Bomb Disposal saved St. Paul’s Cathedral from certain destruction, and won ‘George Cross’

St Paul’s cathedral was hailed as a symbol of resilience and bravery during WWII. In WWII German bombers bombed the City of London for almost 37 weeks. This period of death and destruction was known as ‘The Blitz’.

In September 1940, in the early days of ‘The Blitz’ a massive bomb weighing almost two tons landed near famous St. Paul’s cathedral. Fortunately, it did not explode on impact, but was feared to explode at any time – a phenomenon called delayed-time fuse. Just meters away from the bomb there was a gas pipeline, and an explosion could have destroyed a big part of the cathedral.

A bomb disposal squad led by Lt. Robert Davies was given the task to secure the cathedral and safely transport the bomb to another location. The task demanded extraordinary skills, attention, and above all bravery.

These were the early days of the Blitz, and bombs were landing regularly, killing people and wrecking the city’s infrastructure. To put it mildly, the bomb disposal squad had a two-ton bomb under them while German bombers were hovering above them – not a great combination for a bomb disposal job.

Despite the odds, a crew set out to extract the lethal bomb from under the soil. Just the extraction process took them more than 3 days. It is important to mention the fact that the leader of the squad had volunteered for the task, fully aware of the dangers. While on site, they knew the bomb could explode any moment killing all of them and destroying the cathedral.

After the bomb was extracted, Lt. Davies decided to deliver it to a secure location himself. He did not want to take anyone with him, in case it exploded and  killed them both. The bomb was put securely at the back of a truck and Davies drove it through the bombed and wrecked streets of London to Hackney Marshes, where it was destroyed. The Explosion resulted in a 30-meter crater, which gave a clear indication of how bad the damage and destruction might have been, had the bomb exploded near St. Paul’s.

Lt. Davies and other members of his team received honor and praise from all over the country. Davies received the George Cross for his bravery and commitment to his country, the Londonist reports.

Recently, a very similar incident occurred when a neighborhood not very far from central London, called Bermondsey had a close shave with destruction. A WWII bomb was discovered under a construction site. It was then removed and destroyed outside London.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE