Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK


Britain 'sitting on a time-bomb'

Diggers and pile-drivers could set off fuse of one of the ageing bombs

Many wartime bombs are more dangerous now than ever, say ordnance experts.

The BBC's Ian Cundell reports on the Luftwaffe's legacy in Britain
The Luftwaffe dropped thousands of bombs between 1940 and 1945 on key cities such as London, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Coventry and Cardiff.

At least 600 have been deliberately abandoned by the Home Office, some of which are close to new housing or industrial estates.

[ image: British bomb fuses differ slightly from German ones]
British bomb fuses differ slightly from German ones
Ordnance experts say chemical changes in the last 60 years will have made the bombs more volatile than when they were dropped.

The oxidation of picric acid, which was used in the German fuses, has made them vulnerable to vibrations.

The construction union Ucatt is worried about the dangers to its members from bombs under potential building sites.

[ image: Capt Quinn:
Capt Quinn: "We have to be very wary"
Captain Damian Quinn, a bomb disposal expert with the Royal Engineers, says: "We have to be very, very wary to the extent that a slight jolt or jarring could result in enough friction or enough shock to set the fuses off."

Thousands of British and American bombs were dropped on Germany during the war.

Three people were killed and 20 injured when a 55-year-old device exploded in Berlin earlier this year.

Two wartime devices explode in Hamburg every year and the law insists developers screen building sites for bombs before starting any ground work.

[ image: Experts try to defuse a bomb in Hamburg]
Experts try to defuse a bomb in Hamburg
Peter Voss, of the Hamburg Fire Brigade, says Britain could be sitting on a time-bomb. He says: "There are lots of bombs in Britain and it is preferable to start looking for them now."

One of the bombs is believed to be buried close to a housing estate in Hull, which was targeted because of its port facilities.

Alan Johnson, Labour MP for Hull West and Hessle, says: "No MP wants a bomb under their constituency and I'm particularly concerned for the safety of my constituents.

"I think this does require some investigation and reappraisal by the Home Office."

[ image: Alan Johnson MP: Constiituency sitting on a bomb]
Alan Johnson MP: Constiituency sitting on a bomb
After years of secrecy the Home Office has now agreed to release details of the abandoned bombs.

A Home Office spokesman warned that the document in question was only an "inaccurate register of bombs dropped during the war".

He said the Home Office was currently working on how to put the information in the public domain and he said it may use the Internet to disseminate it.

The Luftwaffe's hidden legacy in Britain is the subject of a special programme on Thursday at 1930 BST.

The Lost Enemy, part of BBC Two's Close Up North series, can be seen by viewers in Yorkshire, Humberside and Lincolnshire.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Relevant Stories

04 Aug 98 | UK
Army set off WWII bomb

Internet Links

London's unexploded bombs (Evening Standard)

Article on air raids on Merseyside

Plymouth's underground shelters

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online