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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

27 August 1979: Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA on this day. He was blown up while sailing in his yacht at Mullaghmore, whilst on holiday at his nearby Irish home Classiebawn Castle, in County Sligo. During his lifetime, Mountbatten had received numerous honours, and honorary degrees and had attained high military rank in WWII. He was the last Viceroy of India. On the day of his death he was accompanied by members of his family and a local boy. Three of them were killed and others seriously injured. His funeral took place in Westminster Abbey and he was buried in Romsey Abbey.

That same afternoon at Warrenpoint, County Down, the IRA killed 18 British soldiers, most of them members of the elite Parachute Regiment, in a double bomb attack. An innocent bystander on the Republic’s side of the border was also killed in retaliatory fire by the Paras.

This was the greatest loss of life suffered by the British during the Conflict and caused shock waves throughout the British Establishment and with the general British Public. The news of these events immediately spread around the World and made the North an International News story. Mountbatten, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and uncle to Prince Charles was a person at the heart of the British Establishment as a senior member of the British Royal Family. They felt his death at the hands of the IRA very keenly.

The multiple deaths of the soldiers got much less coverage than Mountbatten’s killing but as the days past that too began to sink in. While British people were shocked and horrified there was no backlash against the Irish community in Britain like that which followed the Birmingham bombings in 1974.

But amongst the Republican community in the North there was a grim satisfaction notwithstanding the loss of some innocent lives. The deaths of the Paras was seen as revenge for the events of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 13 innocent people were shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment. Soon after Mountbatten's death a grisly piece of Graffiti appeared on Belfast walls. It read:

13 gone but not forgotten - we got 18 and Mountbatten