Axis Bomb Shuts Down London Airport


More than 70 years after the Blitz, a WWII-era bomb prompted authorities to cancel flights at London City Airport. (BBC)

Learn more about the Blitz here with our short reference resource.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit, including a link to today’s simple MapMaker Interactive map.

London’s Royal Docks were frequent targets of the Nazi blitzkrieg campaign of 1940 and 1941. This classic photo, of a Luftwaffe Heinkel He 111 bomber, was taken by another German bomber just west of the Royal Docks where unexploded ordnance was recently discovered.
Photograph courtesy the Imperial War Museums. Public domain
Today, the Royal Docks are home to London City Airport (check out the runway here), a campus of the University of East London, and mixed-use properties.
Photograph by Thomas Nugent, courtesy geograph. CC-BY-SA-2.0

Discussion Ideas



  • How was the bomb discovered?
    • The London City Airport is undergoing a huge expansion project that includes developing property near the George V Dock. This development project requires dredging the muddy Thames riverbed, where the bomb was buried beneath about 15 meters (50 feet) of water and 9 meters (30 feet) of silt.


  • Why did it take so long to remove the bomb?
    • Geography! The timing of the removal was dependent on the tides—the Thames is a tidal river and currents impact the difficulty Royal Navy personnel face in extracting the bomb. The key time turned out to be the evening—Royal Navy divers worked through the night to move the 1.5-meter (5 foot) German bomb down the Thames.



  • What is happening to passengers scheduled for flights to and from London City Airport? Take a look at the second bookmark on today’s MapMaker Interactive map for some help.
    • A “rest centre” operated by local government provided food and shelter for families who have been temporarily displaced.
    • Some flights were postponed until the airport opened again on Tuesday.
    • Some flights were re-routed to nearby airports such as Southend and Stansted. Both airports are about 44 kilometers (30 miles) away.


This terrific painting shows an illustrated view of London docks during the Blitz.
Painting by William H. Bond, National Geographic



BBC: London City Airport shut as WW2 bomb found near Thames

BBC: London City Airport reopens after WW2 bomb moved

Washington Post: London City Airport cancels all flights after discovery of huge WWII bomb

Nat Geo: London City Airport map

Nat Geo: London Blitz article

London’s Royal Docks: History

BBC: These Nazi bombs are more dangerous now than ever before

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