Here I am at the bottom right corner of Hyde Park in London. In such a dense city this park is a refreshing oasis and, to a developer, it must be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. During the Great Plaque of London in 1665 it was used as a military camp. Henry VIII used it as a private hunting ground to kill foxes and deer. It also the place of a multiple murder. At 10:40am on Tuesday 20th July 1982 the IRA detonated a bomb killing soldiers and horses. Even now I can remember getting home from playing out to see it on the early evening television news. I was nuts about animals then and can remember the dead horses lying on the road where I’m now stood. Blankets had yet been thrown over them.
The IRA had left a Morris Marina car parked nearby and in the boot of a was a nail bomb weighing 11kg of gelignite and 14kg of nails. Somewhere close by - probably hidden behind a tree - was an IRA member with a remote device to detonate the bomb. At 10:40am he pressed the button to cause maximum damage. This bombing was planned around the daily routine of the Household Cavalry soldiers (the Queen’s bodyguard regiment.) They trotted passed this point every day, travelling from the nearby barracks in Knightsbridge to Horse Guards Parade. Three soldiers died at the scene and another died in hospital three days later. Seven horses died in total. A vet who rushed to the scene found that the horses directly next to the bomb had died instantly but others had only had their legs blown off. They were still alive but actually smouldering (most were put out of their misery.) Some soldiers and civilians were injured. People in nearby offices reported paintings falling off walls and objects falling off shelves.
The IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb using the words Margaret Thatcher had used before Britain reclaimed the Falklands Islands: “The Irish people have sovereign and national rights which no task or occupational force can put down". She said she’d not rest until the culprits were punished but this did only happened half-heartedly. Five years after the bombing Gilbert McNamee was convicted of making the bomb and jailed for 25 years (it was quashed and he did 12 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.) In 2013 John Downey was charged with four counts of murder but he got off unpunished (let’s hope there’s a Day Of Judgement after death.) Under the agreement the Irish Police sent him an official letter assuring him that he would not be prosecuted over the attack (he’s one of 187 IRA who gained immunity from prosecution.)
This bombing caused only loss. Even the IRA lost out when their main source of income - America - drastically reduced its contributions having deemed the bombing particularly cowardly. A later loss was a soldier who’d survived the bombing but went mad, killing his two children and then himself. One silver lining was a horse called Sefton who survived serious wounds and became famous for a while.
I did a few salutes by the memorial but it's used to them. Every day the dead are honoured as passing troops do an "eyes-left and salute" and draw their swords. I doubt this will continue for long though as I’ve read the barracks have been sold. I did about ten hearty salutes and left.
Sefton, who survived…