Scott's Oyster Bar bombing

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Scott's Oyster Bar bombing
Part of the Troubles
Location 20 Mount Street, Mayfair, London
Date 12 November 1975
21:00 (GMT)
Target Economic target
Attack type
Time bombs
Deaths 1
Non-fatal injuries
15

On 12 November 1975 a Provisional IRA bomb exploded without warning at Scott's Oyster Bar at Mount Street, Mayfair, London

Background

The Troubles had been raging in Northern Ireland since 1969. 1972 was the deadliest year of the conflict, 497 people were killed that year,with events like Bloody Friday & Bloody Sunday fuelling the war. In March 1973 the IRA conducted its first operations in England with a series of car bombs. In February 1975 the Provisional Irish Republican Army agreed to a ceasefire with the British government and the Northern Ireland Office. Seven "incident centers" were established in Irish nationalist areas in Northern Ireland to monitor the ceasefire and the activity of the security forces. Before the truce, the IRA active service unit (ASU) later dubbed the Balcombe Street Gang (because of the December 1975 Balcombe Street siege) had been bombing targets in England since the autumn of 1974, particularly in London and surrounding areas. Their last attack was an assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Edward Heath but he was not home when the IRA Volunteers smashed a throw bomb threw his bedroom window on 22 December 1974. The ceasefire was to last officially until 23 January 1976 however there were a number of incidents during 1975 involving members of the IRA including dozens of Bombings in England & in particular London. During the period of the ceasefire the British government and the Northern Ireland Office denied that a deal had been made with the IRA. Sinn Féin and the IRA said a 12-point plan had been agreed with the British. Some of the elements of this alleged deal were to become apparent such as the setting up of 'incident centres' and a reduction in security force activity in Nationalist areas.[1]

The bombing

On 27 August 1975 the IRA unit carried out the Caterham Arms Pub Bombing, a pub popular with soldiers from Caterham which injured 33 people. This attack marked the start of a renewed bombing campaign ('Phase Two') [2] in England and the end of the truce with the British Government. The next day, the same IRA unit exploded a bomb in Oxford Street, injuring several people.[3] Just a few weeks before the Scott's bombing the IRA killed cancer research specialist Gordon Hamilton Fairley, the bomb was actually intended for Sir Hugh Fraser MP who was an outspoken critic of the IRA who was in favour of capital punishment of IRA members convicted of murder. The bomb used in the Scott's bar attack was a five-pound gelignite shrapnel laced throw bomb similar to the one used a year earlier in the Woolwich bombing which two members of the Guildford Four had already been given long jail terms for. The IRA ASU threw the bomb into Scott's restaurant bar at around 21:00 when around 70 people were inside. The bomb exploded and with the power of the blast killed one man John Batey, aged 59 and injured at least 15 others, some were very seriously injured. People reported seeing three young men running away after the blast. It was the first bomb by the IRA team to be thrown instead of being primed & planted since the start of the "Phase Two" bombing campaign in England. The IRA unit responsible for the bombing of Scott's bar returned a few weeks later to the same restaurant with a machine gun on the 6 December & sprayed it with bullets, little did the ASU know they were being watched by London police. The Metropolitan Police Bomb Squad had detected a pattern of behaviour in the IRA ASU, determining that they had a habit of attacking again some of the sites they had previously attacked. In a scheme devised by a young detective sergeant, the Met flooded the streets of London with unarmed plain-clothes officers on the lookout for the ASU. The four IRA men were spotted as they slowed to a halt outside Scott's and fired from their stolen car as they drove away the police started chasing them which was the beginning of the week long siege of Balcombe Street which would end in the IRA unit being caught and arrested.[1]

Aftermath

The IRA's "Balcombe Street Gang" would go on bombing and shooting in London until December 1975 when they were caught at the siege of Balcombe Street. Just six days after the Scott's bar attack the same unit attacked Walton's restaurant killing two people and injuring 20 others. The unit would eventually end up planting around 40 bombs in London and elsewhere in southern England and carried out several shootings which, along with the bombings, caused the deaths of nearly 20 people, injured hundreds and caused millions of pounds worth of damage to property. When the four men in the unit who were caught at Balcombe Street were released and appeared at special Sinn Féin conference in 1998 they were given a 10-minute standing ovation from the jubilant crowd at the conference. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams described them as "our Nelson Mandelas".[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1975". 
  2. ^ "CAIN: PRONI Public Records on CAIN Web - Search Results". ulst.ac.uk. 
  3. ^ "CAIN: PRONI Public Records on CAIN Web - Search Results". ulst.ac.uk. 
  4. ^ "ADAMS HAILS IRA KILLERS AS `OUR NELSON MANDELAS'. - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 2016-12-30. 

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