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1983: Christmas shoppers remember Harrods bomb

The bomb exploded just outside Harrods in central London killing six people.

The busy streets were crowded with Christmas shoppers. Three members of the public and three police officers were among the dead.

The IRA later admitted it had planted the bomb.


Nik Lawrence was in the Harrods store when the bomb went off.

I had crossed the whole of London to get to Harrods after failing to get the book I wanted for my dad for Christmas.

I figured Harrods must have it. I had just walked past a first-floor window when the bomb went off in the street outside. It was literally a "bang" sound, but furiously loud.

The window blew in but the glass was caught by the special net curtains, weighted at the bottom. If it hadn't I would have been cut to pieces.


" I knew a bomb had gone off "


A mother clutched her two children in terror at the top of the stairs. I was strangely calm and tried to calm her but couldn't.

I knew a bomb had gone off but it still didn't register exactly what that meant.

Then an employee arrived with customers in tow, he was leading us out. We came out the side entrance into the street which had the bomb, and that's when I realised what it meant.

I glanced down the side street and saw cars were on fire with black smoke billowing. There were people sitting down being tended to by others.

Blizzard of glass

After the initial shocked silence immediately after the blast there were now screams, shouts and crying. There was a carpet of glass, a lot of it bloodstained.

I couldn't imagine anything surviving that blizzard of glass shards. Sirens were wailing closer as I walked away. I got into the tube. Somebody said "they've bombed Harrods" and people started to talk about it but I didn't say anything.

Having seen the immense power of a real car bomb, for more than a year afterwards I felt very uncomfortable walking between parked cars and walls. To this day I hate sudden loud noises.
Nik Lawrence, UK

Graeme Clark was a serving police officer working in plain clothes at Kensington.

An announcement was made telling us all to get changed into uniform and we were bussed down to the back of Harrods.

Harrods is on neighbouring Chelsea's beat, but we knew many of the officers at Chelsea, being part of the same division.


" I recall the sight of a queue of policeman outside a phone box, taking it in turns to call home "

Although we were not in the street where the bomb had exploded, the whole area was covered with tiny shards of metal and other debris - all of which had to be left, of course, to preserve evidence.

Soon word came back as to who it was who had been killed and injured, and knowing those involved.

It was very difficult to maintain an outwardly professional attitude. It was extremely upsetting.

I remember being less than diplomatic when a member of the public tried to cross the police line to get to their home and accused us of being over-officious!

In the days before mobile phones, everyone wanted to phone someone to let them know that they hadn't been involved themselves, and I recall the sight of a queue of policeman outside a phone box, taking it in turns to call home.

Once inside the box and out of the public's immediate view, I lost it, of course. A very sad day.
Graeme Clark, UK

Stephen Foote was about to meet friends in a Knightsbridge pub and was crossing the road to get some money from the cash machine when he heard the bomb blast.

At 13.04 a large explosion rocked Knightsbridge.

I knew it was a bomb, even though I had never heard a bomb detonate before.

I could see a plume of smoke rising above Harrods, from the Hans Crescent end of the store.

I thought the bomb was further away, but when I came to the end of Harrods, a cracked window suggested that the explosion had been closer than I thought, and nothing prepared me for the sight that greeted me as I turned the corner into Hans Crescent itself.


" Half-naked mannequins leant out of the broken windows of the Harrods store "


The scene was one of utter devastation: the street was full of smoke, broken glass and debris.

You see the video on TV, it is all very sanitised - even now there are images of such atrocities shown on TV, but they bear little resemblance to the reality of the situation.

There was the smell too, acrid burning smell, but as I walked slowly down the street armed with wound dressings that I had taken from a policeman, it looked as though there were no injuries.

Then I saw some people covering up two bodies at the end of the road.

As I came closer I found a very severely injured police dog handler and his dog lying in the gutter.

He was pleading for help - what could I do for someone so badly hurt? He was still conscious, I left him and found another policeman lying in the middle of the road.

He was in an even worse way, and there was no one tending him. So I went to him to see what I could do.

He was terribly wounded, and the dressings that I had were unnecessary - when the body is so severely traumatised as his was, there isn't a lot of blood. The body just shuts down.

The guy was replaying the minute before the explosion had changed our lives. He was talking into his walkie-talkie - his call sign, and something about a suspicious car.

The car was strewn all over the street - the roof of it was hanging off a flag pole.

Half-naked mannequins leant out of the broken windows of the Harrods store.

A man in a suit hurried out of the store followed by two secretaries - it was a totally bizarre scene - he was shouting to everybody to clear the area saying there was another bomb inside.

I didn't budge. If there was another bomb, then it would take me with it. I was trying to keep this man alive.

Another person had joined me, she didn't move either. Then the ambulances arrived.

Five people died that day, and the policeman that I was helping died a week later.

The dog handler lost both of his legs, and the dog died.

What is it about these people that they take innocent life of ordinary people? Who knows. The terrorists can sue the police, but the police and the innocent victims cannot sue the terrorist. Isn't that weird?
Stephen Foote, UK

Joseph Turnbach was 12 years old at the time of the attack and living in Montpelier Square, Knightsbridge.

I was about to enter the Knightsbridge tube station on the corner of the street, when the busily pacing Christmas shopping crowd was jolted back towards me instantly, at which point, the ground felt as if it shifted and a loud crack pierced the air, only to be followed by screams and a showering of tiny bits of glass all around.

At this point I was on hands and knees as people stepped over me, wondering what had happened.

Over the rest of the day, I saw lots of people in tears, and can honestly say, it was my first true experience with tragedy, let alone a possible brush with death.

I made it home within the hour and can remember my family's relief that I was safe.

We welcomed dozens of people into our house that afternoon to call relatives.

Everyone had at least someone to call, as an event of that magnitude has you looking for what is safe and familiar.
Joseph A Turnbach, USA

Gretchen Jaeger was a student at Norwich staying in London for the Christmas holidays. My mother had a flat in Knightsbridge and was flying in that day from California, and I planned to take the tube from the Knightsbridge station so I could meet her at the airport.

I stood in line in the men's department [of Harrods], hoping to buy my boyfriend a sweater, but I realized if I stayed, I'd be late to meet the plane.

As I left, I walked past the policemen - I'm pretty sure they had German Shepherd (Alsatian) dogs with them - and as I got to the tube, the thing just went off.

If I recall correctly, it was a small white car, but I may not recall correctly, after all this time.

Later that evening we walked back to the scene.

There was police tape around the area. A policeman was stationed at the tape and I walked up to him.

He told me, "My mates were killed in there." I remember saying to him, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." He just looked away. What else was there to do?
Gretchen Jaeger, USA

Joe Myers heard the blast from Covent Garden

I was in Covent Garden on that Saturday afternoon, waiting outside a warehouse, where a photo shoot for an album sleeve by punk band The Damned was due to take place (I'd been invited to be an "extra" for the scene on the sleeve).

Whilst waiting, I heard a very loud blast, from what sounded like a mile or two away. I didn't think too much of this - Central London is a noisy place at the best of times.

After the shoot, I arrived home to hear the news of the bomb - it was what I had heard at that very time.

I heard 2 more bomb blasts over the years. Horrendous, but nothing compared with what my parents had lived through during the Blitz.

Londoners have never lived in a bubble, and nothing will ever deter us from living our lives in the city as we wish.

Joe Myers, UK


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