Open main menu

Guildford pub bombings

The Guildford pub bombings occurred on 5 October 1974 when a subgroup of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated two 6-pound gelignite bombs at two pubs in Guildford, Surrey, England. The pubs were targeted because they were popular with British Army personnel stationed at Pirbright barracks. Four soldiers and one civilian were killed. Sixty-five people were wounded.

Guildford pub bombings
Part of The Troubles
LocationHorse & Groom pub;
Seven Stars pub,
Guildford, England
Coordinates51°14′13″N 0°34′18″W / 51.237054°N 0.571753°W / 51.237054; -0.571753
Date5 October 1974
20:30 – 21:00 (BST)
TargetBritish Army soldiers
Attack type
Time bombs
Deaths5 (4 off-duty British soldiers and 1 civilian)
PerpetratorProvisional IRA
Provisional IRA's Balcombe Street Gang

The bomb in the Horse and Groom detonated at 8:30 pm. It killed Paul Craig (a 22-year-old plasterer), two members of the Scots Guards and two members of the Women's Royal Army Corps. The Seven Stars was evacuated after the first blast causing no serious injuries when the second bomb exploded at 9:00 pm.

These attacks were the first in a year-long campaign by an IRA Active Service Unit who became known as the Balcombe Street Gang – who Police arrested in December 1975 after the Balcombe Street siege leading to their trial and conviction for other murders and offences.[2] A similar bomb to those used in Guildford, with the addition of shrapnel, was thrown into the Kings Arms pub in Woolwich on 7 November 1974. Gunner Richard Dunne and Alan Horsley, a sales clerk, died in that explosion. On August 27, 1975 the same IRA unit detonated a bomb in Surrey at the Caterham Arms pub which injured over 30 people, Surrey police said it was "a carbon copy of the Guildford bombs". [3]

The bombings contributed to the speedy and unchallenged passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in November 1974, which were then misused by the Metropolitan Police to force false confessions from the "Guildford Four".

The Guildford FourEdit

The bombings were at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Metropolitan Police were under enormous pressure to apprehend the IRA bombers responsible for the attacks in England. In December 1974 the police arrested three men and a woman, later known as the Guildford Four. They were Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson.[4]

Conlon had been in London at the time of the bombings, and had visited his mother's sister, Annie Maguire. A few days after the Guildford Four were arrested, the Metropolitan Police arrested Annie Maguire and her family, including Gerry Conlon's father, Patrick "Giuseppe" Conlon – the "Maguire Seven".[4]

The Guildford Four were falsely convicted of the bombings in October 1975 and sentenced to life in prison. The Maguire Seven were falsely convicted of providing bomb-making material and other support in March 1976 and sentenced to terms varying between four and fourteen years.[4]

The Guildford Four were held in prison for fifteen years, while Giuseppe Conlon died near the end of his third year of imprisonment. All the convictions were overturned years later in the appeal courts after it was proved the Guildford Four's convictions had been based on confessions obtained by torture (as were some Maguire Seven confessions), whilst evidence specifically clearing the Four was not reported by the police.[4]

During the trial of the "Balcombe Street Four" in February 1977, the four IRA members instructed their lawyers to "draw attention to the fact that four totally innocent people were serving massive sentences" for three bombings in Woolwich and Guildford. The Balcombe Street Four were never charged with these offences. The 1993 movie In the Name of the Father is based on these events.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths".
  2. ^ McKee G, Franey R, Time Bomb, 1988, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 0-7475-0099-1. Page 18 notes that a new ASU was set up in August 1974 comprising O'Connell, Dowd etc whose first attack was the Guildford Bombings
  3. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1975".
  4. ^ a b c d McKee G, Franey R, Time Bomb, 1988, pp. 426-36, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 0-7475-0099-1
  5. ^ Bergman, Paul and Asimow, Michael (2006). Reel justice: the courtroom goes to the movies. Andrews McMeel Publishing, p. 43. ISBN 0-7407-5460-2