Unexploded Bombs cause widespread disruption

"Keep Clear Unexploded Bomb"

A familiar sight during the war, unexploded bombs caused massive disruption, often taking days to dig out.

It was a constant running battle to deal with the huge numbers of unexploded bombs. The Home Security Situation report for this week records that:

The total of unexploded bombs in the country remains at about 3,000. Of these, about 850 are in the London region, 1,000 in Sussex and Kent and 900 in East Anglia. During the week 1,392 unexploded bombs have been reported.

In Coventry on the night of the 22nd/23rd October of 60 H.E. dropped 30 failed to explode.

Doris Anderson was living in Southall, west London during the Blitz. She recalls how by October 1940 her family no longer waited to hear the siren but every evening went straight to the Andersen Shelter that they had built in their garden and slept there. Until an unexploded bomb killed their neighbour:

October 21st: We awakened about 4 a.m. hearing a terrible bang. The whole shelter shuddered. We realised that a bomb had been dropped close by. We couldn’t see anything because it was too dark, so went back to sleep. Shortly afterwards, there was a banging on the shelter door and an air raid warden flashed his torch inside. He told us a large bomb had landed on a house opposite ours, bringing the house down and killing the old gentleman who lived there alone. It had not exploded and the whole area had to be evacuated. We were given 5 minutes to collect a case full of things and leave. The assembly point was the Mission Hall opposite the laundry where I worked.

My brother and sister were so frightened. My father was making arrangements to get my grandfather moved;he was bedridden and slept in a downstairs room reinforced with iron girders. He was whisked away by ambulance and never returned home again. We were a sorry lot trailing down the road with our neighbours, some with coats over nightclothes, carrying young children, some with dogs and cats and birdcages. Old and young, we were a dejected lot until someone started to sing: “There’s a long, long trail a-winding”.


On arrival at the Church Hall, we had to sign in, giving name, address and number in family. We each got 2 blankets and a palliasse, found a space in the hall and made up our beds. We were all there for 4 days. The WVS were wonderful and provided us with breakfast of porridge, toast and marmalade at another church for anyone who wanted to go. We couldn’t cook anything as the gas ring only had 2 burners, but we made endless tea and lived off fish and chips. We didn’t get much sleep as people were coming and going day and night, working different shifts. We were also very conscious that we were in a wooden building with a tin roof-not much protection.

We weren’t allowed back into the house for anything but my father managed to sneak over the back fence, feed the chickens and bring us clean clothing. Eventually we were told that it was safe to return: the bomb was not set on a time fuse, so would not now explode. It was left till after the war when a huge crane lifted it out. Had it gone off, we were told, the whole street would have gone up as well.

Doris Anderson’s full account can be read at BBC People’s War

Doreen, Susie and Hugh Buckner play a game of 'Wardens' at their London home. Doreen, Susie and their dolls sit under an up-turned armchair covered in blankets, as 'Warden' Hugh checks to see that they are safely inside their make-believe air raid shelter.

Doreen, Susie and Hugh Buckner play a game of ‘Wardens’ at their London home. Doreen, Susie and their dolls sit under an up-turned armchair covered in blankets, as ‘Warden’ Hugh checks to see that they are safely inside their make-believe air raid shelter.

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