Imperial War Museum, says that although these bombs aren’t likely to explode when found, the threat they pose has more to do with their unpredictability. He says, “They are inherently unstable and still contain explosives, which is why they are treated so seriously and have to be disposed of properly and safely.”
If an old bomb (even that old) explodes, it can destroy buildings to the point where they are no longer habitable, and it could potentially take a lot of lives. “I think the cordons put in place today give you an idea of how wide the damage could be,” said Mr Brosnan. Clearly, this type of find is no light matter.
The level of destruction would depend on the type of bomb, of course, but some could damage areas up to 650 feet away. If you consider the amount of people in the area around the River Thames this past weekend, you can only imagine the chaos that would have ensued.
The object found at the River Thames in this particular instance turned out to be just a WWII-era casing. There were no explosives found and the shell was removed. Hopefully, no one felt too put off by the uproar that was caused, since we all know that adage, “Better safe than sorry.”
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/london-eye-london-ferris-wheel-340342/