Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bombs From an Earlier Generation

An unexploded bomb dropped by the Allied air force during World War Two has this week been defused in the German city of Koblenz. In 1997, the President of Germany was forced out of his residence due to the discovery of unexploded ordinance under the presidential palace. Soon after that, thousands of residents of Hanover were evacuated while another bomb was defused.

Given that 2,000 tonnes of bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, there is nothing unusual in this. Some of these air raids consisted of up to 3,000 bombers -- American by day, British and Canadian by night.

Sixty-five years after the last bomb was dropped during the Second World War, danger still lurks. There are areas of France which have yet to be cleared of First World War ordinance.

It's poignant to reflect that some of those bombs were manufactured in Toronto, dropped from aircraft made in Toronto, and flown by young men from Toronto.

Unexploded German bombs continue to be uncovered in England. The Imperial War Museum estimates that of the 19,000 tonnes of bombs dropped on London during the Blitz of 1940-41, 10 per cent did not explode, much of it remains buried somewhere in the city.

People, not then born, live today with a legacy of possible sudden death bequeathed to them by people likely no longer alive.

A legacy of the First World War continues to take lives one century later. During one of the epic battles at Ypres in Belgium, the British alone fired more than four million shells into the German lines. An estimated 30 per cent of those shells were duds or slipped deep into the ground unexploded, causing two or three deaths of local villagers a year. Farmers refuse to plough their fields, for fear a blade must strike a shell. Curiously, this ordinance rises ever so slightly as time goes by..

We have cause to worry at home as well. In April 2014, a 105-millimetre live shell was found on the land of the Enoch Cree First Nation west of Edmonton, Alberta. From 1942 to 1944, part of this land was used by the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to teach Allied crews navigation and bombing techniques.

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