On this day in history….27th August 1979

On this day in history : 27th August 1979 – Lord Louis Mountbatten is killed when the IRA detonate a remote-controlled 50lb (23kg) bomb upon his boat….

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Lord Mountbatten in 1976 – by Allan Warren CC BY-SA 3.0

Lord Mountbatten, a second cousin of the Queen and uncle of Prince Philip, had been enjoying a fishing trip with family members as part of a family holiday…. His boat, Shadow V, was sailing off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland when the bomb exploded….

Fisherman pulled 79-year-old Lord Mountbatten from the water – he was still alive but died before being brought ashore; both off his legs had been blown off….

Also onboard the boat were his eldest daughter, Patricia (Lady Brabourne), her husband John (Lord Brabourne) and their 14-year-old twins, Nicholas and Timothy…. Nicholas was killed, along with a 15-year-old crew member, Paul Maxwell…. Lord Brabourne’s 83-year-old mother, Doreen, died from her injuries the following day….

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“Christ in Triumph over Darkness and Evil” by Gabriel Loire (1982) – at St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, South Africa – in memory of Lord Mountbatten – Rainer Halama CC BY 4.0

On this day in history….6th December 1975

On this day in history : 6th December 1975 – The Balcombe Street Siege in London begins – when the IRA take a couple hostage after a gun battle and car chase – and it unfolds live on TV and is watched by millions….

The 4 IRA gunmen, who were on the run from the police, forced their way into the flat of husband and wife John and Sheila Matthews in Central London…. Police sealed off the area around Balcombe Street and Dorset Square in Marylebone and a mobile police headquarters was brought in….

The gunmen had been cornered by police after they had attacked a Mayfair restaurant but had managed to make it to their Ford Cortina getaway car…. They opened fire on the police from the car and a chase followed through the busy West End traffic to Marylebone…. The gang abandoned their car and ran down Balcombe Street and burst into a five-storey block of flats…. Sheila Matthews opened her flat door to see what all the commotion was and it was then that the gunmen forced their way passed her and in….

‘Scott’s’ in 2005 – The Mayfair restaurant the gang had originally attacked – Image credit : Oast House Archive CC BY-SA 2.0

The siege lasted for six days; the gang demanded safe passage to Ireland but the police were adamant that there was no deal to be made…. Initially negotiations were carried out by telephone but the gunmen broke this link by throwing the phone out of a window…. The police had to resort to using a loudhailer – eventually the gang asked for the phone to be reinstated; it was the first sign that they were cracking…. Finally the gunmen, Martin O’Connell, Edward Butler, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty – who became known as The Balcombe Street Gang – surrendered…. They were all sentenced to life imprisonment – but later released as part of the Good Friday Agreement….

Balcombe Street. Marylebone as it is now – Image credit : Oxyman CC BY-SA 2.0

On this day in history….25th September 1983

On this day in history : 25th September 1983 – In a mass break-out from the Maze high security prison, near to Lisburn, Northern Ireland, 38 prisoners manage to escape….

The breakout had been planned for several months and was masterminded by Dermot Finucane…. Using smuggled-in guns and knives at just after 2.30pm prisoners overpowered prison guards and then hijacked a delivery lorry which they used to get to the main gate…. A prison officer attempted to block the entrance using his own car – and then violence erupted…. An officer was stabbed and then proceeded to suffer a fatal heart attack as a result….

Once outside the prison the escapees hijacked several cars to make their getaway…. The biggest search operation ever seen in Northern Ireland was launched…. Police and soldiers set up checkpoints on all roads within a five mile radius of the prison and the area was sealed off….

Ten prisoners were recaptured in the first few hours – nineteen more within the next few days…. The rest got away but by 1992 five more had been caught, whilst three had been killed…. Twenty prison officers had been injured during the escape, four had been stabbed and two shot….

The closing of the Maze Prison was part of the Good Friday Agreement – the last inmates were transferred in September 2000….

H-block corridor – Image credit : Patrick McAleer CC BY-SA 2.5

On this day in history….17th June 1974

On this day in history : 17th June 1974 – An IRA bomb explodes at the Houses of Parliament, injuring eleven people and is suspected of having fractured a gas main….

Henry Kellner – own work

Six minutes before the explosion a phone call to the Press Association, by a man with an Irish accent, gave a code word (which was recognised by the police) and warned that a 20lb bomb had been planted….

There was no time to completely clear the building; just before 8.30am a bomb exploded in the corner of Westminster Hall…. Flames tore through the centuries old hall – and it was thought a gas main had been damaged….

Scotland Yard were fearful that this was to be the beginning of a new IRA bombing campaign – and indeed 1974 proved to be one of the deadliest years for terrorist attacks on the mainland…. In the February a bomb on a coach carrying soldiers on the M62 exploded, killing 12…. A bomb at the Tower of London and the pub bombings in Guildford and Birmingham claimed another 26 lives later in the year….