A Bomb in our Parish

On 12 October 1984 at 2.54 am in the Grand Hotel Brighton the IRA exploded a semtex bomb which had been planted the previous month and set on a long-delay timer.

Bomb - title

The hotel was full of that year’s Conservative Party conference, including most of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister herself, who was the principal target.

The bomb had been hidden in the fittings under her bath and destroyed the bathroom barely two minutes after she had left it to continue working on her conference speech.

Both Mrs. Thatcher  and her husband escaped injury but five people were killed and over 30 were injured by the bomb.

The next day the IRA claimed responsibility, and said that they would try again. Their statement famously included the words:

Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once.  You will have to be lucky always.

Despite the number of dead and wounded and the frantic uncertainty at that time, Mrs. Thatcher began the next session of the conference at 9.30am that day as scheduled.

She began her address saying:

The attack failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.

Bomb - Fr Milburn
Fr. John Milburn

The bomb also affected many people in the neighbourhood.  Our vicar, Fr. John Milburn, was blown from from his bed by the blast. The next morning he led prayers at the start of the conference session. After a frantic and distressing night he called for calm in  front of the world’s press and television.

It was not only the Grand Hotel that was ruined. Along the West side of the block was Grosvenor House, an old folks home with close connections to S Paul’s, where the choir went to sing carols every Christmas. The building was seriously damaged and had to be closed. The residents, including the octegenarian Miss Kemp, in her wheelchair a regular communicant to S Paul’s, had to leave.

The Grand Hotel later extended over the site.

Bomb - The Grand
Bomb - Pie Jesu

The following Sunday S Paul’s offered a requiem for the victims of the bomb. It was attended by members of the Cabinet, led by John Selwyn Gummer, chairman of the Conservative Party and at that time a staunch Anglo-Catholic. The choir sang the requiem setting by Gabriel Fauré.

Margaret Thatcher later attended S Paul’s for a small ceremony to unveil a plaque to commemorate the dead.

Bomb - Memorial Brass

In Proud Memory
Anthony Berry · Muriel Maclean
Jeanne Shattock · Eric Taylor
and Roberta Wakeham
who died in the Brighton bombing
October 12th  1984
They paid the price of Freedom
+ Requiescant in Pace  +

Bomb - Memorial Brass

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