VOLUNTEERS from West Devon have been praised for their role in the bomb alert in Plymouth which prompted one of the largest evacuations since the end of the Second World War.

The WWII 500kg bomb was discovered in the back garden of a house in Keyham on Tuesday (February 20) was safely removed by bomb disposal experts from the British Army and Royal Navy on Friday, February 23, and disposed of at sea beyond Plymouth Sound.

Dartmoor Search and Rescue Teams (DSRT) North and Tavistock joined sister teams in assisting police on the major operation by supporting the voluntary evacuation of about 10,000 residents in the area of the bomb site and later along the route of the lorry removing the bomb to the Torpoint Ferry to be taken to sea.

A spokesman said: “As a mountain rescue team, we are used to serving our community, providing a search and rescue service on Dartmoor and other remote and wilderness areas.

“Over the last few days, we had a new, and very different, challenge. It has been an honour to join many other volunteers as well as colleagues from the emergency services, armed forces and local authority and to be part of the community response to one of biggest challenges faced by the City of Plymouth.

“Our thanks and respect go the professionals who meticulously planned and executed a successful operation, especially those who put their own lives at risk.The city and its people should feel truly proud of how they coped with the events of this week. Our team members are incredibly humbled and proud to have played our part in keeping our community safe.”

Paul Johnson, was one of two team leaders who oversaw the Tavistock team’s deployment by organising groups to go knocking, street to street, asking people to leave their homes because of the potential for the bomb to explode either accidentally before a controlled disposal detonation by the explosive ordnance army team or during such an operation.

He said: “Many from our team spent the first morning deployed as part of a large scale multi-agency effort to support the evacuation of residents in the Keyham area of Plymouth as part of the ongoing major incident declared following the discovery of an unexploded WWII device on Tuesday.

“We adapted this when the cordon was put in place and as well as asking people to leave for their safety, we handed out leaflets explaining the situation, where to go and what support was in place, from Plymouth City Council.

“While I was in our control vehicle back at Plymuth Argyle’s Home Park stadium (as back-up to the police communications) the feedback from those on the ground was that virtually everyone was receptive to leaving and understood the potential dangers. At that time it was thought highly likely the bomb would have to be detonated safely in-situ and that could have caused damage and injury. However, it was eventually decided it would be safest to transport it by road to dispose of at sea and our new tasking was to again advise people to leave their homes along the route on Saltash Road and Morice Town areas.

“I’m very impressed with our teams in this operation. It was an eye-opener for us all as we are normally on a more of a search mission and perhaps on the moors. But it’s what we’re there for and we’re all volunteers. I’m retired, but some gave up day or two of their day job to do this.”