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1970: Police snatch London gun cache
Police have seized a large cache of arms in west London in one of the biggest raids in Britain for years.

At least 15 officers with search warrants entered three premises early this morning.

They removed a total of 35 weapons and over 20,000 rounds of ammunition from two addresses in Rainville Road, Fulham and one flat above shops a mile away in Hammersmith Grove.

Among the haul were sub-machine guns, rifles and pistols.

The raids were prompted by a tip-off given to Scotland Yard about a plot to smuggle arms to Northern Ireland, possibly through the Irish Republic.

The arms were taken to Fulham, then Chelsea police stations for finger-printing and further examination.

I saw what might have been gun webbing
Three people - from the adjacent family homes in Rainville Road - have been detained at Fulham police station and another four men haven been taken in for questioning.

Police and forensic officers spent several hours examining the unoccupied flat in Hammersmith Grove after the arms were removed.

A neighbour said: "About two weeks ago a Land Rover drew up at the door and two men began carrying heavy cartons into the flat. I saw what might have been gun webbing hanging from one of the boxes."

Two months ago an Irishman - described by locals as "a real gentleman" - lived in the flat but it has been empty since then.

Special Branch detectives are reluctant to give details but they are investigating the possibility the weapons were bound for Northern Ireland.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "Further police inquiries are being made and publicity of further details would seriously hamper investigations at this stage."

Home Secretary Reginald Maudling has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Northern Ireland and has been told of today's raids.

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Photograph of the Hammersmith Grove shops where the weapons were found
Dozens of weapons were found in a flat above this Hammersmith chemist's shop

In Context
The destination of the arms cache has never been revealed.

They were seized against a backdrop of intense violence in Northern Ireland as 11,000 British troops were mobilised in the province.

There were gun battles on the streets of Belfast at the end of June and early July 1970 as loyalists prepared for the marching season.

Loyalists clashed with British troops and the RUC who were protecting Catholic areas.

There were at least a dozen deaths on both sides amid scenes of rioting and bomb blasts.

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