Builders at a high-security landmark in the heart of Whitehall were shocked when they opened a case of ‘pipes’ and found what appeared to be a missile.
Work to turn the historic Admiralty Arch just off London’s Trafalgar Square into a luxury hotel came to a standstill as contractors alerted police to the 15ft-long cylinder – fitted with fins and warning lights.
Admiralty Arch, where former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott once had a grace-and-favour apartment, is being transformed into a 100-bedroom hotel, and the main contractors, Willmott Dixon, rely on a large number of ‘just-in-time’ deliveries – where materials arrive exactly when needed in the building process.
The object that caused the bomb scare was actually an aircraft’s underwing ‘pod’ (pictured) used for radar jamming or simulation training
But on Thursday, labourers who prised open a long rectangular wooden box with the word ‘Riyadh’ on the side could not believe their eyes.
One witness told The Mail on Sunday: ‘No one could understand what the hell was going on, but to the untrained eye, it looked like a proper missile and they decided to call the police right away.’
It soon transpired that the object was not a bomb, but an aircraft’s underwing ‘pod’ used for radar jamming or simulation training. It is owned by defence contractors FRAviation, part of Cobham PLC, and had been wrongly delivered to the site entrance on a road running off Admiralty Arch.
Police escorted the delivery driver and his cargo to a Cobham facility in Berkshire.
A spokesman for Willmott Dixon described the contents of the box with some understatement as ‘an unscheduled delivery of pipework and fittings for one of our suppliers that couldn’t immediately be identified as being correct for the project’.
An equally phlegmatic Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘It was established that the package had been mistakenly labelled for delivery. Due to the nature of the package, officers escorted the delivery lorry as it transferred the package to an alternative location in Berkshire.’
The device closely resembled an ALQ-167 Radar Jamming Pod which is fixed under an aircraft’s wing to protect it from the threat of radar from missile batteries on the ground or from other aircraft.
Admiralty Arch, where former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott once had a grace-and-favour apartment, is being transformed into a 100-bedroom hotel
Cobham said it was looking into how the pod was sent to Admiralty Arch, the ceremonial gateway between The Mall and Trafalgar Square built as a memorial to Queen Victoria.
The site is being turned into a five-star hotel, with Royal and Presidential suites, a ballroom, spa and fine dining restaurant.
Residential apartments are planned for the first and second floors. Completed in 1912 and initially used as the offices and residences of the Sea Lords, Admiralty Arch became grace-and-favour apartments for senior civil servants and Ministers.
It plays an important role on ceremonial occasions with processions at royal weddings, funerals, coronations and other public processions, including events at the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, all passing under its arches.