Army

Memorial commemorates officers' mess bombing by IRA, 50 years on

The attack was the first atrocity committed on the UK mainland as a result of The Troubles.

The bombing of an officers' mess, which claimed the lives of seven people 50 years ago, has been remembered with the unveiling of a memorial.

On 22 February 1972, at exactly 12:15, Aldershot was rocked by a massive explosion as a Ford Cortina, packed full of explosives, detonated outside the 16th Parachute Brigade Officers' Mess.

Intended to kill and maim officers of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces, the bomb is thought to have gone off prematurely and took the lives of a gardener, five civilian members of the mess staff and an Army chaplain.

The next day, an announcement from the Official Irish Republican Army stated the bombing was in retaliation for 'Bloody Sunday'.

On Tuesday, a service of remembrance was conducted at the exact hour of the explosion – which could be heard across Aldershot.

A new heptagonal memorial plinth was unveiled by family members, with each side representing one of the victims: gardener John Haslar, civilian mess staff Jill Mansfield, Mary Bosley, Margaret Grant, Sheri Munton and Joan Lunn, and the Army's Padre Captain Gerard Weston.

Brian Bosley, from West Yorkshire, laid a wreath in memory of his mother, Mary Bosley – a cleaner who was killed in the blast.

"It was 50 years ago, but it still hurts," he said. "The only thing I have got is she didn't feel anything, one minute she was talking and the next minute she wasn't talking.

"I feel sad for the people lost here, five women, a gardener and a Catholic priest. They didn't achieve anything – what was achieved?"

Grace Donnelly, from Liverpool, lost her best friend, Margaret Grant, a mother of three, in the bombing.

"It's a wonderful tribute to give to them. They went there to do their job, and then this awful thing happened," she said,

"It's very emotional, she left three little boys behind, she was only 32 and I was her best friend.

"I was down in the town having lunch and we heard this terrific explosion and first thing my friend said was: 'That's a bomb'.

"We ran up the hill and there were police and ambulances were here.

"The regimental sergeant major came up to me and said: 'We have some terrible news', and that's when he told me about Margaret," she added.