August 5, 2021

London City Airport video lifts lid on extensive unexploded ordnance (UXO) survey and new historic dock finds including WWII shell casings

London City Airport has released a new video which goes behind-the-scenes of the major unexploded ordnance (UXO) survey ongoing in King George V Dock since November 2017 – the largest inshore diving project in the country.

A new discovery of WWII shell casings is revealed for the first time in the video. They include a 40mm shell casing dated 1943 and a 3.7 inch shell casing from 1940. They would have been fired at the German Luftwaffe from the ground.

An expert team of divers and surveyors have been checking over 400 sites on the dock bed, deemed to show ‘ferrous anomalies’ during initial magnetometer surveys. The vast majority of these sites have been benign, but in February 2018 a 500kg German bomb was found just to the south of the terminal’s east pier, leading to the closure of the airport and the implementation of a 214m cordon while the Royal Navy removed the ordnance for detonation off Shoeburyness. As it stands, 38 final sites require investigation, with a view to survey completion in early November.

The video can be viewed here:

Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport, said: “This has been a mammoth survey – the largest inshore diving project in the country, on the doorstep of London’s most central airport – requiring world-class skill and patience.

“We are now entering its final stages and this video helps convey the huge complexities involved and the hidden history uncovered in the docks. The survey’s success is intrinsic to the development construction phase, which is underway, meaning we can get on with building an even better airport for Londoners and visitors to our great city.”

The video includes interviews with Alex Werner, Curator at the Museum of London Docklands, who explains the history of the site; and Mike Clapham, Senior Field Engineer from Delivery Partner, Bechtel, with details on the survey’s complexities, and fascinating insight on finds from the dock bed, including a Ford Mk I Escort, kilometres of steel wire rope, and a motorbike.

Andy Peel, Dive Supervisor from Reach Engineering and Dive Services (REDS), also features in the film alongside Tom Fountain, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Diver from Dynasafe Bactec, who was the first to formally identify the February UXO.

Diver Tom Fountain’s candid account of the survey gives a sense of the challenges posed. He said: “Honestly? The environment in King George V Dock is pretty grim, I’m not going to lie. It’s not like diving in the Caribbean. It’s pretty dark and muddy. I’ve been here since November and some of the dives we did were two, two and half, hours. It was cold. Minus 4. Cold. Damp.”

The survey is essential to ensure the safe installation of 1,100 piles (steel and concrete columns) in the dock bed, which will support a concrete deck the size of 11 football pitches, as part of the £480m City Airport Development Programme. On this new deck, above the dock water, will stand new terminal facilities, eight aircraft stands and a parallel taxiway.