- There are potentially thousands of unexploded World War Two bombs around Wales.
- With the coastal towns of Cardiff and Swansea key German targets, many are thought to be in these areas.
- Emergency services are still dealing with up to 20 callouts a year.
Mr. Day said this was consistent with a “farcical approach” at the start of the conflict, with kit typically consisting of a hammer and chisel, ball of string, and maybe a stethoscope if they were lucky.
Mr. Day recalls being part of the Home Guard, his role was to direct cars away from the area while bomb disposal experts tried to defuse a massive unexploded device dropped during the Three Night Blitz on the town. At about 17:00 he recalled a “whoosh of air” which blew him flat on his face and destroyed the street’s shopfronts. In 1941, Wales became a major battleground, not only because of the industrial targets along the Bristol Channel, but because of the undefended route it offered to the north-west of England.
“Cardiff, and particularly Swansea were key targets in their own right, especially given the oil refinery at Llandarcy, but the gaps in Welsh air defenses made us a back door to attack the far more important prizes of Liverpool on the North Atlantic shipping route,” Mr Day said. Because of this, more than 80 years later, the sight of Ministry of Defence (MoD) vehicles rushing to emergencies is still a common sight on Welsh roads. Given that there were 743 air raids over Wales, each containing between five and 30,000 devices, many thousands are potentially still lying undetonated, Mr Day believes.
MoD worker Mr. Day said responsibility was soon switched to the armed forces, with each of The Army, RAF and Royal Navy taking charge of drops in their own areas of command. But a lot of time and effort was spent for nothing, with Mr Day adding: “The Germans had actually registered the copyright for the Type 15 fuse with the Patent Office in Newport in 1932…” Having carried out a bombing raid on Liverpool, German bombers would rush back over mid Wales pursued by night fighters and would just drop whatever bombs they were still carrying, in order to gain height and speed. They then used the Type 17, which contained a mechanical clock, set to go off anything from a minute to several days after landing.
Germany again responded with anti-tamper fuses, which would immediately explode when anyone tried to remove them, he said. One of these one tonne (1,000kg) bombs killed seven men in the single biggest loss of life for bomb disposal during the entire war. Mr. Day explained: “They were using a process called ‘trepanning’, whereby you bore into the side of the bomb with a steam drill and then force steam into the bomb casing to allow the liquid TNT to flow out…”
Mr Day said many of the same methods and techniques of bomb disposal from World War Two are still used to this day, although robots carry out a lot of the most dangerous roles.
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