How discovery of 'mammoth' bomb led to cancellation of Sheffield United match and mass evacuation of homes

As if our fine city hadn't suffered enough already at the hands of the Luftwaffe during the Sheffield Blitz...

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 12:50 pm

Forty-four years after the German air force targeted Sheffield a dangerous discovery heaped more misery on our citizens.

On Friday, February 8, 1985, an unexploded wartime bomb - described at the time as 'mammoth' - was found in the Highfield area.

And mammoth it certainly was - a 2,200lb 'Herman'.

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Unexploded bombs - Lancing Road, Sheffield - February 1985

It spared a mass evacuation of the surrounding homes and even the cancellation of the Blades clash against Oldham at Bramall Lane the next day.

Police had warned: "If it exploded damage could be catastrophic."

More than 300 people had to leave their homes - 44 years after the bomb was dropped on Lancing Road.

Around 330 spent the night in community centres or with relatives - but not one determined soul.

Unexploded bombs - Lancing Road, Sheffield - February 1985

Leung Ho, watching the drama unfold from his living room window, refused to flee his home just 50 yards from the bomb site declaring: "This is my home and I am not moving."

For others it was World War Two all over again and the air was thick with reminiscences in community centre on Duchess Road - which former Owls keeper turned copper Peter Springett had managed to get open.

Some remembered when the bomb was dropped.

Arnold Cosgrove, who had to leave his home with wife Nellie, said: "I remember them well. We were evacuated then so this is the second time.I slept in this building in the Second World War when we were evacuated."

Anne Swirles said: "This has brought the memories flooding back. We got through it but there were times when we thought we were goners."

And Mary Wright added: "I remember the Blitz as if it were yesterday. December 12 was a cold moonlight night and I was at the Hippodrome Picture Palace on Cambridge Street when the sirens sounded. I ran all the way home and I remember a warden shouting 'Get home'. I went straight down into the cellar."

The bomb was eventually defused and made safe at 4.33pm on Sunday, February 10.

It had been no easy task.

The team, led by Falklands veteran Major Alastair Craib, had worked in pairs in a narrow deep trench alongside the bomb. They had to delicately drill a hole in the bose cone, insert a pipe and then steam out the explosive.

Cool-as-a-cucumber Capt Paddy Bowen, a mere 26 years old, said afterwards: "There's no such thing as an easy bomb and this one has posed jits own share of problems."

And what happened to the bomb? it became the subject of a tug-of-war fight.

Lod Mayor Coun Ro Munn asked if Sheffield could have it as a museum exhibit. But the bomb was already on its wa to the Royal Engineers UXB base in Kent for examination and training purposes.

And good riddance many residents probably said!