Ahead of our Aldershot Bomb Attack Remembrance game against Dover on the 22nd February, we would like to make our supporters aware of the history of the event and why we will be remembering those we lost on the 50th anniversary next Tuesday.
The story of the event has been kindly put together for us by Geoff Butler, the Admin of the Friends of the Aldershot Bomb Memorial Group below. (Geoff was a 17 year-old paratrooper who had been tasked to work that day in the Officers Mess next door. He was a lucky survivor of this attack.)
“The Aldershot Bomb Attack of 22nd February 1972 at Lunchtime.
“On the 22nd February, Aldershot was the first target of the IRA on the British Mainland. The target was the 16th Parachute Brigade Officers Mess at the side of Pennyfathers Road. At 5:30am, IRA terrorist bomb team placed a car bomb next to the Officers Mess, with no warning given.
“The barracks that day was open plan no security fences impossible to defend against attack. In the Brigade Lines all was calm and normal routine in operation the bomb went undetected.Around lunchtime In the officers mess civilian staff and the gardener was working . A few officers had returned for lunch and were in the mess,
“Geoff states that around 12:15 he had left the Officers Mess to go for his lunch but as he left the building, he passed an officer going in the Officers Mess by the name of Captain Tom Foster. Geoff also saw the Roman Catholic Padre Father Gerald Weston drive by and park outside the Brigade Mess.
“Geoff was about 20 yards away from the Brigade Mess when there was a large explosion as the car bomb detonated. Geoff was knocked off his feet in the blast wave. The blast wave went in all directions, destroying almost every glass window in the whole Brigade lines.
“Windows were broken in Aldershot and as far away as Ash. All the Officers Mess windows were blown inward. Luckily Geoff was not injured. He realised that Tom Foster must be injured and went into the Officers Mess. He was trapped in the Gents toilet and found Tom in a bad way. Tom was in shock and his condition deteriorating fast. Geoff then got told off by Tom for risking his life going into the building for him and ignoring the fact there may be a second device which was an IRA trick to lure more people in. Geoff calmed Tom, got Tom out and with no time to call and ambulance flagged a car down and asked the driver to take to Tom to hospital. A medic joined Geoff and then took over and Tom was rushed to hospital. Thanks to this, Tom lived until recently and died at the age of 89 with his funeral on 6th January earlier this year, where Geoff met Tom’s children for the first time.
“Geoff then went to the Brigade Mess and tried to help others but unfortunately found a horrific scene. The gardener, the Padre and 5 female cleaners did not survive in the building. Sadly nothing could be done for them. 19 other people were also wounded .
“The IRA bomber was caught and jailed for 30 years, he died in prison four years later. Other members of the IRA gang were never convicted. However two passed away in an internal feud and one was lawfully killed by Paratroopers whilst trying to escape Police in Belfast. Two others were also jailed for hiring a car for the bomber on the day of the event.
“Today in Aldershot, a New Memorial Garden on the old site of the Officers Mess has been opened with a brand new memorial remembering those lovely innocent people. A memorial plaque has been on site and a service every year for the last 20 years has been organised for the families, many of which lived in the Aldershot Area.
“The new memorial garden will be open to the public for you to visit in Pennyfathers Road.
“This yearly service will continue as all people who would like to remember those we’ve lost on that day are welcome to attend. It is always 12 Noon on the 22nd February every year.
“Details are on the Friends of the Aldershot Bomb Memorial Facebook Group run by Geoff Butler and Tommy Simpson HERE.
“The innocent peoples names murdered that day by the IRA are below:
“(Sadly many of the families are still suffering to this day. At the time some of the children were put in orphanages or homes after the bomb or had to be brought up by relatives.)
“Six civilian staff were murdered on this tragic day by the IRA, plus Father Gerard Weston MBE (a Roman Catholic British Army chaplain) given an MBE for his services in the Northern Ireland to the Communities.
The Civilian Officers Mess staff who were working there that unfortunately died during the attack were:
- Jill Mansfield (34); a mother of an eight-year-old boy; as well as four other cleaners named:
- Thelma Bosley (44)
- Margaret Grant (32)
- Cherie Munton (20)
- Joan Lunn (39)
- John Haslar (58)(All from the Aldershot Area)
“May they rest in Peace love to their families.”
For more details on how we will be remember those we have lost, click HERE.