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Residents voice relief on return home after Second World War bomb removed

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the 500kg bomb found in Plymouth has been detonated at sea.

Plymouth incident

A resident of the street where a 500kg Second World War bomb was found has said “it’s good to be back home and good to see that all the houses are standing”.

Thousands of people who were evacuated from their homes in Plymouth have returned after days of disruption caused by Tuesday’s discovery of the device in a back garden in the Keyham area.

More than 10,000 people had to move out, and on Friday a military convoy carried the unexploded bomb on the back of a truck from the garden through a densely populated residential area to Torpoint Ferry slipway, where it was taken out to sea.

Plymouth incident
The Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Team leave the slipway to Torpoint Ferry (LPhot Barry Swainsbury/MOD)

Around 10,320 people were affected by the 300m cordon placed along the route.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), which said it was “one of the largest UK peacetime evacuation operations since WW2”, confirmed the bomb had been “detonated successfully at 9.51pm” on Friday.

When retired factory and shop worker Diane James, 76, came back to her home on Saturday morning, neighbours were already “trying to look after each other” and were clearing the roads so people could get access to the street.

She said the two-bedroom terraced home where the bomb was found had been lived in by her friend, an elderly lady, for 50 years before she died and new residents moved in. It was as they were doing the groundwork for a kitchen extension that the bomb was found, according to Mrs James.

She said: “Somebody only just moved in and they were doing it up. They were doing a kitchen extension and were digging up and that is when they found the bomb.

“It’s good to be back home and good to see that all the houses are standing. It was very scary – just the thought of a bomb going off.

“I think of all the hundreds of times I have visited that house and that the lady who lived there was living there for 50 years and she did not know it (the bomb) was there – that is the scary part.”

The MoD said the munition, identified as an air-dropped German bomb from the Second World War – designated SC-500 – was assessed as posing a significant risk to public safety, with people living within the cordon evacuated.

More than 100 personnel from the British Army and Royal Navy, including bomb disposal experts, were involved in the complex operation, along with Plymouth City Council officials, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Devon and Cornwall Police and members of the armed forces, to ensure the device was removed and people were safe.

Of the scene which has been left after the removal, Mrs James added: “It looks horrendous with all the work they had to do to get rid of the bomb. “They knocked down a wall and the garden is pulled apart.

“It just looks strange with all the mess in the front street waiting to be cleared. It is a small street and a quiet street.”

Residents had been told to try to make arrangements to stay with friends and family, and a rest centre, at the Life Centre, was set up as a place for people to stay.

Jemima Laing, the deputy leader of Plymouth City Council, said there had been an “extraordinary response” from the town hall, the police, the military, other organisations and volunteers to the major incident in Keyham and Ford.

On X, former known as Twitter, she said: “The forbearance of our residents has been quite something and the compassionate, empathetic response of our council teams has been incredible.”

Officials had to answer queries, address worries and issue regular scheduled updates.

She added: “This post is not so much about patting ourselves on the back, it’s about acknowledging the incredible agility of local government and how our wonderful officers respond in times of crisis.

“Enormous thanks to all of them. I could not be prouder to be the deputy leader of this council and to live in this fantastic city.”

Luke Pollard,  who is the Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport and the shadow armed forces minister, tweeted: “Thank you, Plymouth.

“This has been an extraordinary team effort. I want to pay tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to keep us safe – bomb disposal and additional military personnel, the council, volunteers, the police, the Life Centre and many more.”

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