1990 Downpatrick roadside bomb

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Downpatrick roadside bombing
Part of the Troubles
1990 Downpatrick roadside bomb is located in Northern Ireland
1990 Downpatrick roadside bomb
1990 Downpatrick roadside bomb (Northern Ireland)
LocationBallydugan Road Downpatrick,
County Down,
Northern Ireland
Coordinates54°19′19.2″N 5°42′10.8″W / 54.322000°N 5.703000°W / 54.322000; -5.703000Coordinates: 54°19′19.2″N 5°42′10.8″W / 54.322000°N 5.703000°W / 54.322000; -5.703000
Date9 April 1990
TargetUlster Defence Regiment mobile patrol
Attack type
Roadside bomb
Weaponssemtex explosive
Deaths4 UDR soldiers
Worst attack suffered by UDR since 1983[1][2]
4 UDR soldiers
2 civilians
PerpetratorProvisional IRA South Down Brigade

On 9 April 1990 the Provisional IRA (IRA) detonated a massive IED roadside bomb under an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) mobile patrol which killed four members of the UDR.[3] It was the worst attack against the UDR since seven years previously when, in July 1983, four soldiers of the same regiment were killed in a similar attack near Ballygawley.[1] It was also one of the worst attacks against the security forces in County Down since the Warrenpoint Ambush of August 1979 when 18 British soldiers were killed and six injured.[4]


The Troubles broke out in 1969 with the Battle of the Bogside and the August 1969 riots.[5] In 1971 the IRA began an offensive campaign against the Northern Ireland state.[6]

In the late 1980s the IRA had begun to intensify their campaign against the British Army, Ulster Defence Regiment, Loyalist Paramilitaries like the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and civilian contractors who worked for the security forces.

On 1 May 1988 the IRA killed three Royal Air Force members in two attacks in the Netherlands.[7] In the middle of 1988 the IRA killed 14 British soldiers in two separate devastating attacks. First, six were killed in the Lisburn van bombing in June [8] and then another eight were killed and 28 injured in the Ballygawley bus bombing in August.[9] In 1989, an IRA flying column launched a major ground assault on Derryard checkpoint killing two British soldiers and injuring two others, also that same year, 11 British military personnel were killed in an IRA bombing of Deal barracks in Kent, England.[10][11] In 1990 the IRA's East Tyrone Brigade during the attack which became known as the Derrygorry Gazelle shootdown, the IRA unit shot down a British army Gazelle injuring several crew members.

The British Army also had success against the IRA in the same time period like the Loughgall ambush when the SAS ambushed and killed eight members of one of the IRA's most experienced units from the Tyrone Brigade.[12][13] The SAS also killed three IRA members during Operation Flavius in Gibraltar when the IRA Volunteers were planning a car bomb attack against a British military band.[14]

The Attack[edit]

Pte John Birch (28), LCpl John Bradley (25), LCpl Michael Adams (23) and Pte Steven Smart (23), all members of the Ulster Defence Regiment were killed in an attack on their patrol on the morning of 9 April 1990. The men were killed in a Provisional IRA land mine attack on their mobile patrol on the Ballydugan Road, Downpatrick. They were travelling as part of a two Land Rover patrol from Ballykinlar to Downpatrick when the IRA used a command wire to detonate a 1000lb landmine bomb hidden in a culvert beneath the road which exploded under the men's Land Rover killing them instantly. Four UDR soldiers in the lead Land rover were treated for injuries along with two civilians passing by.

The force of the explosion was so powerful that it launched the Land Rover over a hedge and 30 yards into a field and left a crater 50 feet long, 40 feet wide and 15 feet deep.[15]


  1. ^ a b "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 13 July 1983. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  2. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1983". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  3. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 9 April 1990. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  4. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 27 August 1979. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  5. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1969". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  6. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1971". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  7. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 1 May 1988. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  8. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 15 June 1988. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  9. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 20 August 1988. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  10. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 13 December 1989. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  11. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  12. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 8 May 1987. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  13. ^ http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/shot-ira-unit-fired-first-at-sas-16085673.html
  14. ^ "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". Cain.ulst.ac.uk. 6 March 1988. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
  15. ^ By STEVEN PROKESCH, Special to The New York Times (10 April 1990). "A Huge Bomb Kills Four British Soldiers in Ulster". Northern Ireland: NYTimes.com. Retrieved 31 December 2016.