Small Wars Journal

Case Study: The IRA’s Hyde and Regent's Parks Attacks in London, July 20, 1982

Wed, 04/17/2013 - 3:30am

Editor's Note: A correction was made after publication to the correct name of Regent's vice Regent Park.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) Hyde and Regent's Parks attacks on the British military on July 20, 1982 were high profile, utilized innovative IED designs, and had an effective outcome from the perspective of the insurgent. This case demonstrates how IED effectiveness depends on design innovation, emplacement location, the insurgent’s motivations, the political will of the counterinsurgent, and the insurgent’s consideration of IED employment with regard to the area’s pattern-of-life. Several instructive parallels with current insurgencies suggest themselves, including insurgent goals, utilization of human networks for smuggling IED components, and the use of emerging technologies to effectively strike a stronger opponent. A deep analysis of this attack also reveals the impacts of organizational motives on the IED designs. Understanding the correlation between an insurgency’s goals and their IED design is crucial to defending against the devices and forecasting IED threats.

A coordinated IRA attack of two IEDs detonated two hours apart in London on the morning of July 20, 1982. The attacks killed military and police personnel, grotesquely injured civilians with nail shrapnel, filled a street and a park with blood and burnt flesh of horses and humans, and left Londoners in fear of future IED attacks. The terror was real and visceral. Survivors are still haunted by the experience over thirty years later. Strategically for the IRA, this attack was viewed as an official military offensive action in defense of their contested sovereign territory in Northern Ireland. The IRA used the asymmetric IED weapon to extend their fight for sovereignty over the counties in Northern Ireland[1] to British soil. An IRA spokesperson told The Guardian after the attack “Britain’s interference” in Ireland “makes bringing war to Britain inevitable.” “Britain” must “be shocked into some realistic response to Irish Republican demands.” [2] Post-attack the BBC reported that an IRA spokesperson “admitted carrying out the attacks” and justified the violence by comparing Ireland to the British Falklands. He cited Margaret Thatcher's “declaration of war on Argentina over the disputed Falklands.” He used Thatcher’s phrase that the Falkland citizens have the “right of self-determination” as a justification for war. Mirroring this he stated, “the Irish people have sovereign and national rights which no task or occupational force can put down." [3] Furthermore, the IRA sighted the same UN Article 51 that Thatcher used to defend Britain’s military violence against Argentina, invoking the right of self-defense. To remain within Article 51 the IRA had to target Britain’s military not its civilians.

Operationally, the IRA in the early 1980’s had the goal of carrying out “spectaculars,” which were “massive attacks with maximum impact” intended to garner high profile media coverage. The organization reorganized into small cells of operatives to carry out this task and had stockpiled significant amounts of arms and explosives obtained in Libya, other Middle Eastern countries, and the Americas.[4]

The IRA’s operational goal was to use spectaculars to force Britain and the international community to recognize it as a legitimate military. This was similar to how Muqtada al-Sadr evolved from his Shiite insurgency in 2005 in post-Saddam Iraq, to the official Iranian sponsored Shiite militia in 2007, to an established political party in 2008, in part by bolstering its image and safeguarding a base of operations in Sadr City through the persistent use of IEDs (including explosively formed projectiles) that America’s military could not evolve quickly enough to defeat.

To accomplish a similar feat, the IRA innovated precision devices and adopted a “less is more approach”[5] to their targeting and operations. This approach had a direct impact on the types of IEDs that the IRA built in this era. As their operational targets shifted from Northern Ireland Ulster sympathizers, security forces, and infrastructure to the British government, the insurgency conducted several high-profile attacks, and assassinations on British soil. At the same time, their IEDs evolved to use large amounts of military-grade high explosives, multiple-IED complex attacks, and advanced timing circuitry.

Tactically, the IRA had the goal of minimizing civilian causalities, while simultaneously killing British government officials, military, and security forces. However, some civilian casualties were accepted as a cost of war justified in their minds (as it has been in many cases of war, both waged by states and by non-state actors) by the ends of gaining their sovereignty. The tactic of targeting the British mainland with terror dictated the design of its IEDs. For example, the Hyde Park IED was laden six-nails to maximize the production of casualties within one hundred meters of the explosion.

The first attack occurred at 10:45 am[6], during a daily ceremonial changing of the guard parade. The symbolic Blues and Royals military cavalry, many of whom had just returned from the Falklands war as heroes, and two policemen also on horseback were struck by a pre-staged car bomb laden with nails on South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park. According to a British forensic scientist, four of the sixteen targeted cavalry died from head and other wounds produced by the nails, while six others sustained injuries. In addition, twenty-eight civilians watching the historic and symbolic daily parade were injured.[7] The explosion sent an overpressure shock wave through offices, shops, and hotels in this tourist section of London, shattering windows. An eyewitness stated in terror “horses and men were lifted into the air and slammed down.” [8]

Approximately two hours later at 12:45 pm, tourist and locals were eating their lunch in Regent's Park enjoying the thirty-member Royal Green Jackets band. This day was the first day of the royal band’s park concert annual season. The band had just started their first set when terror struck. A surviving member of the band recalled, “We were playing and then bang… bodies and torsos everywhere.” [9] An IED was hidden under the floorboards of the bandstand, later estimated to have been placed there six to seven weeks prior to the attack.

The IRA operational network that enabled this attack was vast and dedicated. First and foremost, all IRA operatives had to take a vow “without doubt” or “reservation” to carry out orders “from the Army Authority” and the “Government of the Irish Republic.” [10] The IRA’s cellular structures were compartmentalized and its operatives carried out their role without understanding the operations in which they were supporting. This cellular structure can now be found in today’s al Qaeda affiliates and other transnational insurgencies, such as Hezbollah. In the early 1980’s, the IRA re-organized its IED mission into defined cells of command and control, training, smuggling of components, home-made-explosives (HME) manufacturing, IED construction, IED emplacing, and IED triggering. This model foreshadowed the IED cells in post-Saddam Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other persistent conflicts.

Similar to the modern Taliban’s international enabling network, which receives funding from legitimate businesses in Saudi Arabia and HME precursors from China via Pakistani fertilizer importers, the IRA existed on international enablers. A four-year snap-shot of the IRA’s network capabilities up to the Hyde Regent's Park bombings, reveals that the IRA increased their IED manufacturing training camps in Ireland, Libya and Columbia, [11] received copious amounts of military grade SEMTEX explosives and electric detonating blasting-caps from Libya and Czechoslovakia, stole US military heavy machine guns from National Guard units and from Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina.[12] In large part, a consortium of legal front business provided the network with financing, IED manufacturing hardware, and HME precursors. For example, electronic manufacturing and construction firms in the US and Ireland supplied the IRA with industrial chemicals and advanced circuitry for their IEDs.

The vast legal networks of enablers were always disconnected from the organization’s military personnel, intentions, and plans. The operations were conducted by the IRA’s operational branch. The IRA had explosive, weapons, and IED storage sites in Ireland, Scotland, and inside of England, along with safe houses and cover jobs for its operatives. Couriers with clean passports would smuggle weapons via plane, train and ferry into England. Three days after the attack Belfast’s Republican News stated, “It is obvious that the IRA has overcome the extremely difficult logistical problems of carrying out operations in England.” [13] Scotland Yard reported in the Guardian, “The latest breed of IRA volunteers takes the trouble to adopt disguises.” [14] According to Scotland Yard arresting documents of the bomb maker Gibert McNamee, the IEDs were manufactured in Ireland and smuggled into England.[15] Gilbert allegedly held the rank of master bomb maker and worked full time as electrical engineer in a manufacturing factory in Ireland. British detectives stated the IRA “have the ability to move people and materials across the Irish Sea with considerable ease.”[16] The operatives who emplaced the bombs and triggered the device in Hyde Park lived in London with cover jobs and fake identities. They only knew their role in the operation and no more for their own safety if ever caught.

The emplacement of the Hyde and Regent's Parks’ bombs implies that the IRA’s operational branch had a high level of pattern-of-life knowledge about the areas. The emplacing cells had to know the exact date and time of the Royal Green Jackets’ concert and have actionable intelligence about the security force’s IED sweeping techniques. According to police reports an official bomb sweeping team missed the IED, so did the band director and another colleague who double-checked before the concert.[17]

Using of a long-delay remote timer, which was available in the 1982 emerging technology of the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR), enabled this time delay. IRA’s strategic motives, operational goals and tactical mission of killing military personnel influenced the IED’s long-term timing delay design. A VCR could have been legally purchased by an assortment of IRA enablers, and smuggled into the operational network. An electrical engineer, far removed from the scene of the attack, converted the VCR automated timer into an IED trigger. The timer allowed for up to forty-eight days of delay. In the attack, once the delay ended and the clock read 0:00 an electrical pulse was sent to a military-grade electrical-detonator[18] instead of the VCR’s video player, in turn triggering the 15lbs of high-yield explosive nitroglycerine HME.[19]

IED triggers have grown in sophistication as technology has advanced, but the success of this VCR trigger gives one insight into the possibilities. In theory a smartphone can send an infinite amount of emails instantly around the world. In developing and turbulent areas across the globe people have smartphones. Sheepherders in Sahel region of Africa live in mud huts and have international data plans. These emails could stimulate electrical pulses in countless smartphone IEDs emplaced in strategic global locations. The initial trigger signal would be as disposable as a new simcard, gone without a trace. Understanding the implications of modern technology is vital to understanding the innovation of IEDs. The Regent's Park bombing demonstrates this constantly evolving cycle.

The Hyde Park bombing also targeted military personnel. This time it was a moving target, so the Hyde Park bomb emplacing team had to know the daily parade route and an approximate time for the cavalry to pass the location. According to police reports, to avoid detection the vehicle born IED (VBIED) was parked at 10:10 am, thirty-four minutes before the attack.[20] A radio-controlled device for precision targeting triggered the VBIED. The IRA’s strategic goal of establishing legitimacy and the tactical goal of killing military personnel influenced the IED’s radio-controlled trigging design. The parade had other civilian participants so precision of violence was needed to target the military formation.

The IRA’s legal enablers purchased a common car, a blue Austin Morris Marina, from a car auction in a suburb of London seven days before the attack.[21] The car was transferred to the operational units and 25lb of gelignite HME IED enhanced with 30lbs of four- and six-inch nails was placed in the left/target-side of the trunk.[22] IRA engineers had been using radio-controlled IEDs (RCIED) since the 1970’s and in turn the British forces had developed signal jammers to block the radio signals. In the cycle of destructive innovation, the IRA developed RCIEDs around the Citizen Band (CB) Radio white signal,[23] which could not be interfered with by Britain’s operational countermeasures and had significant range from receiver to controller. At the time of the Hyde Park attack, the CB radio had recently become legal in London. Similar to Regent's Park, this IED was triggered with emerging technology. Additionally, the VBIED functioned essentially the same way as the Regent's Park IED. The triggerman in line-of-sight of the parade to target the cavalry pushed the talk button, and an electric pulse travel across the bandwidth and triggered the IED in the trunk of staged car.

Approximately one year later, British counter-IED forces developed jamming capabilities for the CB white signal.[24] In the cycle of innovation the IRA integrated legally purchased commercial radar-detectors into their IEDs (RDIED). RDIED were trigged when the jamming frequency was detected, making British jammers unwitting triggermen. Around the world today, counterinsurgency forces are facing the cell phone RCIED threat. If these soldiers are using jamming technologies to protect themselves, the insurgent IED makers are developing innovations against technique. History teaches that innovative counter-IED measures and tactics only buy time not security.

In Hyde Park, four soldiers and eight horses were killed. Twenty-eight civilians, two police officers and six cavalrymen were wounded. In Regent's Park, six Royal Green Jackets were instantly killed from the blast and the majority of the remaining twenty-four band members were wounded, along with twenty-four civilians.[25] Immediately after the attacks, the police sealed off all ports, railways, and airports out of the London area. Londoners were scared and wanted justice. Scotland Yard sent a public announcement to all “landlords,” Londoners, shopkeepers, “possible witnesses or vacationers who might have taken film or pictures of the scene.”  Four days after the attack, they had received an estimated “2,500 offers of assistance” from this cry for help.[26] Scotland Yard sent detectives to France, to track down the VBIED car auction dealer. Two days after the attack across the Atlantic Ocean, America’s FBI arrested IRA smuggling operatives and question them about this attack. There was an international IRA manhunt underway.

The police’s antiterrorism squad recreated the scene of the attack from pre- and post-blast photographs and video. They ascertained that the Hyde Park triggerman was standing in a flowerbed on Rotten Row.[27] Yet, the first arrest in this case happened five years after the fact, when McNamee was accused and found guilty of conspiring to build IEDs and terrorism. Eventually, his sentencing was overturned do to a lack of evidence. No other IRA members were directly connected or arrested for this attack.

In response to the attack, Margret Thatcher stated, “It was a barbaric and vicious” attack and that the IRA “must not win.” She also, refused a popular call to reinstate the death penalty for terrorist acts.[28] Internationally, she used the attack for leverage. Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland traveled to Washington DC and New York City to expand Britain’s Ulster agenda and to help deter legal American enablers and financiers of the IRA’s political Sinn Fein party and military branch.

In both the Hyde and Regent's Park attacks the IEDs were effective in killing their targets because of the IEDs’ innovative and tactile designs, their emplaced locations and their targeted donations. In both cases, the designs allowed for precision targeting, which reinforced the IRA’s strategic goal of spectacular attacks, operational mission of establishing military legitimacy, and tactical goal of targeting Britain’s security forces and officials. While civilians and non-combatants were wounded and exposed to the IEDs, only the intended targets were killed.

In Hyde Park, the RCIED psychologically disturbed London’s citizens and undermined Britain’s security forces. The Royal Cavalry was a symbolic target of Falkland war heroes that were utterly vulnerable to this IRA attack. The chaos of thousands nails flying as shrapnel into a crowd reinforced this sense of helplessness. Civilian onlookers were injured along with the soldiers, because the soldiers failed to protect them from the IRA. The design of this IED was effective because it reduced the perceived legitimacy of Britain’s domestic security forces.

The Regent Park IED was physiologically an attack on Britain’s will of defiance. The surviving bandleader was in a Pub when the Hyde Park explosion ripped through the neighborhood.[29] In defiance, he demanded that the band play on. He doubled checked the bandstand for an emplaced IED and ordered band to take their seats. Locals and tourist gathered for picnic lunches to watch the concert play on in defiance of the terrorism, mere hours and yards away from the Hyde Park carnage. The Regent Park IED was effective because it was innovatively designed to reinforce the sense of helpless terror from the Hyde Park attack. The scores of concertgoers watched the bandstand vaporize into millions of fragments, and bodies and instruments get engulfed in flames. Arguably, this attack was less effective than the Hyde Park IED because it had more of a physiological impact, and was perceived to be an irrational horror. The Royal Green Jackets were non-combatants, unlike the cavalry that had just returned victoriously from the Falklands.

In concert with each other, though, the Hyde and Regent Park attacks were devastatingly effective. Despite the police Commander Hucklesby’s reassuring statement “we are prepared for” future attacks and will defeat the IRA,[30] Londoners were terrified. Residents changed their patterns-of-life and tourism suffered. People in London had the expectation of future terror.

The IEDs were effective as weapons of the IRA insurgency. The attack’s negative impact on the IRA, however, stemmed from the organization’s strategic aspirations, not the lack of IED effectiveness. The IRA’s motivations for legitimacy and its tactic of using spectaculars drove the organization to create IEDs that were capable of “massive destruction” and “causalities.” This strategic aspiration backfired.  As the IRA gained in perceived technological terrorism ability and military legitimacy, it lost its freedom fighter sympathy. The campaign of spectaculars inspired Britain’s political will to grow against the IRA at a rapid pace. After this attack, IRA volunteers were perceived as terrorists, not humans fighting for freedom. The Prime Minster of Ireland stated, “Those responsible for these human crimes do irreparable damage to the good names of Ireland” and “Irish unity.” In addition, financiers and enablers in America could not openly support Sinn Fein, IRA’s political wing, as once before. America’s government agencies, such as the FBI and CIA ramped up their counter-IRA operations. Support for the IRA in Ireland decreased after this attack, as well. The Hyde and Regent Park IEDs were effective, but not in keeping with the IRA’s strategic aspirations.

Understanding the IRA’s strategic motives and factors establishes a predictive model for this attack. Strategically the IRA needed to strike on English soil with a spectacular attack. The IRA published “one bomb in London is worth a hundred in Belfast.”[31] A parade of war heroes, followed by a concert of the Royal band fit this target profile perfectly. Operationally, to accomplish this, the IRA had a network of enablers who purchased the components for the IEDs legally, the human networks to smuggle the components across the Irish Sea, the operatives who could gather the pattern-of-life intelligence about their targets, the technology to emplace their IEDs several weeks or minutes ahead of the attack, and the human terrain knowledge to escape after the attack. Both of these attacks share the same formula for execution - spectacular IEDs, with culturally aware emplacement and precision targeting and triggering. So an analysis of the technology that IRA network had access to, the organization’s motivations, and of the pattern-of-life sequences on July 20, 1982 in Hyde and Regent Parks may have predicted the IEDs’ likely emplacements and designs.

[1] Contested Ulster counties: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Tyrone

[2] Pallister, David, and Beresford, David. 1982. Police pinpoint suspects for IRA bombing. The Guardian, July 23, 1982.

[3] On this day in history: 1982, IRA bombs cause carnage in london. BBC.

[4] Oppenheimer, A. R.,  IRA The Bombs and The Bullets, A History of Deadly Ingenuity Irish American Press (2009)

[5] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[6] Rattner, S. 1982. 51 hurt in 2 blasts that were aimed at British troops. Special to The New York Times, July 21, 1982.

[7] IRA bomber watched the cavalry die. 1982. The Guardian, October 22, 1982.

[8] Rattner, S. July 21, 1982

[9] Rattner, S. July 21, 1982

[10] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[11] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[12] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[13] Pallister, David, and Beresford, David. July 23 1982

[14] Pallister, David, and Beresford, David. July 23 1982

[15] Tendler, S. 1987. Nail bomb that killed four built by young electrician: Hyde park bomb trial. The Times, London, October 13, 1987.

[16] Pallister, David, and Beresford, David. July 23 1982

[17] IRA bomber watched the cavalry die. 1982. The Guardian, October 22, 1982.

[18] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[19] IRA bomber watched the cavalry die. 1982

[20] Pallister, D. 1982. Yard follows up clues as bombs claim ninth victim. The Guardian, July 22, 1982.

[21] Pallister, D. July 22 1982

[22] IRA bomber watched the cavalry die. 1982

[23] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[24] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[25] Oppenheimer, A.R 2009

[26] Thousands aiding police in London bomb case. The New York Times, July 24, 1982.

[27] Correspondent. 1982. Police reconstruct bombing in the park. The Guardian, July 28, 1982.

[28] Rattner, S. July 21, 1982

[29] IRA bomber watched the cavalry die. 1982

[30] British police expect more terrorist attacks. The New York Times, July 22, 1982.

[31] Pallister, David, and Beresford, David. July 23 1982


About the Author(s)

Jeremiah Foxwell, a US Navy EOD Iraq War veteran, is a graduate of George Mason University, where he received an interdisciplinary degree in Middle East and North African Counterinsurgency. He is pursuing his Masters from Johns Hopkins University in Global Security Studies. He is a US State Department Arabic Critical Language Fellow and conducted immersion training in Amman, Jordan.



Wed, 05/22/2013 - 6:56am

Stunning update today and I cite the CPS statement in full:'Sue Hemming, Head of Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The Metropolitan Police Service has been investigating the explosion near Hyde Park in London which occurred on 20 July 1982. We have reviewed the evidence gathered and authorised them to charge John Anthony Downey, 61, of County Donegal, Ireland.

"It is alleged that Downey is responsible for the improvised explosive device contained in a car parked in South Carriage Drive, SW1, London which resulted in the deaths of four members of the Royal Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals, as they travelled on their daily route from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

"Downey has been charged with the murders of Roy John Bright, Dennis Richard Anthony Daly, Simon Andrew Tipper and Geoffrey Vernon Young. He has also been charged with intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life contrary to s.3 Explosive Substances Act 1883.

"This decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. We have determined that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that these charges are in the public interest.

"Downey will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court this afternoon, 22 May 2013.

"John Anthony Downey is now charged with criminal offences and has the right to a fair trial. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice this trial'.


Just how this sits with the Good Friday Agreement I am unsure.

We will remember them!

Red Rat

Mon, 04/22/2013 - 6:34am

In reply to by J.Foxwell

I think we may be divided by a common language here.

Are you using the term 'military legitimacy' in the sense of military effectiveness? I understood you to be using it in the sense of a moral or legal sense.

If I subsititute 'effectiveness' for 'legitimacy' in your last statement: "The IRA's military effectiveness furthered Sinn Fein's political influence, both domestically and abroad?" that seems to make more sense to me. PIRA military pre-eminence amongst terrorist groupings gave them a degree of legitimacy within the eyes of the Nationalist community and a great deal of political clout to Sinn Fein. Likewise abroad as the most effective of the Republican terrorist groupings PIRA attrracted the most support and funding, but this support and funding still did not translate to effective political influence in dealing with the British political establishment. Why? Because the the British political establishment relied upon a support base (the elctorate) who never felt threatened by PIRA actions. Despite a proven capability their political return on violence was dwindling so long as the campaign was confined to N Ireland. The British had been fighting in Ireland since 1169, as long as the violence remained in Ireland and did not directly threaten the interests of the British state then it was only ever going to remain a very low political priority.

I do not think an argument of legitimacy works because:

1) Sinn Fein never lost their sovereign political rights after 1974 (when the ban on the party was lifted). They were able to campaign politically and free to take up seats in parliament.
2) PIRA were never accorded the status they craved of military combatants. They were always dealt with under criminal legislation. As a soldier in N Ireland our training was very clear - the police were in charge, convictions were highly effective and forensics were the route to convictions.
3) PIRA never got to the stage of effectiveness where they could challenge the hegemony of the state in N Ireland.

PIRA attacks on the British political establishment certainly focused the attention of the establishment, but what was even more effective was the long running campaign focused on London and the City. Low casualty but of very high economic impact. Interestingly from a counter-terrorist perspective a focus on the money trail in N Ireland at about the same time was also highly highly effective. being sent to jail is one thing, having your house seized under the proceeds of crime act is a different proposition entirely.


Fri, 04/19/2013 - 6:16pm

Regarding -"The UK campaign in my opinion was never about legitimacy, but all about gaining political traction." Establishing military legitimacy enables political traction? This is demonstrated by the insurgency's leaders citing the UN Article 51, in concert with Thacther's defense of the Falkland War. The IRA carried out the attacks as Ireland's military in protecting the sovereign political rights of Sinn Fein? The IRA's military legitimacy furthered Sinn Fein's political influence, both domestically and abroad?

Red Rat

Fri, 04/19/2013 - 12:09pm

Good article.

"The IRA’s operational goal was to use spectaculars to force Britain and the international community to recognize it as a legitimate military."

Not so in my opinion.

By this stage in the campaign the conflict in N Ireland had effectively been contained to N Ireland. There was no driving political imperative to engage with Sinn Fein as the failure of the 1981 Maze hunger strikes had clearly demonstrated. The Republican terrorist groupings could continue to engage targets in N Ireland as much as they like, but casualty rates were significantly down from the start of the Troubles, the civil police had primacy and the whatever happened in N Ireland was just so much background chatter unless there was a particularly gruesome episode. the British camapign plan of 'Ulsterisation' was paying dividends. Short of engaging in sectarian conflict - the only thing that was guaranteed to drive the troubles up the polical agenda (and violence in N Ireland IMHO was carefully calibrated not to spark full blown sectarian conflict which the Catholic community was bound to lose) the PIRA had to engage effectively on mainland UK in order to gain political traction as part of their 'Armalite and Ballot Box strategy'.

The UK campaign in my opinion was never about legitimacy, but all about gaining political traction.


Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:28pm

In reply to by J.Foxwell

The relevance of McNamee is that Britain had to eventually let go the only suspected IRA operative attached to this bombing. So whether or not he was actually in the IRA is secondary point. The primary point is that the IRA was effective in this attack because of their human terrain knowledge. As demonstrated by after the attack the operatives escaped, and no one was arrested for five years.


Wed, 04/17/2013 - 11:41am

In reply to by J.Foxwell

Attacking the British Army was a PIRA objective and what a way to do so, on the "mainland' and in the centre of London, albeit a Royal Park. Deeply symbolic and certain to resonate with their supporters in Northern Ireland. That the victims were the Household Cavalry on ceremonial duty or the Royal Green Jacket's regimental band playing maybe immaterial.

I'd have to delve further to confirm whether the Household Cavalry had then been deployed to Northern Ireland, they were and are a small light armoured unit. I am certain the RGJ had, being light infantry with a known reputation for professionalism, it is very likely they had been in direct combat with PIRA - so an element of revenge may have applied.

Describing the RGJ as non-combatant is a mistake.


Wed, 04/17/2013 - 11:13am

In reply to by davidbfpo

Thanks for the correction David. I did not know about the combatant "medical role" of the Royal Green Jackets. Do you think this changes the cross-analysis of the more effective attack?


Wed, 04/17/2013 - 12:17pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

Roger that on the non-combatants, England had special infantry soldiers who played in a band when not fighting the IRA. "That the victims were the Household Cavalry on ceremonial duty or the Royal Green Jacket's regimental band playing maybe immaterial." Cavalry on parade and the RGJs, who are infantry soldiers with special musical talents, playing a public concert are symbolic targets. Not recognizing the strategic symbolism is not recognizing the potential IED target.


Wed, 04/17/2013 - 9:18am

An interesting article and a reminder of the PIRA (Provisional IRA's) bombing campaign on the UK mainland. I remember that day well, I arrived in London a few hours after the explosion and travelled down Park Lane.

On the second reading I spotted two odd passages:

1) 'Yet, the first arrest in this case happened five years after the fact, when McNamee was accused and found guilty of conspiring to build IEDs and terrorism. Eventually, his sentencing was overturned do to a lack of evidence. No other IRA members were directly connected or arrested for this attack'.

It is worth reading Wikipedia on this man: Note the denials of him being in PIRA which stand in contrast to him joining an escape attempt from jail with PIRA members and after release his alignment with PIRA. The court verdict was overturned due to a failure by the prosecution to reveal evidence of other's fingerprints being found; plus the appeal court decision was after the Good Friday Agreement, which IIRC had already led to his release from jail.

2) 'The Royal Green Jackets were non-combatants, unlike the cavalry that had just returned victoriously from the Falklands'. That is 100% wrong, the Royal Green Jackets were a full-time professional light infantry battalion; bandsmen in the British Army are trained as soldiers, usually fulfilling a medical role. The regiment was often deployed to Northern Ireland: