Newport town centre came to a standstill on Monday afternoon when an unexploded second world war bomb was located during a routine water main leak repair outside Age Concern's charity shop on St James Street.
The water repair work had started on Wednesday of last week and was proceeding without any problems, with a scheduled completion date for next Friday. With St James Road being a major thoroughfare for traffic and shoppers, it was important that the repair was done as quickly as possible.
It was during the second phase repair work that the bomb was discovered and the hole immediately evacuated by on-site manager Geoffrey Gaunt.
"I was stunned," said Gaunt. "We get a week's training during the digging holes in roads training course that teaches us to spot unexploded bombs, but I never thought I'd see one!"
On Tuesday, the police arrived with the fire department and council leader Kevin Lepper, who all looked into the hole and cordoned off the area to prevent public safety. Also found was the 1952 sign "Unexploded bomb" which was put next to the hole.
"It was a bomb all right," said Newport police chief, Camblewick Brown. "I could see it. They were damned fortunate, all that jack hammering and JCBing could have set it off. And I shudder to think about the cars and trucks that have been going over that spot for years. Any of them could have been blown to the Isle of Skye high."
On Thursday, as the Isle of Wight News went to press, the bomb squad arrived from the mainland, coming in on the eleven O'clock ferry from Portsmouth. We got to issue the phrase all journalists love "Hold the front page!" as we watched as the bomb squad made the antique destructive device safe by blowing it up.
"It was a mark two meingommel," said bomb disposal expert, Steve "Shaky" Stevens. "The council didn't want us making it safe outside the charity shop as there was a rare 1965 Monopoly set for sale in the window. So we put it in a rucksack and took it to car park on Pyle Street and exploded it next to a Volvo. It was a bugger to explode, too. Took nearly thirty pounds of C4 and three goes."
The water main repair works are now expected to run into a third week.