Tuesday, 3 March 2009


My entire police service was overshadowed by Irish Republican terrorism on the UK mainland. Sometimes the shadow was very dark, sometimes it was barely visible, but it was always there. This included shootings from small arms, including sub machine guns as well as countless bomb threats and very many detonations of Improvised Explosive Devices (I.E.D.) A lot of current news stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan refer to IED's exploding under army vehicles or at the roadside and I often wonder what the general public imagine, in their mind's eye, as to just what an `improvised` explosive device is all about. The IRA became expert in creating home made explosives or HOMEX as we used to call it, out of weed killer and other agricultural chemicals. One could be forgiven for thinking that this smacked of the home chemistry set and somehow lessened the effect. The truth is that IRA HOMEX was at least 80% as effective as military or industrial explosives and the way these devices were developed over the years left us and our friends in the Army in no doubt that we were dealing with a significant and deadly threat. Either way, whether HOMEX was 80% or 60% as effective it was purely academic, as the resulting death and mass destruction regularly proved. The bombs that caused multi-million pounds worth of collateral, human and economic devastation in the City of London, Manchester and elsewhere were HOMEX devices. The two pictures on this post are of the scene of an IRA bomb that I attended minutes afterwards. Many of the officers captured in these photographs were my mates. I was 2 blocks away, yet the building I was in shook from the massive blast and plaster was dislodged from the ceiling. It went off on the same day as the infamous `Old Bailey` bomb where many innocent people were injured but, miraculously, no one died. These pictures were of the incident on my Division, in Great Scotland Yard. The bomb was outside the HQ of Army Recruiting in London which was next door to the police Mounted Branch's central HQ which also had stables. Horses were present when the bomb detonated. I used to regularly have my full English breakfast in there. The last one I had was at 7.30 that very morning. I consider myself lucky not to have been there for an afternoon cup of tea, but then luck plays such a big part in these things. Both multi-storey brick built buildings were cracked from the pavement to the roof. In the lower photograph, at the end of the street in the background, is the Admiralty in Whitehall, just down from Trafalgar Square. All the Admiralty's windows visible were blown out in the shockwave, the extent of this damage exactly matching the width of Great Scotland Yard, it's buildings channeling the blast across the street like a big cannon. A parking meter next to the car containing the bomb was later found on the Admiralty roof, over 300 yards away. The pavement was littered with coins from that parking meter. One flying 10 pence piece took off a mans finger as he was walking by the Admiralty - 10pence worth of shrapnel, one of hundreds of pieces that could have damaged so many more tourists and pedestrians going about their business. I bandaged what was left of the finger and tried to find the missing digit whilst he waited for an ambulance. Finally, the video I've inserted was sent to me from a good buddy and ex colleague who has been working in Iraq training the fledgling police force. It is an example of an IED roadside device, although out there the insurgents do have real military ordnance to utilise in their bomb making, but improvised it still is. The person who detonated it by remote control was most probably watching the security forces convoy and chose the moment to initiate the device. I would hate for anyone to be led into thinking that the word `improvised` means it is in any way `amateurish`.


powdergirl said...


Blue Eyes said...

Can't say I've been anywhere near as close as you, but I had to cross Hammersmith Bridge to school every day as a kid. If that bomb that didn't go off properly had gone off a couple of hours later I wouldn't be writing this comment.

The IRA were professionals and serious.

But having said that I don't think it's technically very hard to make a devastating bomb. It is actually a wonder there aren't more...

Hogday said...

Powdergirl: Spoken as one who really knows.

Blue Eyes: At times it was frightening in London, hearing them go off whilst sat in my flat in Clapham, followed by the sirens. There were so many at one period in time, hand thrown as well as in cars. At work it occasionally got to you as you were sent to a call, looking at the parked cars and wondering if this or that one had it. Had to get a `psych` grip a few times but we got used to it - I cannot find words to express the depth of respect I have for the RUC! Still, that's the `terror` in terrorism. Luck is a much ignored factor in our fragile lives.

kateykakes said...

OMG, just reading and seeing the pics was bad enough, but reality really set in when the video is viewed.

Brutal is an understatment.

That gave me chills and brought tears to my eyes.

Hogday said...

Dear KateyKakes, how I agree with your observation. They were `our guys` in that vehicle convoy.

I find it particularly galling to find that a mere 6 days after I posted this piece, that the IRA have machine-gunned and murdered two British soldiers in Northern Ireland (Engineers, bound for Afghanistan) and injured 4 other innocents. I wonder if Gordon Brown still wants that Oh so honourable `gentleman` Ted Kennedy, to have an honourary knighthood??? Seems to me that our Prime Minister needs to have a long hard look at the word `Honour` and think on what it really means.