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Aldershot Remembers 1972 Officers’ Mess Bombing

Dedication of the new Memorial Garden and Plinth on the 50th anniversary of the Aldershot Officers' Mess bombing [© Bob Morrison]

At 12:15 today, precisely fifty years, Aldershot remembered the seven lives lost in the bombing of the HQ 16 Parachute Brigade Officers’ Mess, reports Bob Morrison.

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At 12:15 on the 22nd of February 1972 the garrison town of Aldershot was rocked by a massive explosion as a Ford Cortina packed full of explosives detonated outside the 16th Parachute Brigade Officers’ Mess. It had been intended to kill and maim officers of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces whilst they were at lunch, but it is thought to have gone off prematurely and in so doing took the lives of a gardener, five civilian members of the mess staff and an Army Chaplain.

Geoffrey Butler gave a firsthand account and history of the 1972 bombing before the unveiling of the monument by family members [© Bob Morrison]

The following day, an announcement from the Official Irish Republican Army in Dublin stated that this was in retaliation for the events that took place in Londonderry on the 30th January that would later become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. It was to be the first atrocity committed on the UK mainland as a result of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’.

The anniversary of the bombing was marked with the unveiling of a memorial during a service conducted at the same spot 50 years ago to the very hour. A new heptagonal memorial plinth, each side representing one of the victims, was unveiled by their family members during the drumhead service of remembrance for: John Charles Hasler, the gardener; Mary Thelma Bosley, Margaret Jean Grant, Jean Violet Lunn, Jill Cynthia Mansfield, and Sheri Christina Munton, all civilian members of the Mess staff; and The Reverend Gerard Weston MBE CF(RC) the Army Chaplain.

The Band of the Household Cavalry, the largest Regular band in the British Army led the parade
[© Bob Morrison]

Following the service, there was a parade and march past along Aldershot’s iconic military thoroughfare, Queen’s Avenue, which was closed to traffic especially for the first time in well over ten years.

A garden of remembrance is being created around the memorial plinth. We hope to bring readers a little more detail in a brief follow-up feature.

Parachute Regiment Association veterans marched up Queen’s Avenue following today’s Unveiling and Dedication ceremony [© Bob Morrison]

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