MEMBERS of East Cornwall Search and Rescue have reflected on their participation during the largest civilian evacuation since WWII after a bomb was found in Plymouth recently.

In a coordinated effort led by Devon and Cornwall Police, a regional call was issued to all eight local search and rescue teams on February 20 seeking assistance in evacuating approximately 4,000 properties in Plymouth. 

It was reported that the operation required meticulous planning and saw the convergence of multiple agencies including fire, coastguard, council and naval teams alongside the voluntary search and rescue teams across Cornwall, Dartmoor and Exmoor. 

East Cornwall Search and Rescue, deputy leader, Brian Kennelly, explained: “Following a series of briefings and planning meetings on the Wednesday, on Thursday morning at 0600hrs our team was briefed to clear an exclusion zone of 300m. 

“Eighteen team members from East Cornwall attended on Thursday and a further six on the Friday.” 

Dividing the exclusion zone into four sectors, each with dedicated police and fire commanders and team leaders from various agencies, members of East Cornwall Search and Rescue assisted in the smooth evacuation of approximately 3,500 residents. 

Meanwhile, the bomb disposal team worked tirelessly overnight to render the device safe for transport – ultimately leading to its successful removal from the city where it was shipped out to sea and detonated. 

Brian continued: “At 8.35am on Friday we were again asked to help with an 11am rendezvous in Plymouth. This time to evacuate a 300m cordon around the entire route of the bomb transport, which involved around 10,000 people to be moved in the space of about three hours.” 

Employing a structured approach similar to the previous day, it was said that the operation unfolded swiftly and the whole route was declared clear by about 3.30pm. 

Brian added: “As you will have seen on the news, the bomb was successfully loaded onto a military lorry for transport to the slipway where it was transferred onto a boat and removed from Plymouth. 

“This was the largest civilian evacuation since WWII and a credit to all agencies involved and the people of Plymouth for being so co-operative.”