1973 Old Bailey bombing

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1973 Old Bailey Bombing
Part of the Troubles
Old Bailey entrance.JPG
Entrance door to the Old Bailey
Location London, United Kingdom
Date 8 March 1973
14:49 (UTC)
Target Old Bailey Courthouse
Attack type
Car bomb
Deaths 1 British civilian (heart attack)
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade

The 1973 Old Bailey bombing was a car bomb attack which took place outside the Old Bailey Courthouse on 8 March 1973. The attack was carried out by an 11-person ASU from the Provisional IRA Belfast Brigade. One British civilian, Frederick Milton (aged 60), died of a heart attack attributed to the bombing.


The Troubles had been raging for four years in Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent the Republic of Ireland since the Battle of the Bogside in Derry in August 1969 which brought British troops to Ireland for the first time since 1921. Rioting, gun battles, sniper attacks, bombings and punishment beatings became part of everyday life in many places. These events and others helped to heighten sectarianism and boosted recruitment into Irish republican and Ulster loyalist paramilitary groups and the security forces. Great Britain had been relatively untouched up until the beginning of 1973, but the IRA Army Council had drawn up plans for a bombing campaign of England for sometime early in 1973.

It has been alleged that Gerry Adams was the overall Commander of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade at the time and was tasked with selecting the Volunteers to be in the active service unit for the England bombing operation which was scheduled to take place on March 8 1973, the same day a border poll was being held in Belfast, which was boycotted by Nationalists. The team included Gerry Kelly, Roy Walsh (an expert bomb maker from Belfast), Hugh Feeney (a Belfast born IRA volunteer) and two sisters, Marian and Dolores Price from Belfast, along with five other lesser known volunteers.

The bombing

Several days before the bombing the leaders of the Provisional Irish Republican Army active service unit (ASU), which included sisters Marian and Dolours Price, went to London and picked out four targets which included the Old Bailey, the Ministry of Agriculture, an army recruitment office near Whitehall and New Scotland Yard. They then reported back to their Officer Commanding in Belfast and the IRA Army Council gave the go ahead. The bombs were made in Ireland and transported to London via ferry, according to Marian Price.

The drivers and the volunteers who were to prime the bombs woke up at 06:00 and drove the car bombs to their various targets. It was planned that by when the bombs went of at around 15:00, the active service unit would be back in Ireland. The bomb at New Scotland Yard was found and the bomb team started lifting out 5lb bags of explosives and separated them so if the bomb did go off it would greatly reduce the explosion. The bomb squad eventually found the detonating cord leads which ran under the front passenger seat of the car; Peter Gurney, a senior member of New Scotland Yard, cut the detonator cord leads, defusing the bomb.

However, at the Old Bailey the bomb exploded, injured many and causing extensive damage. A shard of glass from the explosion is preserved as a reminder, embedded in the wall at the top of the main stairs. Another bomb injured several more people at the car bomb site near the Ministry of Agriculture which brought the total injured to over 200. A British man (Frederick Milton) died of a heart attack. The ASU was caught trying to leave the country at Heathrow Airport, and the Price sisters, Feeney, Walsh, and Kelly were all arrested.

File:The Old Bailey Bomb Car.jpg
The car used in the Old Bailey attack after the explosion

Court and sentence

The IRA Volunteers had to be tried at Winchester Crown court as the Old Bailey was wrecked by one of the car bombs. A jury acquitted Roisin McNearney.[who?] As her verdict was handed down, the other defendants began to hum the "Dead March from Saul", and one threw a coin at her, shouting "Take your blood money with you" as she left the dock in tears.[clarification needed][citation needed]

At the court the judge sentenced the other IRA volunteers to long terms in English jails. As the eight were led to the cells below the court, several gave raised fist salutes to relatives and friends in the public gallery, who shouted "Keep your chins up" and "All the best".[1] The Price sisters went straight on hunger strike, soon followed by Feeney and Kelly, for the right not to do prison work and to be repatriated to a jail in Ireland.[citation needed]

File:Old Bailey aftermath.jpg
The destruction from the Old Bailey bomb
File:Old bailey bombing.jpg
Aftermath of the bombing

See also


  1. "BBC ON THIS DAY: 1973: IRA gang convicted of London bombings". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 26 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>