Harrods bombing

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Template:EngvarB Template:Infobox terrorist attack The Harrods bombing usually refers to the car bomb that exploded outside Harrods department store in central London on Saturday 17 December 1983. Members of the Provisional IRA planted the time bomb and sent a warning 37 minutes before it exploded, but the area was not evacuated. The blast killed three police officers and three civilians, injured 90 people, and caused much damage. The IRA Army Council claimed it had not authorised the attack and expressed regret for the civilian casualties. The IRA had been bombing commercial targets in England since the early 1970s, as part of its "economic war". The goal was to damage the economy and cause disruption, which would put pressure on the British government to withdraw from Northern Ireland.

Harrods was the target of a much smaller IRA bomb almost ten years later, in January 1993, which injured four people.

1983 bombing

From 1973 the Provisional IRA had carried out waves of bombing attacks in London and elsewhere in England, as part of its campaign. Harrods—a large, upmarket department store in the affluent Knightsbridge district, near Buckingham Palace—had been targeted before by the IRA. On 10 December 1983, the IRA carried out its first attack in London for some time when a bomb exploded at the Royal Artillery Barracks, injuring three British soldiers.

One week later, on the afternoon of 17 December, IRA members parked a car bomb near the side entrance of Harrods, on Hans Crescent. The bomb contained 25 to Template:Convert of explosives and was set to be detonated by a timer.<ref name="Guardian">"Bomb unauthorised says IRA". The Guardian, 19 December 1983.</ref><ref name=chalk>Chalk, Peter. Encyclopedia of Terrorism. ABC-CLIO, 2013. pp.285-287</ref> It was left in a 1972 blue Austin 1300 GT four-door saloon car with a black vinyl roof, registration plate KFP 252K.<ref name="Guardian"/> At 12:44 a man using an IRA codeword phoned the central London branch of the Samaritans charity.<ref name="Guardian"/><ref name=chalk/> The caller said there was a car bomb outside Harrods and another bomb inside Harrods, and gave the car's registration plate.<ref name="Guardian"/><ref name=chalk/> However, according to police, he did not give any other description of the car.<ref name="Guardian"/>

The bomb exploded at about 13:21, as four police officers in a car, an officer on foot and a police dog-handler neared the suspect vehicle.<ref name="Guardian"/><ref name=chalk/> Six people were killed (three officers and three bystanders) and 90 others were injured, including 14 police officers.<ref name=mckittrick>McKittrick, David. Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. Mainstream, 2001. pp.970-971</ref> The blast damaged 24 cars<ref name="Guardian"/> and all five floors on the side of Harrods, sending a shower of glass down on the street.<ref name=chalk/> The police car absorbed much of the blast and this likely prevented further casualties.<ref name="Guardian"/>

The bystanders killed were Philip Geddes (24), a journalist who had heard about the alert and went to the scene;<ref name=mckittrick/> Jasmine Cochrane-Patrick (25); and Kenneth Salvesan (28), a US citizen.<ref name=mckittrick/> The Metropolitan Police officers killed were Sergeant Noel Lane (28); Constable Jane Arbuthnot (22); and Inspector Stephen Dodd (34), who died of his injuries on 24 December.<ref name="CAIN">Malcolm Sutton's Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland. Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN).</ref> Constable Jon Gordon survived, but lost both legs and part of a hand in the blast.<ref name=chalk/>

At the time of the explosion, a second warning call was made by the IRA. The caller said that a bomb had been left in the C&A department store on the east side of Oxford Street. Police cleared the area and cordoned it off but this claim was found to be false. In the aftermath of the attack, hundreds of extra police and mobile bomb squads were drafted into London.<ref name=chalk/> Aleck Craddock, chairman of Harrods, reported that £1 million in turnover had been lost as a result of the bombing. Despite the damage, Harrods re-opened three days later, proclaiming it would not be "defeated by acts of terrorism".<ref name=chalk/> Denis Thatcher, the husband of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, visited the store and told reporters "no damned Irishman is going to stop me going there".

IRA response

The bombing badly damaged the IRA's support, due to the civilian deaths and injuries.<ref name=chalk/> In a statement issued the day after, the IRA Army Council admitted that IRA members had planted the bomb, but claimed that it had not authorised the attack:
The Harrods operation was not authorised by the Irish Republican Army. We have taken immediate steps to ensure that there will be no repetition of this type of operation again. The volunteers involved gave a 40 minutes specific warning, which should have been adequate. But due to the inefficiency or failure of the Metropolitan Police, who boasted of foreknowledge of IRA activity, this warning did not result in an evacuation. We regret the civilian casualties, even though our expression of sympathy will be dismissed. Finally, we remind the British Government that as long as they maintain control of any part of Ireland then the Irish Republican Army will continue to operate in Britain.<ref name="Guardian"/>

Leon Brittan, the Home Secretary, commented: "The nature of a terrorist organisation is that those in it are not under disciplined control".<ref name="Guardian"/> In his book The Provisional IRA in England, author Gary McGladdery says the bombing illustrated one of the problems with the IRA's cell system, where units "could become virtually autonomous from the rest of the organisation and operate at their own discretion". The IRA had adopted the system in the late 1970s.


There is a memorial at the site of the blast. Yearly prizes in the honour of Philip Geddes are awarded to aspiring journalists attending the University of Oxford. Also, every year the Philip Geddes Memorial Lecture on the theme of the future of journalism is given by a leading journalist.

1993 bombing

On 28 January 1993, Harrods was once again targeted. At 9:14, two telephoned warnings were issued, saying that two bombs had been planted: one outside and one inside Harrods.<ref name=indjan93>Template:Cite news</ref> The store was due to open at 10:00.<ref name=indjan93/> Police cordoned-off the area and began a search. However, some bystanders ignored the police cordon.<ref name=indjan93/> At about 9:40, a package containing 1 lb of Semtex exploded in a litter bin at the front of the store.<ref name=indjan93/> It injured four people and damaged the shopfront.<ref name=indjan93/><ref name="convicted">Template:Cite book</ref> The cost of damage and lost sales was estimated at £1 million.<ref name=redbrigade>Template:Cite news</ref>

Those responsible were English far left activists associated with the IRA: Jan Taylor, a 51-year-old former corporal who served in the Royal Signals Corps of the British Army, and Patrick Hayes, a 41-year-old computer programmer with a degree in business studies from Central London Polytechnic and a member of Red Action.<ref name="convicted" /><ref name=redbrigade/> In March 1993, police captured them at Hayes' home in Stoke Newington, north London. They each received prison sentences of 30 years for the January Harrods bombing and for a second attack on a train a month later which caused extensive damage but no casualties. Hayes was also convicted of conspiracy to cause three additional explosions in 1992. Neither men had links to Ireland.

See also

  • List of British police officers killed in the line of duty
  • Provisional Irish Republican Army campaign 1969–1997



External links

Template:Campaignbox Northern Ireland Troubles Template:The Troubles

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