During the raids of WW2 the area around each of the three targets was hit by a large number of bombs. Gravenhorst and Ladbergen however, were especially heavily bombed. For example, in the six raids in 1944/45 a total of 9432 bombs were dropped at Ladbergen.
Within this area of devastation there were a large number of unexploded bombs.
Between 1965 and 1985 the proposed route for the new Mittelland Canal was cleared of unexploded bombs. In an area of under 4km², 379 unexploded bombs were defused. Of all the bombs dropped 94% were fitted with time delay fuses. The delay varied between half an hour and one week.
On October 1st 1987 work began on clearing the area around the "old" Mittelland canal When this work was completed, at the end of March 1992, a total of 186 unexploded bombs had been defused. Approximately one million cubic metres of earth were moved in this process. Most bombs were discovered at the depth of between 5-6 metres. However, if a bomb (which later failed to detonate) fell into the crater of an earlier explosion it could pentrate the ground to about 14 metres. These "blindgängers" were much more difficult to find and remove.
Further to the south at Ladbergen, between 1977 and 1989, the area to the side of the original (and now filled in) DEK had been cleared of unexploded bombs. In the course of this work 159 bombs of varying sizes were cleared. Construction of the present day canal was now possible and this project was completed in 1992.
Following completion of the new canal a systematic clearance program began on the abandoned west lane of the DEK at Ladbergen. Herr Manfred Beckmann (3rd from the left) was personally responsible for the defusing of over 200 bombs in these areas. This clearance was necessary as, immediately after the war, only those bombs that were discovered during the hasty repair were defused. A lengthier clearance program would have held up the reopening of this vital communications link.
Today, traffic on the motorway flows without interruption. Schools work on undisturbed and people rest easily at home. It is hard to imagine that, only a few years ago, the alarm siren sounded by the disposal teams would have brought motorway traffic in the area to a halt, schools would close and households would have to be evacuated. With all this inconvenience a thing of the past a town official was able to say that, "the burden of war has finally been lifted".
In a forest deep inside Germany the explosives recovered from clearance operations are broken down into small pieces and burned.