France evacuates 6,000 after finding a 1,000lb bomb...
France evacuates 6,000 Parisians after unexploded World War Two bomb discovered
Six thousand people were evacuated from their homes in the outskirts of Paris on Sunday because of an unexploded RAF bomb dropped during a Second World War raid.
Military experts worked from around 8am to noon to diffuse the bomb Photo: AFP/GETTY
By Peter Allen, Paris6:27PM GMT 06 Feb 2011
The 1000lbs device – half of which was made of high explosive – was found on land in Franceowned by carmaker Renault in Boulogne-Billancourt.
It was originally dropped 69 years ago in a hugely successful mission involving a then record 223 aircraft who did everything possible to avoid killing civilians.
Military experts worked from around 8am to noon to diffuse it, with the all clear being given early in the afternoon.
Men, women and children were led from their homes in the morning by some 400 policemen.
Many of the evacuees carried food and family pets with them, while some even had suitcases.
Some spent the time in local sports halls and other council buildings, while others were given free passes to go to the cinema.
"People were asked to leave their homes at dawn this morning because the bomb was considered live and dangerous," said a local police spokesman.
"It was found by builders on land which was heavily bombed during the Second World War. Homes which fall within a four hundred meter radius of the bomb have been evacuated."
Gilles Renaud, a 38-year-old businessman who lives in the evacuation area, said: "Thousands of people started flocking into the streets as soon as the sun came up today.
"It's a very strange situation – to be forced out of your home by a bomb which was dropped well before most of us were born."
On March 3 1942, Bomber Command ordered a mission to destroy the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt which was making an estimated 18,000 lorries a year for Nazi forces, who had then been occupying France for two years.
The bombers were sent in three waves, with pilots ordered to bomb the factory as low possible so that the civilian population living nearby were not hit. Flares were also used to light up the target.
Incredibly, there were no flak defences, meaning the planes could drop their explosives almost uninterrupted for a full hour and 50 minutes.
Few German fighters were scrambled against the British either, and there were no collisions, which meant that the RAF only lost a single Wellington Bomber. The tonnage of bombs dropped – some 470 tonnes – was then a record too.
The attack was considered a huge success, and widely publicised at a time when the war was turning in the Allies favour.
Despite this, however, there were in fact thousands of civilian casualties, especially in apartment blocks close to the factory.
While industrial areas on the outskirts of Paris were heavily bombed during the war, the historic centre of the city remained largely unscathed.
A spokesman for the mayor's office in Boulogne said: "The bomb was originally found by builders carrying out work in late January, but experts have only been able to start diffusing it today. The area is now completely safe."