Two months on from the discovery of a 250kg German Unexploded Bomb (UXB) in Bath, it is worth asking whether the potential to find a bomb on this school site could have been foreseen and so the disruption as a result of the emergency evacuation avoided. The simple answer is yes.
Bath was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in April 1942 as part of the so-called ‘Baedeker Blitz’. These bombing raids targeted towns not for their strategic importance, but their cultural and historical significance. Approximately 365No. High Explosive (HE) bombs fell on the city over two nights, resulting in more than 400No. fatalities and the destruction of countless buildings. It was a deliberate act well known and documented by UXO specialists and military historians alike.
The accompanying Bath bomb damage map demonstrates this with the school in question at its centre. The shading on the map represents degrees of damage with the red indicating total destruction. It demonstrates that the location where the UXB was found did not escape the bombing, with 2No. buildings completely destroyed. Perhaps not coincidentally, these buildings are very close to the playground under which the UXB was discovered.
Had a thorough and detailed UXO risk assessment been undertaken for the site, to include WWII aerial photographs and other sources of information, it is likely that suitable risk mitigation would have been put in place to prevent the disruption caused by the unexpected find.
A proper understanding of the potential UXO hazard provides an opportunity to increase safety and reduce the impact of any UXO found. Leaving it to chance or relying on more general knowledge of WWII bombing only increases the risks posed to site workers and the public. In this instance such a scenario might have been avoided. Our discussion paper offers further background on industry best practice for assessing UXO hazards.