Eden firm’s explosive findthat closed city airport

Date: Friday 16th February 2018
The bomb is detonated harmlessly out at sea
The bomb is detonated harmlessly out at sea

A MASSIVE Second World War bomb which sparked a major alert and closed a London airport for two days was initially unearthed by an Eden firm.

The long reach excavator, operated by Darren McGuffog and Shaun Glendinning, which disturbed the bomb.
The long reach excavator, operated by Darren McGuffog and Shaun Glendinning, which disturbed the bomb.

Staff from Cliburn-based Waitings Drainage Ltd were carrying out underwater excavation work ahead of a planned expansion of London City airport when the project unexpectedly ground to a halt on Sunday.

They were using a specialised 35-tonne long reach excavator to remove part of the bed of the River Thames when they came within eight inches of the 500kg unexploded device.

It was later removed by a naval bomb disposal team and was detonated in a controlled explosion off Shoeburyness, Essex, on Wednesday after the operation had to be postponed because high winds and a sea swell created dangerous conditions for divers the previous day.

Robert Waiting, a director with the Eden firm, said his staff had been working with an underwater team from Reach Engineering Diving Services.

He said the machine they were using to carry out the work had a reach of 18.5 metres. It was working at a depth of 11 metres, and its movements could be controlled very precisely, within millimetres, by the operator working on a pontoon floating on the surface.

At the time of the dramatic discovery the results of a magnetic survey, which highlighted metal objects under the water, were being investigated. Mr Waiting said discoveries like this were not unknown. He added: “It’s a large bomb, 500kg. It’s great to be involved with this kind of project.”

He said a similar device was found when he was working on a dredging project off Hull and on another occasion, when he was with the Dutch-owned firm Valker Stevin, a similar-sized bomb was discovered also in the London area.

He added: “It’s not that often, but often enough for you to carry out the surveys. If you find anything that size you ring the Navy.”

The airport was reopened on Tuesday after divers were able to safely remove the 1.5m-long German bomb from where it was found in a bed of silt in the King George V Dock.

All flights were cancelled on Monday and residents were evacuated to temporary accommodation during the emergency.

From September, 1940, until May, 1941, around 24,000 tonnes of German explosives were dropped over the London area. According to historians, about 10 per cent of those bombs failed to detonate.

During 2017 more than 4.5 million passengers used London City airport and the planned £400 million expansion was approved by ministers in July, 2016. The project will include extending the terminal and, according to Mr Waiting, the work will involve driving piles into the riverbed to support a concrete platform.