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The bomb started ticking in the dusky hour when Londoners yawn and struggle home in the crowded underground. Ever since the Hun dropped it on April 16, 1941, the 1,100-lb. time-bomb had been buried under 30 feet of earth in London’s beautiful St. James’s Park. Londoners had given it a nickname, “Annie”; and its site was officially noted. Throughout the changing weather of war, victory and peace, people hurried past it on the rebuilt Tarmac walk, and courting couples sat on the nearby lawns.

Last week, an unobserved concussion jarred Annie’s dormant time fuse into action. No. 2 Bomb-Disposal Company, which had started to dig it out, declared that, unless the bomb blew itself up, it would have to be detonated. With a mental groan, Londoners kept thinking of that thing ticking away over in St. James’s Park. Like all veterans, they were glad that the war was over, and yet the ticking of the bomb carried an echo of past excitement into the grouchy drabness of peace.

After a day of mounting suspense came the tantalizing anticlimax. “Bomb Goes Silent,” read the headlines. Would Annie, as weary as other Londoners, just peter out? One edition later, the news was: “Park Bomb Ticks Again. Squad Takes Cover.” All over London, people thought of Lieut. D. H. Mellor and his men, hovering over the faint, ominous, ticktock. Would the Royal Family watch the bomb go off? Would Buckingham palace, 350 yards away, lose its windows again, as it did during the blitz?

On the evening of the third day, a handful of Londoners — stenographers, shopkeepers, even some Foreign Office toffs —collected about the familiar area now cleared for action. Lieut. Mellor and one sergeant walked into a public convenience marked “Ladies” (where the dynamite plungers had been installed). There was a hush, then Annie exploded, and greyish-black smoke shot up into the clear, rain-washed sunlight.

Queen Mary came over half an hour later to take a look. Frightened birds settled down again. The watchers left the park, which was quieter than ever. The ticking had ceased, and for quite a few days afterward, Londoners missed it.

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