27/08/2009

Army's 'Bloodiest Day' In Ulster Recalled

Twin tragedies in Northern Ireland on this day 30 years ago are being remembered.

Separate memorial services are taking place at both Mullaghmore in Sligo and Narrow Water in Co Down to recall the bloody day.

The Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten died when a bomb went off on his fishing boat off the west coast of Ireland as the first atrocity that day in 1979 - followed by the slaughter of 18 soldiers in a double bomb attack.

On August 27 1979, the IRA detonated a bomb on Lord Mountbatten's boat Shadow V which had just set off from the fishing village of Mullaghmore in Co Sligo.

One of the former sailor's twin grandsons, Nicholas, 14, as well as local teenager Paul Maxwell, 15, also died in the blast. The Dowager Lady Brabourne, aged 83, died later from her injuries.

Then, across the border in Northern Ireland, the IRA detonated two 800lb bombs beside Narrow Water Castle at Warrenpoint.

The first explosion killed 16 members of the Parachute Regiment, the second, two members of the Queen's Own Highlanders who had been sent to the scene.

Tregdy continued as a civilian, Londoner Michael Hudson, who happened to be one of the Queen's royal coachmen, was shot dead while bird watching on a nearby island when soldiers opened fire across Carlingford Lough into the Irish Republic where they believed the bombers had detonated the devices.

It was the army's largest single loss of life in more than 35 years in Northern Ireland, and indeed it was the largest single loss of life in any single event of the Troubles until the Real IRA detonated the Omagh bomb in August 1998.

Today, an ecumenical service at the Star of the Sea Church in Mullaghmore will mark the 30th anniversary of Mountbatten's murder death.

It will be attended by friends and staff of the Mountbattens, the Maxwell family as well as local residents of the village.

On the other side of the country, and border, another memorial service will be held at Narrow Water at 3.15pm, the precise moment the first bomb exploded.

It will be followed by a wreath laying ceremony.

However, the Parachute Regiment - then stationed at Ballykinler in Co Down - will not be returning to the scene.

The regiment is instead holding its own private memorial behind the walls of a military base in Northern Ireland and also at their English headquarters.

An independent TV company has also been commissioned to produce a hard-hitting programme documenting the violent death of the famous military figure on that August day.

Below the Radar, a Ten Alps company, produced Mountbatten: Return to Mullaghmore, for RTÉ and AETN UK.

It explores the events surrounding the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten - whose nephew is Prince Phillip - but known affectionately as 'uncle' to The Queen.

See: Mullaghmore Return Recalls Mountbatten

(BMcC/GK)

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