On 27, August 1979 at 1640 (4:40 PM), a 500 pounds (227 kg) fertilizer bomb hidden in a lorry loaded with bales of straw, parked close to Narrow Water Castle, was detonated by remote control as an army convoy of a Land-Rover and two four-ton trucks drove past on the A2 road. The explosion caught the rear truck in the convoy killing six members of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment.Until the 1990's, Ireland and Great Britain was under terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army.
After the first explosion the British soldiers, believing that they had come under attack from the IRA, began firing across the narrow maritime border with the Republic of Ireland, a distance of only 57 m (187 feet). An uninvolved civilian, Michael Hudson, an Englishman whose father was a coachman at Buckingham Palace was killed by British forces during the shooting, and his cousin Barry Hudson injured. According to RUC researchers, the soldiers may have mistaken the sound of ammunition cooking off from the Land-Rover destroyed in the original explosion for enemy fire from across the border. However the hands of two IRA members arrested by the Gardaí and suspected of being behind the attack, Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan, showed traces of firearms, while author Peter Taylor asserts that there was sniper fire on the soldiers after the first bomb ripped through the truck.
On hearing the first explosion a Royal Marine unit alerted the British Army of an explosion on the road and reinforcements from the Parachute Regiment were dispatched to the scene by road. A rapid reaction unit consisting of medical staff and a senior commander Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair, the commanding officer of the Queen's Own Highlanders, together with his signaller Lance Corporal Victor MacLeod, were sent by Wessex helicopter. Col. Blair assumed command once at the site.
At 17.12, thirty two minutes after the first explosion, a second device concealed in milk pails exploded against the gate lodge on the opposite side of the road, completely destroying it. The IRA had been studying how the British Army acted after a bombing and correctly assessed that the soldiers would set up an Incident Command Point (ICP) in the nearby gate house.
The second explosion, caused by an 800 pounds (363 kg) fertilizer home-made bomb, killed twelve soldiers - ten from the Parachute Regiment died along with the two Queen's Own Highlanders soldiers. Mike Jackson, then a Major in the Parachute Regiment was at the scene soon after the second explosion and later described seeing pieces of human remains over the area and the face of his friend, Major Peter Fursman, still recognizable after it has been torn by the explosion from his head. Only one of Colonel Blair's epaulets remained to identify him.
Role of Honour
MacLEOD - Lance Corporal Victor - 27th August 1979 - Aged 24 - Queen's own Highlanders
BLAIR - Lieutenant Colonel David - 27th August 1979 - Aged 40 - Queen's own Highlanders - Married with two children
ANDREWS - Corporal Nicholas J. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 24 (2 Para) Married
BARNES - Private Gary I. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (2 Para) Single
DUNN - Private Raymond - 27th August 1979 - Aged 20 (2 Para) Single
WOOD - Private Anthony G. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 19 (2 Para) Single
WOODS - Private Michael - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (2 Para) Single
GILES - Corporal John C. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 22 (2 Para) Married
ROGERS - Sergeant Ian A. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 31 (2 Para) Married
BEARD - Warrant Officer Walter - 27th August 1979 - Aged 31 (2 Para)
VANCE - Private Thomas R. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 23 (2 Para)
ENGLAND - Private Robert N. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 23 (2 Para) Married with one child
JONES - Private Jeffrey A. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (2 Para)
JONES - Corporal Leonard - 27th August 1979 - Aged 26 (2 Para) Married with one child 18 month old daughter
JONES - Private Robert D.V. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (Para) Single
IRELAND - Lance Corporal Chris G. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 25 (2 Para) Married with one child
FURSMAN - Officer Peter - 27th August 1979 - Aged 35 (Para)
BLAIR - Private Donald F. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 23 (2 Para)
Today Assoluta Tranquillita has a moving tribute to these men. Please visit it, and remind yourself the price that freedom and liberty truly costs.
May their memory never be forgotten.