Bombings of Paddington and Victoria stations

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Bombings of Paddington and Victoria stations
Part of The Troubles
Inside Victoria Railway Station SW1 - - 1312488.jpg
Inside London Victoria railway station
LocationLondon Victoria station, London Paddington station, London, England
Date18 February 1991
Paddington station 4:20am
Victoria station 7:40am GMT (GMT)
TargetBritish Rail stations
Attack type
Time bomb
PerpetratorProvisional Irish Republican Army

On 18 February 1991 the Provisional IRA (PIRA) exploded two bombs at London mainline stations, one at Victoria station and the other at Paddington station, killing one person and injuring 38 other people all at Victoria station.[1] It was the IRA's second major attack in London in February 1991 after the Downing Street mortar attack eleven days earlier which was an attempt to wipe out the British War cabinet and the British prime minister John Major.[2] It was also the first IRA attack against a civilian target in England since the 1983 Harrods bombing, marking a strategic change in their bombing campaign in England.[3]


The IRA had stepped up their campaign against British military, economic and transport targets outside of Northern Ireland in the late 1980s. In May 1988 they killed three members of the RAF in attacks in the Netherlands.[4] On 13 July 1988, nine British soldiers were injured when the IRA detonated two bombs at a British military barracks in Duisburg, West Germany. On 1 August 1988 the first Provisional IRA bomb on the UK mainland in four years was set off by a timer device at the British Army base at the Inglis Barracks in Mill Hill, North London. The two storey building containing the single men's quarters was completely destroyed. One soldier, Lance Corporal Michael Robbins, was killed, and nine others were injured.[5] In September 1989 eleven Royal Marines were killed and 22 others injured when the IRA bombed their barracks in Deal, Kent, England.[6] On 18 November 1989 two British soldiers were wounded when an IRA car bomb exploded at a British Army barracks in Colchester, England. On 20 February 1990 the IRA bombed a British military recruitment office in Leicester, England, where two people were injured in the attack. Five days later on 25 February 1990, another recruitment office was bombed, this time in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Less than three weeks before the Lichfield attack on 16 May 1990 the IRA detonated another bomb under a military minibus in London, killing Sergeant Charles Chapman, and injuring four other soldiers. After this attack the IRA released a statement which read "While the British government persists in its continued occupation of the north of Ireland the IRA will persist in attacking the British government and its forces in England."[7] On 30 July 1990 the IRA detonated a large bomb at the London Stock Exchange causing massive damage but no injuries.[8] Ten days later they killed Conservative MP Ian Gow.[8]

Previous republican bombings[edit]

On 26 February 1884, at Victoria station, an explosion occurred in the cloakroom of the Brighton side injuring seven staff members, as part of the Fenian dynamite campaign.[9]

On 8 September 1973, a Provisional IRA bomb exploded at the ticket office in Victoria station, injuring five people. This was part of the IRA's 1973 - 1976 England bombing campaign.[10]

The bombings[edit]

The Paddington bomb went off at 4:20am, it was much smaller than the second bomb at Victoria and was designed to make sure the security services would take the Victoria bomb seriously and not as a hoax. There were no deaths or injuries at Paddington but the roof was badly damaged.

Some time before 7:00 am, a caller with an Irish accent said: "We are the Irish Republican Army. Bombs to go off in all mainline stations in 45 minutes."[11] The Victoria station bomb, which was hidden in a rubbish bin inside the station, went off at 7:40 am. Despite a 45-minute warning and the Paddington bomb three hours before, the security services were slow to act. The bomb killed one person instantly and injured 38 others from flying glass and other debris.[12] This was the worst attack suffered by civilians in England by the IRA since the 1983 Harrods bombing which killed three policemen, three civilians and injured 50 people.[13] All London's rail terminals were closed, disrupting the journeys of almost half a million commuters and bringing chaos to London, which was the IRA's intended goal. There was also a hoax call made to Heathrow, causing the airport's closure.[14]

That night the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the bombings but blamed the British police for the casualties. A statement from the Provisional IRA GHQ said: "The cynical decision of senior security personnel not to evacuate railway stations named in secondary warnings, even three hours after the warning device had exploded at Paddington in the early hours of this morning was directly responsible for the casualties at Victoria." The statement went on, "All future warnings should be acted upon."[15] The main purpose of the bombings in the overall IRA strategy was to keep pressure up on John Major, his Government and to make sure he acted on the Irish Troubles.

Police defended the decision not to close all stations after receiving warning that bombs had been planted. Commander George Churchill-Coleman, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad, said that dozens of hoax calls were received every day. "It is very easy with hindsight to be critical." [16] Churchill-Coleman also said that the bomb was "quite deliberately intended to maim and kill."[17]

A year later, a French TV crew interviewed an IRA Commander who said he spoke on behalf of the IRA's GHQ Staff, several other IRA volunteers were interviewed as part of an Active Service Unit (ASU) (armed with AR-15's, heavy machine guns, a revolver and an RPG-7). The commander of the unit said about the Victoria station bombing that warnings were given by telephone naming nine railway stations in London and that a 50-minute warning was given. He went on to say that the attack was not aimed at hurting anybody but to disrupt the British transport system.[18]


The Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker, visited Victoria station after the bomb and said "The concourse of Victoria is covered in blood. This is the act of murderous criminals." The Queen, and other officials, also sent their condolences to the victims.[14]

This bombing would mark the IRA's shift to targeting civilian areas following the July 1990 London Stock Exchange bombing - something they had not done since the 1983 Harrods bombing. It was also the first IRA attack on the London transport system since 1976. The IRA kept bombing targets in England for the remainder of the year - dozens of bombs went off in the run up to Christmas 1991. A number of incendiary devices ignited at The Discount Furniture Store, Habitat, The World of Leather, The Reject Shop and Tottenham Court Road causing damage to property but no injuries on 1 December 1991. An incendiary device ignited at Littlewoods, Oxford Street, London W1 on 2 December. There were further attacks throughout the month but no injuries.[19]

Almost a year later, in February 1992 a bomb exploded at London Bridge station, injuring 30 people.[20] In April 1992 a large bomb went off at the bombing of the Baltic Exchange, killing three people and causing £800 million worth of damage, £200 million more than the total damaged caused by the 10,000 explosions that had occurred during the Troubles in Northern Ireland up to that point.[21] A bomb went off in Manchester city centre in December 1992, injuring over 60 people.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  2. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1991".
  3. ^
  4. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  5. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1988".
  6. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  7. ^ "Minister Says London Being Subjected To IRA Terror Campaign".
  8. ^ a b Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1990".
  9. ^ "Dynamite outrage at Victoria Station". The Times. London. 27 February 1884. p. 10.
  10. ^ "Provisional I R A actions Part One (1969–1975)". Memorial at Peninsula (Royal Green Jackets). Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Campbell, Duncan; Correspondent, Crime (19 February 1991). "Man killed, 38 hurt, as IRA switches target to stations" – via The Guardian.
  13. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^
  16. ^ Times, William E. Schmidt, Special To The New York (19 February 1991). "2 RAIL TERMINALS IN CENTRAL LONDON HIT BY I.R.A. BOMBS" – via
  17. ^
  18. ^ Murcha MacSeain (21 October 2012). "The IRA Speak (Full Version)" – via YouTube.
  19. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1991".
  20. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1992".
  21. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1992".
  22. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1992".