Last Tuesday, 22nd February, a new memorial was unveiled remembering the seven innocent victims of the 1972 Aldershot Officers’ Mess Bomb, writes Bob Morrison.
On my return from the poignant service in the town which thousands of the Parachute Regiment’s ‘Old and Bold’ refer to as just The Shot, I penned a brief news article ~ see Aldershot Remembers 1972 Officers’ Mess Bombing ~ and said I hoped to follow up with a little more detail about the new memorial. It has been my intention to pen this short article on Thursday or Friday, subject to work commitments, but Vlad the Invader sending his troops to wreak havoc in neighbouring Ukraine in the early hours of the 24th upset the apple cart somewhat.
A simple memorial plaque to the six civilian members of the Mess Staff and the Army padre who lost their lives in Aldershot in 1972, when the IRA exploded a car bomb next to the 16th Parachute Brigade Officers’ Mess, has long existed on the site of what was once Montgomery Lines. When the Parachute Regiment regular battalions, as part of the newly formed 16 Air Assault Brigade, moved from their traditional home of Aldershot to Colchester around the turn of the millennium the marking of the annual anniversary at the monument primarily fell to the stalwarts of The Parachute Regimental Association.
Today Aldershot has been massively transformed and most of the site of the former Montgomery Lines (including Arnhem, Bruneval, Normandy and Rhine Barracks etc.) is being redeveloped as housing. As part of this transformation the developers, Grainger plc, committed to enhancing the area around the existing monument on the site of the former HQ 16 Para Bde Officers’ Mess. Tommy Simpson of the Aldershot Branch of the Parachute Regimental Association (PRA) and the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces Memorial Fund (PRAFMF) is credited with starting the ball rolling to replace the ageing original monument (a simple plaque on a 500x500x600mm concrete plinth) with something more befitting and over time a new heptagonal column design and plans for a formal memorial garden evolved.
In addition to the heptagon, bearing individual plaques with the names of the seven victims of the Official IRA attack, seven trees are being planted behind the monument. The original memorial plaque will be mounted behind the new plinth and the whole area will eventually be paved & grassed and planted with hedges and shrubs; the pandemic caused an understandable delay in the landscaping programme but the main plinth was positioned in time for the 50th Anniversary at 12:15 on 22/02/2022. The PRAFMF has also donated five benches for visitors to rest on and on the day these were temporarily sited just to one side of the new memorial for the families and friends of the victims to sit upon during the ceremony.
Once landscaping is complete, the memorial garden will be open to all for quiet contemplation and to allow friends and families to pay their respects to:-
- Mary Thelma Bosley
- Margaret Jean Grant
- Jean Violet Lunn
- Jill Cynthia Mansfield
- Sheri Christina Munton
- John Charles Hasler
- The Reverend Gerard Weston MBE CF(RC)
[images © Bob Morrison unless noted]