News Letter
23 February 2012

THE English town of Aldershot paid a solemn tribute to seven people killed in an IRA bomb at the former headquarters of the Parachute Regiment.

The bomb, 40 years ago yesterday, was one of the last major atrocities carried out by the Official IRA who said it was in revenge for Bloody Sunday several weeks earlier.

It was one of the first major atrocities on the British mainland and caused shockwaves.

Gerry Weston, a 38-year-old priest from Liverpool who had been awarded an MBE for his work with the Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland, was the only soldier to be killed in the attack.

Of the other six killed five were female domestic staff at the base as well as a gardener, while 16 Parachute Brigade were off the base on service. A further 19 people were injured.

The 40th anniversary was marked yesterday morning with a wreath-laying ceremony in the former Montgomery Lines barracks in the Hampshire town.

Wreaths were laid by the mayor of Rushmoor, Councillor Alex Crawford, the garrison commander, Colonel Tim Forster, OBE, and prayers were said by the mayor’s chaplain, the Rev George Newton, in addition to a two-minute silence.

Rushmoore Council chief executive Andrew Lloyd described the service as solemn.

“Aldershot is a proud, historic town steeped in military history. There is a great deal for sympathy and empathy in the town with the families of those killed,” he said.

Meanwhile, bomb survivor Major John Cracknell recalled being less than 30 yards away from the bomb when it exploded in 1972.

He was just 18 at the time and described the scene as “total devastation”.

“It was a loud bang. I went down on my knees and all around me the glass was coming in,” he said.

“It was total devastation. Everything was caved in, all the glass was down, all the furniture was broken, the stairs were broken. It was just as you see it on a film really.”

Major Cracknell ran to the building to see if he could help anyone inside.

He said: “It was fairly obvious that there were going to be fatalities, it was just a question of finding them in the rubble really.”

And he added that the attack really took people by surprise.

“There were bomb blasts throughout the city of Belfast two or three times a day,” he said. “So we were quite used to it from that point of view, but this was the first attack on the mainland and it was shocking.”

Local councillor Roger Kimber had also been nearby when the bomb exploded.

“It was a hell of a bang, but we were so well drilled not to go near in case it was just designed to lure people in before a secondary bomb,” he said.

“It was all civilians killed which made it even sadder. It had a tsunami effect on the entire community because so many families were affected.”

The site where the former barracks stood is now being redeveloped.

A permanent stone plinth memorial to the victims currently stands at the site which the council have said it will protect.