1974 London pillar box bombings

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London pillar box bombings
Part of The Troubles
1974 London pillar box bombings is located in Greater London
King's Cross
King's Cross
Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus
Victoria
Victoria
Chelsea
Chelsea
1974 London pillar box bombings (Greater London)
1974 London pillar box bombings is located in the United Kingdom
1974 London pillar box bombings
Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus
Victoria
Victoria
Chelsea
Chelsea
1974 London pillar box bombings (the United Kingdom)
Location London, England
Date 25 & 27 November 1974
25 Nov: 5.50pm, 6.00pm, 6:50pm
27 Nov: 8.30pm & 8.50pm (GMT)
Attack type
Time bomb
Weapons Gelignite bomb, "come-on bomb"
Deaths 0
Non-fatal injuries
40
Perpetrator Provisional IRA

On 25 and 27 November 1974 a London-based Provisional IRA unit placed several bombs in pillar boxes and one in a hedge behind a pillar box. This was a new tactic used by the IRA in England, although a similar tactic had been used in Northern Ireland during The Troubles several times previously. 40 people were wounded from five explosions in several districts.[1]

Background

The IRA began their bombing campaign of England in early 1973 when they bombed the Old Bailey courthouse, the seat of justice in Britain, they used a car bomb to attack it which injured over 200 people, caused extensive damage and one person died from a heart attack.[2]

1974 was to be the IRA's most deadly year in mainland Britain with close to 50 people being killed and with around 500 being injured. The year started with the M62 coach bombing a military coach which had soldiers and their families on it. Nine soldiers were killed and three civilians with just under 40 being injured, many seriously.[3][4]

The Provisional IRA's Balcombe Street Gang (nicknamed that because they were caught at the Balcombe Street siege in late 1975) had been bombing targets in and around the London area since October 1974 including, the Guildford pub bombings on 5 October and the Woolwich pub bombing on 7 November. Seven people were killed from these two bombings alone (5 British military personnel & 2 civilians) and almost 100 people were injured.[2][5]

On 21 November the Birmingham pub bombings occurred killing 21 and injuring close to 200. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 (PTA 1974) was passed through parliament quickly to give the police special powers in dealing with the IRA and similar groups. The powers gave the police powers to hold people in custody for up to seven days without charge.[6] There was a strong desire to respond to what was perceived as "the greatest threat [to the country] since the end of the Second World War." Six men who were wrongly convicted of the bombings was a group known the Birmingham Six who spent 17 years in English jails until their convictions were overturned in 1991. The PTA 1974 was also used to convict other innocent people like Judith Ward of the M62 coach bombing and it was also used to convict the eleven members of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven of the Guildford bombings. All these convictions were also overturned in the late 1980s/early 1990s.[7][8]

Bombings

Casualties
Caledonian Road 2
Piccadilly Circus 16
Victoria Street 2
Tite Street (1st) 0
Tite Street (2nd) 20

The IRA Balcombe Active Service Unit decided to send a message of defiance to the government over the PTA and to show that the IRA was very much still operational in England. They created bombs concealed in packets small enough to fit in a standard-sized pillar post box. They were mailed by Edward Butler from the Balcombe Street Gang.[9]

On 25 November 1974 they exploded bombs inside pillar boxes in various places around London. They made three small gelignite laden bombs with pocket watch timing devices. The first bomb on Caledonian Road, nearby King's Cross and Pentonville Road,[9] went off at 5:50 pm that injured two people. Ten minutes later a second bomb went off outside Piccadilly Circus at 6:00 pm. This was the worst bomb of the day as it injured 16 people. The last bomb occurred near Metropole Cinema, just outside London Victoria station, and went off at 6:50 pm that injured another 2 people. This brought the total injured to 20 for the day.

The Metropolitan Police called in the army bomb squad to check all pillar boxes in the W1 and N1 postal areas. In addition, false alarms throughout other places in London caused traffic chaos. The next day, many nervous post workers in central London refused to open boxes in fear that there could be a bomb.[9]

Two days later on 27 November, a twin bomb attack near an Army museum on Tite Street in Chelsea occurred - again time bombs inside pillar boxes. The first bomb was small and designed to lure security services to the scene before a much larger bomb went off 21 minutes later in a hedge close by.[10] The second explosion injured 20 people including an explosives officer, six policemen and two ambulancemen. Investigations showed that the second bomb had 3 to 5 lb of gelignite and 200 nails incorporated to make a claymore-type device.[11] The second bomb was aimed to kill those on the scene. These two devices were planted by Butler and Joe O'Connell.[9]

Aftermath

The secondary 'come-on' bomb in Chelsea - the first time it was deployed in London - forced the Metropolitan Police to make changes to responses to explosions. It required all police officers attending an explosion to carry out an immediate search around the scene and cordon the area off to ensure there would be no second bomb.[11]

See also

Sources

  • CAIN project
  • Sixth Form Law

References

  1. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1974". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  2. ^ a b Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  3. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  4. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1974". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  5. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  6. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1974". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  7. ^ "Justice - Miscarriages of justice". sixthformlaw.info. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  8. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: HMSO: Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisons) Act 1974". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  9. ^ a b c d Moysey, Steve (19 November 2013). "The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London". Routledge. Retrieved 31 May 2018 – via Google Books. 
  10. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=oR8_DwAcAQBAJ&pg=PT111&lpg=PT111&dq=november+1974+bomb+london+piccadilly+circus&source=bl&ots=xPamrHDblf&sig=DWyF7OcdQgj6lKO-sKeNyFIcUUA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiFnp7u2q7bAhUkAsAKHXn9Bbo4ChDoAQgtMAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
  11. ^ a b Jones, Ian (31 October 2016). "London: Bombed Blitzed and Blown Up: The British Capital Under Attack Since 1867". Frontline Books. Retrieved 31 May 2018 – via Google Books. 
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