World War Two Bomb Causes Massive Evacuation In French Town

An interesting piece from the London Daily Mail. I have often written about unexploded World War Two bombs in Europe. There are several hundreds of thousands of what used to be known as “UXBs”


More than 3,000 evacuate French city after massive British WWII bomb found near town hall





A 250kg bomb, containing approximately 70 kilos of high explosives, was discovered around Rennes’s town hall area during the works on the new metro line. Photo courtesy of


Workers spent two hours defusing the aged weapon, which is believed to have been dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force between 1943 and 1944 as the Allies fought Nazi Germany.

The discovery of a gigantic World War II bomb forced thousands of residents to flee their homes in the French city of Rennes on Sunday.

More than 3,000 people were evacuated after the potentially devastating 550-pound device was found near the city’s town hall, reports France 24.

Workers building a new metro line were stunned to unearth the aged weapon – which was packed with 155-pounds of high-grade explosives.

All homes and businesses within 300 yards of the scene were cleared, including a fire station and a home for the elderly.

Bomb disposal experts then moved in to disarm the shell, in what was described as a “very delicate operation.”

Hunting the Hun

While not used very much today since it is an insult, ‘Hun’ as a derogatory reference to Germans, was in common usage in the Allied armies. The term refers to barbarian tribes of German ancestry who constantly attacked the frontiers of the Roman Empire.

16 April 1945. Infantrymen of the 255th Infantry Regiment move down a street in Waldenburg to hunt out the Hun after a recent raid by 63rd Division.

Obviously the caption dates from the time and presumably was written by the photographer, 2d Lt. Jacob Harris, Army of the United States or AUS.

Only regular army officers who were graduates of the USMA at West Point were commissioned into the regular army. Hence, the wording, US Army at the end of their names designated their special status. Other men without military experience who were called to the colors and given 90 days of training as officers (hence the expression of the era, ‘ninety day wonders’) were commissioned into the Army of the United States and not the US Army. It was a critical distinction at the time.

In memoirs by front-line US soldiers who fought in the last months and weeks of the war such as the men above, there was an intense sense of rage that the Germans would not stop fighting. Clearly they were beaten. RAF Bomber Command, US 8th Air Force, and US 11th Air Force had flattened Germany. Large numbers of German troops had already surrendered yet others fought on.

No one wants to be the last soldier to die in a war and certainly none of the men above did although it is probable that one or more were killed in the last few weeks.

After the formal surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945, a German officer was asked by an American interrogator why they had kept on fighting when the war was clearly lost. “Because no one told us to stop,” the officer replied.

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

Margaret Bourke-White’s Photos of US Bombers

This collection of images come from a Life Magazine retrospective about Margaret Bourke-White’s photography and includes the following note:

“To photograph Bomber Command, Life sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate… Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the US just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties. Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on. Another time a Fortress came back to England with one motor shot away, one disabled, a third missing badly, and with 12 cannon holes and 2,000 machine-gun holes in the fuselage. Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70 percent hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. “Fantastic accuracy,” said the British.

Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until he skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.”

Bourke-White, one of Life magazine’s original four staff photographers, was America’s first accredited woman photographer during WWII, and the first authorized to fly on a combat mission. For decades she covered conflicts, civil wars, humanitarian crises, and natural disasters. She documented segregation in the American South, was the last person to interview Gandhi before he was assassinated, was one of the first photographers to document the liberation of Nazi death camps and survived a torpedo attack while traveling by ship to North Africa in 1943 and was briefly married to the American writer Erskine Caldwell (God’s Little Acre, Tobacco Road). Widely recognized as one of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th century, she died in 1971. She was 67 years old.

I encourage you to explore more of her work.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the US Bomber Command in England, 1942.

World War II in Color: American Bombers and Their Crews, 1942

Working on a bomber’s ball-turret during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber crew member with stuffed good-luck charm during World War II, England, 1942.

Working on an American bomber, England, 1942.

American bomber crew member during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

Loading bombs on an American bomber during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber during World War II, England, 1942.

[Source and Images: Life Magazine.]

HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 14

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16Part 17Part 18Part 19Part 20Part 21Part 22Part 23Part 24Part 25Part 26Part 27Part 28Part 29

The battleship Gneisenau in dry dock at Brest. On 6 April 1941, a Coastal Command Beaufort plane (Lieutenant Kenneth Campbell) of the 22º Squadron scored a torpedo hit on Gneisenau‘s stern. The British aircraft was shot down by the anti-aircraft batteries, but the ship was damaged and had to enter dry dock for repairs. Just a few days later, during the night of 10/11 April, the Gneisenau was hit again. This time by four bombs dropped by the RAF, and this forced to lengthen the repair work for months during 1941.

Ships in dry-dock were quite vulnerable to enemy air attack since, of course, they could not move. In the case of the Gneisenau, the short distance from British airfields to the Channel port of Brest, meant constant attacks on the ship by Royal Air Bomber Command and Royal Air Force Coastal Command (under the tactical control of the Royal Navy). These attacks were so frequent that the Kriegsmarine circled the ship along with their other warships in Brest with a forest of anti-aircraft batteries.

An incredibly brave attack by Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell of RAF Coastal Command damaged the Gneisenau and forced her into dry-dock.

Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber of the type flown by Flying Officer Campbell, VC of RAF Coastal Command.

There were four British air crew aboard the RAF Coastal Command torpedo-bomber which came in very low and dropped the torpedo which did significant damage to the stern of the Gneisenau. After dropping the torpedo, the plane was shot down and crashed in the water. All four of the air crew men were killed. Because of the extensive damage done by the torpedo strike, the Gneisenau was forced to enter the dry-dock shown in the photograph above for extensive repairs. Once in dry-dock, she was completely immobile. Several days later she was hit by four bombs by RAF Bomber Command.

To their credit, the Germans recovered the four bodies from the water and brought them aboard the Gneisenau. From Fiasco: The Break-out of the German Battleships by John Deane Potter:

Their bodies were draped in flags and placed on the quarterdeck, where a guard of honor was mounted as a mark of respect.

This was also confirmed to me by a source in the Deutsche Marine.

Lest We Forget
In memorium to the four RAF air crewmen who were killed in action:
Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell, VC (Victoria Cross)
Sergeant J P Scott RCAF
Sergeant W C Mulliss RAF
Sergeant R W Hillman RAF

[Source: Fiasco: The Break-out of the German Battleships by John Deane Potter. Images courtesy of The Battleship Bismarck and World War II Today.]