Just How destructive is a WWII German bomb?

As I write this there is an unexploded WWII german bomb about half a mile away that builders have disturbed.

More info for those who worry that the White City may be about to blow up here:


My question is - Just how destructive could this thing be - given that it is already in a deep hole.

I have no idea what sort of bomb - but I assume its from the Blitz ie 1940 model.

I think they should just hit it with a stick.

So are my office windows about to come in?

Well, 1,950 kilograms of high explosive could really ruin your day.


Couldn’t find a reference in your link to the bomb. It’s likely a much smaller bomb, not one of the big “parachute mines” like the above (which could wreck the best part of a 1940 city block of flats); but even so, the more common 250 to 500 kg bombs are still bloody big–and the fuses are potentially highly unstable, even after 60 years.

Plus, depending on exactly when they were dropped, they could contain one or more anti-tampering devices designed to kill the Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal types trying to render them safe.

Ah…this should give us some idea of one of the big boys going off:


My mother well remembers seeing the devestation of a street in her town in Scotland the day after what came to be called the “mini-Blitz” when a parachute mine took out several dozen houses; about 40 people were killed. The whole area is now a green space park, with a small memorial.

At the moment they aren’t sure that it IS a bomb. They are doing building work and have found a large metal object buried in the ground. Needless to say they have stopped digging.

THis area of london was bombed heavily during the blitz, so they can’t take any chances.

It is however at least five or six yards below ground level.

The bomb disposal people are going to uncover it tomorrow morning. If it is a bomb, then they have to evacuate about 1,000 people and defuse it.

If it isn’t a bomb, they’ll hit it with sticks.

No one seems over bothered about it going off right now.

Has anyone else seen Quatermass?

I was just about to say, it’s probably those bloody grasshoppers from Mars again. Is it in Hobbs Lane? (Loved that film as a kid!)

I used to drop bombs for the USAF. Modern, 1980s bombs. I don’t know much about WWII bombs, but the post-impact part of bombs hasn’t changed much over the years.

The standard US sizes were/are 500 lbs, 1000 lbs and 2000 lbs. For each of them, the explosive weighs about 1/2 that much and the metal casing and fins and fuzes make up the rest. Most of the volume is explosive, but it’s not as dense as the relatively thin metal shell.

Here’s a pretty good thumbnail ref on aerial bombs from their inception to today.

A 500# bomb dropped on a typical suburban house would simply convert it to either kindling or gravel, depending on whether it started out as wood frame or brick construction.

Unike in Hollywood, there’s no major smoke or fireball. The house simply disappears in a puff of browninsh smoke. Sorta like a direct hit from a tornado, but with smaller peices remaining.

The immediately adjacent houses would be severely damaged, maybe 3/4ths collased. The next houses would be partly collapsed. The house right across the street, which has once face broadside to the explosion would also be caved in at least partially. All windows would be broken for a couple of hundred feet in any direction, and most windows out to 500-600 feet.

And that’s about it. For a 2000# bomb, double the radius of destruction for each level of effect.

The bomb will not do much to set the wreackage on fire since the explosion happens too quickly to really heat up much of the solid material. But it will ignite any broken natural gas lines and that will feed a fire that will further trash the wreckage or spread the flames to other nearby, relatively undamaged, buildings.

Tthat fire effect was a large part of the reason WWII city bombing was effective. They used lots and lots of bombs like an aerial shotgun to trash enough buildings close enough together that the ensuing fires coalesce into an inferno. And they’d also salt a few incindiary boms into the mix, which don’t do nearly as much damage as the normal blast/frag bombs, but do ensure the wreckage gets well ignited.

That’s also why all the emphasis on precision bombing & smart bombs these days. If you’re trying to destroy a particular building, missing by 50 feet ends up trashing the building’s exterior rather than obliterating it. Inaccurate bombing means you either have to use lots of bombs to improve the odds, or come back again again tomorrow to finish the job. Oddly enough, they bad guys are expecting you next time and will have a suitable reception prepared.

Finally, making a ballistic (“dumb”) bomb land right where you want to while overflying the target at 600 mph while the bad guys are trying to shoot you down is a difficult feat to get right every time. Far easier to toss the bomb in the right general direction and let a computer fine-tune the point of impact.

So returning to the specific bomb in the news story, the problem isn’t that the thing is going to obliterate the town, but rather that if it does go off, anybody right nearby is gonna get hurt and they won’t be happy about it.

FWIW, I recall several similar instances of finding a WW2 bomb, but not, I think any where the bomb did get to explode. NOt to say it would not have, merely that the bomb disposal bods got to it first.

Me, I would like to take the chance. :slight_smile:

Hey, prhaps, once they have sorted it all out, the poweres that be might allow you and other members of public, to go and hit it with sticks by way of telling it off for gifing you a worry day:)

Hey, they found a bomb shell from WWI here in Dublin the other day. You would have to pay to read the Irish Times story online (although I don’t :stuck_out_tongue: ) so I’ll just quote the relevant part of the text:

or, indeed, “for giving you a worrying day”.

Hehe - there was an instance a couple of years ago in Glasgow when 2 little boys found, not a bomb, but, I think, a grenade. Being interested in their discovery, they hit on bright idea of taking it along to the main city museum to ask the peeps there about it.

Result, of course, museum types suddenly go all pale in the face, saying, “Um, thank you very much, lads. Now - um, you just leave it with us…” Evacuate whole museum & art gallery pronto.

As I recall, the thing did turn out to be live/potentially live.

Given that the “bomb” (which shows up as a BIG BOMB on the ground radar thingy) is underground - ie even after its exposed it will still be down a deep hole, how much damage can it do?

I have asked a passing policeman. Hitting it with sticks is right out apparently.

My Gran’s house was hit by a V2, and the whole area around was completely flattened. I’ve seen pictures, all the houses were razed. It killed my dad’s budgie. He never liked the germans after that. For me it’s more of a footballing dislike.

HA! THere ought to be a film or sitcom title " THe Germans killed my budgie!

I prefer “Hit the Germans with Sticks” We could tell them it’s a comedy - they’d never know any different.

The council are setting up an emergency rest station full of st john’s ambulance types and the WI making strong sweet tea in a schoolhall.

My mate’s brother lives in a street next to the bomb. He’s in for a nervous night.

Thankfully I live in a bomb-free part of London, so I’ll be fine.

THis is the council’s advice on the situation (For Info - Wood Lane is where the BBC is) :…

Surveyors working on the construction site for the new White City shopping centre have discovered a metal object buried several metres below the ground.
On the advice of the police and in view of the history of the area, there is a possibility that this might be an unexploded WWII bomb. Experts will be carrying out further investigation of the object and should be able to identify it by 9.00am Saturday (6 December). If it is a bomb then they will need to make it safe and we will need to evacuate some nearby homes for the duration of this procedure. There is a possibility that if you are evacuated you may be unable to return until Sunday.

The affected streets are: Wood lane (south of MacFarlane road), MacFarlane Road, Bulwer Street, Aldine Street, Aldine Court, Caxton road, Tadmore Street, Sterne Street, Shepherds Bush Place, Vanderbilt Villas and Coal Wharf Road.

The police have advised that it is perfectly safe for local people to stay in their homes until otherwise notified. There is no immediate danger. If you live in the area and there is an evacuation, a police or council officer will call at your door on Saturday morning. Further evacuation information will be delivered to those living the the affected area, and available from local police officers.

If an evacuation is necessary, several local roads will be closed for the weekend and this will affect traffic and public transport. If you are travelling to or through Shepherds Bush this weekend, it would be advisable to alter your travel plans and avoid the area.

If you have any queries, concerns or want an update call our special Hotline number which will be open 6.00am to midnight.

Heaven - so the idea is one does not know till Sat whether one has to evacuate, then might be away overnight. Hmm, nasty things, bombs. I do hope it is all OK.

Killing budiges is bad enough - can’t have them scaring owls as well.

If they’re not careful, they’ll have George Formby and his ukelele showing up next…" 's turned out nice agin!"

My grandfather and grandmother were ARP wardens in Watford during the Blitz (in fact, that’s how my father came to Canada; he and his brother were evacuated to an Uncle who had a farm in Ontario). I still have their “WARDEN POST” sign, whistles, medals and two pieces of a Junkers 88 that was shot down nearby. Amazing times.

Remember the Masterpiece Theatre series Danger UXB?

Maybe they should watch that and then decide if they want to hit it with sticks.

Anyone remember a British show called “Danger UXB”?

About five years ago they found an unexploded WW2 bomb inside a working gas holder in London. It was only discovered when the bomb shifted and the holder would not rise and fall properly. The only way to diffuse it was to go inside the holder and move around on a rubber boat . Of course this was after all the gas was purged out. They then hauled the bomb onto a small raft and screwed out the fuse befored removing the bomb from the holder. It is thought that the hole the bomb made when it entered the holder was just patched up and nobody had imagined that a bomb was inside . This story was the subject of a BBC 999 feature .

Show high explosives a little respect, will ya? From Aftermath: The Remnants of War by Donovan Webster:

From the book (as quoted on some ezboard listing, and yeah, I know) "…since 1946, France’s Departement du Deminage has collected and destroyed more than 18 million artillery shells, 10 million grenades, 600,000 bombs, and 600,000 underwater mines. These numbers are for both wars of course but include only French soil. Belgium’s experience must be similar.

630 French demineurs have died in the line of duty. Thirty-six farmers died in 1991 alone when their machinery hit unexploded ordnance. That same year fifty-one other persons were injured. The French have 123 men in 18 districts devoted to deminage."

Bolding added.

Here’s the outcome: It wasn’t a bomb, it was a twisted stretch of railway track that had presumably been blown into the ground by a bomb.

Now here’s the intersting bit…There are three definate bombs on the site that will need to be defused/hit with sticks. The building that was there previously was built in the early 50s and it was the practice at that time to let sleeping bombs lie, rather than disturb them.

So the WI ladies will get to make their tea.

Wearing a tin hat, listening to Gracie Fields and eating Wooton Pie.

It is worth noting that burying an explosive charge makes it (in many ways) more destructive, not less so. This is due to the “earthquake” effect hitting the base of buildings.

Any damage to the base of course can bring down the whole thing.

You have to wonder what Berlin must be like, it was bombed more heavily than London.