Birmingham Pub Bombings 50th Anniversary 2024 Pin Badge
1974 - 2024The Birmingham pub bombings were carried out on the 21st November 1974, when IRA terrorists bombs exploded in two public houses in Birmingham, England, killing 21 people and injuring 182 others.
At 20:11, an unknown man with a distinct Irish accent telephoned the Birmingham Post newspaper. The call was answered by an operator named Ian Cropper. This caller said: "There is a bomb planted in the Rotunda and there is a bomb in New Street at the tax office. This is Double X", before terminating the call. ("Double X" was an IRA code word given to authenticate any warning call. A similar warning was also sent to the Birmingham Evening Mail newspaper, with the anonymous caller(s) again giving the code word, but again failing to name the public houses in which the bombs had been planted.
The Rotunda is a 25-storey office block that housed the Mulberry Bush pub on its lower two floors. Within minutes of the warning, police arrived and began checking the upper floors of the Rotunda, but they did not have sufficient time to clear the crowded pub at street level. At 20:17, six minutes after the first telephone warning had been delivered to the Birmingham Post, the bomb—which had been concealed inside either a duffel bag or briefcase located close to the rear entrance to the premises—exploded, devastating the pub. The explosion blew a 40-inch (100 cm) crater in the concrete floor, collapsing part of the roof and trapping many casualties beneath girders and concrete blocks. Many buildings near the Rotunda were also damaged, and passersby in the street were struck by flying glass from shattered windows. Several of the fatalities were killed outright, including two youths who had been walking past the premises at the moment of the explosion.
Ten people were killed in this explosion and dozens were injured, including many who lost limbs. Several casualties had been impaled by sections of wooden furniture; others had their clothes burned from their bodies. A paramedic called to the scene of this explosion later described the carnage as being reminiscent of a slaughterhouse; one fireman said that, upon seeing a writhing, "screaming torso", he had begged police to allow a television crew inside the premises to film the dead and dying at the scene, in the hope the IRA would see the consequences of their actions; however, the police refused this request, fearing the reprisals would be extreme.
One of those injured was a 21-year-old woman named Maureen Carlin, who had such extensive shrapnel wounds to her stomach and bowel she told her fiancé, Ian Lord (himself badly wounded in the explosion): "If I die, just remember I love you". Carlin was given the last rites, with surgeons initially doubtful she would live, although she recovered from her injuries.
Tavern in the Town
The Tavern in the Town was a basement pub on New Street located a short distance from the Rotunda and directly beneath the New Street Tax Office. Patrons there had heard the explosion at the Mulberry Bush, but did not believe that the sound (described by one survivor as a "muffled thump" was an explosion.
Police had begun attempting to clear the Tavern in the Town when, at 20:27, a second bomb exploded there. The blast was so powerful that several victims were blown through a brick wall. Their remains were wedged between the rubble and live underground electric cables that supplied the city centre. One of the first police officers on the scene, Brian Yates, later testified that the scene which greeted his eyes was "absolutely dreadful", with several of the dead stacked upon one another, others strewn about the ruined pub, and several screaming survivors staggering aimlessly amongst the debris, rubble, and severed limbs. A survivor said the sound of the explosion was replaced by a "deafening silence" and the smell of burnt flesh.
Rescue efforts at the Tavern in the Town were initially hampered as the bomb had been placed at the base of a set of stairs descending from the street which had been destroyed in the explosion, and the premises had been accessible solely via this entrance. The victims whose bodies had been blown through a brick wall and wedged between the rubble and underground electric cables took up to three hours to recover, as recovery operations were delayed until the power could be isolated. A passing West Midlands bus was also destroyed in the blast.
This bomb killed nine people outright, and injured everyone in the pub—many severely; two later died of their injuries: 28-year-old barman Thomas Chaytor on the 28th November, and 34-year-old James Craig on the 10th December. After the second explosion, police evacuated all pubs and businesses in Birmingham city centre and commandeered all available rooms in the nearby City Centre Hotel as an impromptu first-aid post. All bus services into the city centre were halted, and taxi drivers were encouraged to transport those lightly injured in the explosions to hospital. Prior to the arrival of ambulances, rescue workers removed critically injured casualties from each scene upon makeshift stretchers constructed from devices such as tabletops and wooden planks. These severely injured casualties would be placed on the pavement and given first aid prior to the arrival of ambulance services.
At 21:15, a third bomb, concealed inside two plastic bags, was found in the doorway of a Barclays Bank on Hagley Road, approximately two miles from the site of the first two explosions. This device consisted of 13.5 pounds (6.1 kg) of Frangex connected to a timer, and was set to detonate at 23:00. The detonator to this device activated when a policeman prodded the bags with his truncheon, but the bomb did not explode. The device was destroyed in a controlled explosion early the following morning.
Altogether, 21 people were killed and 182 injured in the Birmingham pub bombings, making them the deadliest terrorist attack in mainland Britain during the Troubles. Residents of Birmingham have referred to the Birmingham pub bombings as the "darkest day" in their city's history.
Many of those wounded were left permanently disabled, including one young man who lost both legs, and a young woman who was blinded by shrapnel. The majority of the dead and wounded were between the ages of 17 and 30, including a young couple on their first date, a young woman whose boyfriend had intended to propose to her on the evening of her death, and two Irishmen, brothers Desmond and Eugene Reilly (aged 21 and 23 respectively). The widow of Desmond Reilly gave birth to his first child four months after his death. One of the victims, 18-year-old Maxine Hambleton, had only entered the Tavern in the Town to hand out tickets to friends for her housewarming party. She was killed seconds after entering the pub and had been standing directly beside the bomb when it exploded, killing her instantly. Her friend, 17-year-old Jane Davis, was one of two 17-year-olds killed in the bombings, and had entered the Tavern in the Town to view holiday photographs she had developed that afternoon.
To help raise awareness of this terrorist atrocity, and to let the families know they are still in our thoughts. This badge has been produced by the Ancre Somme Association Charity in memory of the following:
Neil Marsh (16)
Paul Anthony Davies (17)
John Rowlands (46)
Michael William Beasley (30)
Stanley James Bodman (47)
James Caddick (56)
John Clifford Jones (51)
Charles Harper Gray (44)
Pamela Joan Palmer (19)
Trevor Thrupp (33)
Maureen Ann Roberts (20)
James Craig (34)
Maxine Hambleton (18)
Jane Davis (17)
Lynn Bennett (18)
Stephen Whalley-Hunt (21)
Desmond Reilly (20)
Eugene Reilly (23)
Marilyn Nash (22)
Anne Hayes (19)
Thomas Chaytor (28)
"We Will Always Remember Them"
35mm x 30mm
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