EMERGENCY workers from Teignbridge were drafted in to help deal with last week’s unexploded wartime bomb drama in Plymouth.

Firefighters from Buckfastleigh, a coastguard team from Dawlish and Ashburton’s Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team responded to the incident in the Keyham area of the city last Tuesday after the discovery of 500kg German bomb led to the evacuation of up to 10,000 people from their homes over four days.

Buckfastleigh’s firefighters, along with their colleagues from Totnes, were called out on Tuesday to crew the incident command vehicle.    

Over the four days it took to remove the Second World War bomb and detonate it at sea, the fire crews were in attendance at the scene for 60 hours while alternating the running of the fire service incident command vehicle firstly at the original 200m cordon and then at the forward control point at Camel Head fire station.

Firefighters working at the scene
Firefighters working at the scene (Buckfastleigh Fire Station)

A Buckfastleigh fire station spokesman said: ‘Our role was to control resources and record all decisions and messages being sent from the incident ground.

‘We returned back to our home station of Friday were then mobilised back to the incident ground to stand by for precautionary actions whilst the military transported the bomb by road to the dock to take the device out to sea for a controlled detonation.

‘The last few days have been very interesting and provided scenes that won’t be forgotten for a very long time, watching the military both army and navy work has been amazing and their level of expertise is both amazing and something we should be proud of as a country.

‘But the most impressive and humbling memory we will all take away is the way ten and a half thousand people were evacuated, the speed of the operation and the attitude of the residents was simply breath taking and restores your faith in community spirit.

‘Thank you to all the volunteers and services that have been involved over the last four days and well done to all.’

Ashburton Rescue Group described the incident as ‘not one of our normal callouts’. 

The volunteers worked with other agencies in helping to evacuate 10,000 people from the Keyham area as preparations were made to remove the bomb from the garden where it was found. 

The rescue volunteers met for initial briefings before supporting the cordon evacuation as colleagues from Dartmoor Search and Rescue also supported police. 

In total more than 70 team members were involved.

Dartmoor SAR volunteers doing door-to-door checks inside the cordon
Dartmoor SAR volunteers doing door-to-door checks inside the cordon (Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton )

By the end of Thursday, bomb disposal experts had concluded the best course of action would be to remove the device from the ground, move it to a slipway and then onto a boat for controlled detonation at sea. 

The land transfer required the cordon to be moved 100m further out. 

Search and rescue group members, with other voluntary and full-time emergency services were asked assist with further evacuations on Friday. 

On Friday, teams met at Home Park football ground to help with the final phases of evacuation in preparation for the transport of the unexploded bomb to the Torpoint ferry slip way at Devonport. 

A spokesperson from Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton said  ‘All in all an extraordinary incident to be involved in; a massive multiagency event with a great outcome.’

More than 60 coastguard volunteers, including a team from Dawlish, were also involved working over two days to ensure the safety of the public, knocking on doors, assisting with police cordons and keeping areas within the danger zones clear.

A spokesman for HM Coastguard said: Those involved were a credit to the teams and themselves and the we would like to extend our gratitude for there selflessness, professionalism and stamina over the two days.’