I can remember being down the sides of Harrods department store with my mum and plumbs of grey smoke started rising from a set of steps leading underground. At the time the IRA were still planting bombs around England and clashes between soldiers in Northern Ireland were occasional. We joined other anxious faces moving away but it wasnít anything nefarious.
Here I am outside Harrods where a car bomb exploded among busy Christmas shoppers on Saturday 17th December 1983. It had been planted by the IRA. Six people died and ninety people were injured. This wasnít the first time the Harrods had been the target of IRA bombings. In 1973 two fire bombs exploded causing slight damage, in 1974 a fire bomb was placed in a corner of the store exploded.
That Saturday afternoon in 1983 IRA members parked an Austin 1300 car near the side entrance and walked away through throngs of Christmas shoppers. Inside it was a 30lb (14 kg) bomb connected to a timer. The IRA rang the London branch of the Samaritans charity with a codeword and gave the car's location and registration plate number. Six police arrived and saw the car however a second IRA telephone call said the bomb was in the C&A department store. This claim was a red herring and the damage toll was increased when the bomb exploded: 6 deaths,† 90 injured people (one policeman lost both legs), 24 ruined cars and 5 floors on the that side of Harrods (and much turnover.) The police had parked their car near the Austin 1300 and this shielded much of the blast. The explosion propelled part of the car skyward with such force that it lodged in part of the building (see photo.)
Support for the IRA suffered a long drop as so many innocent civilians had died and been injured. Pathetically the IRA Army Council admitted their members had planted the bomb but they hadn't authorised it's explosion, also an adequate 40 minute warning had been given. Later they bombed military subjects instead (but in 1993 they targeted Harrods again.)
It was difficult to take photos that Saturday afternoon; I set the timer a few times and so many passing people blocked the lense that I almost gave up. It was my own fault - itís probably the most busy time of the week. When the bomb went off you could park down the side of Harrods but it's now pedestrianised. There's a plaque to remember those who lost their lives but I didn't see a single person reading the names. Around the back of the store I noticed chauffeurs sat in big cars waiting for their wealthy employers.
A typical sight...chauffeurs delivering their employers...