1974 Oxford Street bombing

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1974 Oxford Street Bombing
Part of the Troubles
LocationSelfridges, Oxford Street London, England
Date19 December 1974
21:00 (GMT)
TargetSelfridge's Department Store
Attack type
Time bomb, Car bomb
Deaths0 (£1.5 million worth of damages caused)
Injured9 (3 seriously)
PerpetratorProvisional IRA, Provisional IRA's Balcombe Street Gang

On the 19 December 1974 the Provisional IRA exploded a car bomb which was parked opposite to Selfridge's department store on Oxford Street in London. The bomb attack was carried out by an IRA active service unit (ASU) known as the Balcombe Street Gang who carried out some 40 attacks in England between October 1974 - December 1975.[1][2]

Oxford Street was targeted in IRA bombings many other times during the Troubles.


In August 1974, the Balcombe Street active service unit had been sent to England to await instructions on when to start operations. They opened their campaign with two devastating bombs in Guildford pubs which killed four off-duty British soldiers, one civilian and injured over 60 people. In the run up to Christmas 1974, the unit carried out a string of attacks. On 11 December, the unit carried out a bomb attack on the Long Bar of the Naval and Military Club in Piccadilly. A few minutes later, other members of the unit carried out a gun attack on the Cavalry Club, nobody was injured in either attack. On 14 December, the unit carried out a gun attack on the Churchill Hotel in Portman Square, London, three people were injured. On 17 December, three time bombs exploded at telephone exchanges in London. In one of the explosions, George Arthur, a post office telephonist, was killed and one other person was injured.[3]


On Thursday the 19 December 1974 the IRA unit loaded a light blue Ford Cortina with 150 pounds (68 kg) of gelignite explosive into the boot of the car, the bomb was fitted with a pocket watch timing device and then primed. This was the largest IRA bomb used in England up to that point. The IRA Volunteers drove the bomb car into Oxford Street and parked the stolen car at the side of Selfridge's building. At around 20:40 the leader of the IRA unit Joe O'Connell telephoned a warning to the Daily Mirror in London, giving security & emergency services about 15 – 20 minutes to clear the area. At about 21:00 the bomb exploded. The blast was so loud it could be heard up to two miles away at St. Paul's Cathedral.[4] The explosion shattered glass and blew in doors in shop fronts hundreds of yards away from the site of the bombing in both directions of Oxford Street. O'Connell had used 160 sticks of gelignite to construct the bomb, this had been the largest bomb the IRA had exploded in England up until that point and the explosion was later estimated to have caused £1.5 million worth of damage. Despite the warnings, nine people were injured in the blast and several people were treated for shock.[5][6][7]

Just outside Selfridges on Oxford Street yards from where the car bomb exploded


A ceasefire between the IRA and the British forces in Northern Ireland was called in February 1975 and extended to mainland Britain. The ceasefire in Britain broke down in August 1975 when the IRA bombed a pub in Caterham injuring 33 people. This signaled the renewal of the bombing campaign in England. Oxford Street was again bombed by the IRA unit on 28 August 1975; an undiscovered bomb that had been booby trapped exploded without any injuries.[8] The IRA unit was finally caught at the Balcombe St siege in December 1975, and the four man unit spent 23 years in prison before being released in 1998.[9]

Oxford Street was targeted by IRA bombs many other times: twice in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1991 1992 and several times in both 1993 and 1994.[10][11] The 1981 bombing killed 49 year old Kenneth Howorth, the Metropolitan Police explosives officer who was attempting to defuse the bomb which was planted outside a Wimpy Bar on Oxford Street on the 26 October 1981.[12]

Video footage aftermath[edit]

  • "SYND 19 12 74 AFTERMATH OF OXFORD STREET BOMB BLAST - YouTube". youtube.com.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch74.htm#Oct CAIN Web Service A Chronology of the Conflict - 1974
  2. ^ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch75.htm#Dec CAIN Web Service A Chronology of the Conflict - 1975
  3. ^ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch74.htm#Dec CAIN Web Service A Chronology of the Conflict - 1974
  4. ^ http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1974/12/20/page/20/article/car-bomb-rocks-london-street
  5. ^ Steve Moysey: The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London, pp 68, 69
  6. ^ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch74.htm#191274 CAIN Web Service A Chronology of the Conflict - 1974
  7. ^ https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/written-answers/1993/mar/04/prevention-of-terrorism-legislation Prevention of Terrorism Legislation
  8. ^ "A Chronology of the Conflict – 1975". CAIN Web Service. Ulster University. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  9. ^ [http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch75.htm#Dec CAIN Web Service A Chronology of the Conflict - 1974
  10. ^ http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch75.htm#28875 CAIN: A Chronology of the Conflict - Thursday 28 August 1975 - The Irish Republic Army (IRA) planted a time bomb in Oxford Street, London. The bomb had been booby-trapped and was designed to kill anyone trying to defuse it. The bomb was not discovered and exploded without causing any injuries.
  11. ^ https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/written-answers/1996/mar/04/terrorist-incidents>
  12. ^ http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch81.htm#261081 CAIN: Monday 26 October 1981 item mark Kenneth Haworth (49), a police explosives officer, was killed when the bomb he was trying to defuse exploded in Oxford Street, London.

Coordinates: 51°30′51″N 0°09′08″W / 51.51405°N 0.15231°W / 51.51405; -0.15231