Guildford pub bombings

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Guildford pub bombings
Part of The Troubles
Location Horse & Groom pub;
Seven Stars pub,
Guildford, England
Coordinates 51°14′13″N 0°34′18″W / 51.237054°N 0.571753°W / 51.237054; -0.571753
Date 5 October 1974
20:30 – 21:00 (GMT)
Target British Army soldiers
Attack type
Time bombs
Deaths 5
(4 soldiers, 1 civilian)[1]
Non-fatal injuries
65
Perpetrator Provisional IRA

The Guildford pub bombings occurred on 5 October 1974. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated two 6-pound gelignite bombs at two pubs in Guildford, Surrey, southwest of London. The pubs were targeted because they were popular with British Army personnel stationed at the barracks in Pirbright. Four soldiers and one civilian were killed, whilst a further sixty-five were wounded.

The bomb in the Horse and Groom detonated at 8:30 pm. It killed Paul Craig (a 22-year-old plasterer), two members of the Scots Guards and two members of the Women's Royal Army Corps. The Seven Stars was evacuated after the first blast, and thus there were no serious injuries when the second bomb exploded at 9:00 pm.

These attacks were the first in a year-long campaign by an IRA Active Service Unit – who were eventually captured after the Balcombe Street Siege.[2] A similar bomb to those used in Guildford, with the addition of shrapnel, was thrown into the Kings Arms pub in Woolwich on 7 November 1974. Gunner Richard Dunne and Alan Horsley, a sales clerk, died in that explosion.

The bombings contributed to the speedy and unchallenged passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in November 1974, which were used by the Metropolitan Police to draw false confessions from the "Guildford Four".

The Guildford Four[edit]

The bombings were at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Metropolitan Police were under enormous pressure to apprehend the IRA bombers responsible for the attacks in England. In December 1974 the police arrested three men and a woman, later known as the Guildford Four. These were:

Conlon had been in London at the time of the bombings, and had visited his mother's sister, Annie Maguire. A few days after the Guildford Four were arrested, the Metropolitan Police arrested Auntie Annie and her family, including Gerry Conlon's father, Patrick "Giuseppe" Conlon – the "Maguire Seven".

The Guildford Four were falsely convicted of the bombings in October 1975 and sentenced to life in prison. The Maguire Seven were falsely convicted of providing bomb-making material and other support in March 1976 and sentenced to terms varying between four and fourteen years.

The Guildford Four were held in prison for fifteen years, while Giuseppe Conlon died near the end of his third year of imprisonment. All the convictions were overturned years later in the appeal courts after it was proved the Guildford Four's convictions had been based on confessions obtained by torture (as were some Maguire Seven confessions), whilst evidence specifically clearing the Four was not reported by the police.[3]

During the trial of the "Balcombe Street Four" in February 1977, the four IRA members instructed their lawyers to "draw attention to the fact that four totally innocent people were serving massive sentences" for three bombings in Woolwich and Guildford.[4] The Balcombe Street Four were never charged with these offences. The movie In the Name of the Father is based on these events.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ CAIN - Index of Deaths - 5 October 1974
  2. ^ McKee G, Franey R, Time Bomb, 1988, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 0-7475-0099-1. Page 18 notes that a new ASU was set up in August 1974 comprising O'Connell, Dowd etc whose first attack was the Guildford Bombings
  3. ^ McKee G, Franey R, Time Bomb, 1988, pp. 426-36, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 0-7475-0099-1
  4. ^ Joe O'Connell's speech from the dock
  5. ^ Bergman, Paul and Asimow, Michael (2006). Reel justice: the courtroom goes to the movies. Andrews McMeel Publishing, p. 43. ISBN 0-7407-5460-2