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1972: IRA bomb kills six at Aldershot barracks

Five women and an army priest have been killed in an IRA bomb attack on the 16th Parachute Brigade headquarters at Aldershot, Hampshire.

The Official IRA says the attack is in revenge for the events in Londonderry on 30 January when 13 civilians were shot dead by the Parachute Regiment.

Its spokesman in Dublin said the attack was the first in a series of operations aimed at British headquarters of regiments serving in Northern Ireland.

A massive car bomb exploded at lunchtime in a car park outside the officers' mess killing five female kitchen staff and Padre Weston, and injured 19 others.

The force of the blast was felt a mile away in Aldershot town centre.

Fragments of the car were found and police say they are looking for the owner of a 1971 light-blue Ford Cortina, probably stolen.

'Tremendous priest'

Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Howlett, commanding officer of the 2nd battalion, the Parachute Regiment, paid tribute to Captain Gerry Weston, 37, who died in the explosion.

"Padre Weston was an absolutely tremendous Roman Catholic priest," he said.

"He did a tremendous amount to try and bridge the gap between the Catholic community and the Catholic Church and our soldiers.

"And he was continually going around into Catholic estates to try and achieve this, very often by himself and obviously completely unarmed and dressed as a priest."

The Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, broke the news to stunned MPs at the House of Commons and said police were doing all in their power to track down the bombers.

Brigadier Rowley Manns, acting head of the South-East District, condemned the "senseless killing" of civilians and said Aldershot was an open-plan garrison and difficult to defend.

In Context
The events of 30 January 1972 came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

The Aldershot bombing, which killed a total of seven people, was the first of a wave of revenge IRA bombings against army targets on the mainland throughout the 1970s.

Noel Jenkinson was jailed for life for the bombings in November 1972 and died in prison of a heart attack four years later.

An inquiry into Bloody Sunday headed by Lord Widgery in 1972 exonerated the Army.

It said their firing had "bordered on the reckless" but said the troops had been fired upon first and some of their victims had been armed.

The results of the inquiry were rejected by the Catholic community who began a long campaign for a fresh investigation.

In 1998, Tony Blair's government announced a new inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

The inquiry headed by Lord Saville has not yet delivered its conclusion.


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