Postcard from... Cologne


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The Independent Online


They hardly need telling, but every day the combined airforces of Britain and the United States still manage to inform the Germans just who won the Second World War.

The reminders come in the form of tens of thousands of UXOs – the acronym for unexploded ordnance – or bombs that failed to go off. The number found averages around 15 a day. Their discovery usually only makes the pages of local newspapers as they are mostly rendered harmless and taken away after bomb disposal experts remove their fuses.

Sometimes, however, the fuses are so unstable that a controlled on site explosion is needed, as was the case with a 500-kilo RAF bomb found not far from Cologne University this week. Five thousand residents had to be evacuated and all water traffic on the nearby Rhine was stopped to allow for the detonation.

But then a combination of drunks and tourists eager to record the event delayed the process for an hour. Several spectators deliberately hid because they wanted to watch the blast close-up – but police sought them out. To minimise the blast, the bomb was covered with sand and bales of straw and surrounded by earth-filled ship containers. But much to the onlookers’ chagrin it was all a bit of a let down. “It just went ‘puff’”, said one eyewitness.