Talbot Arms pub bombing

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Talbot Arms pub bombing
Part of the Troubles
LocationLittle Chester Street, Belgravia London
Date30 November 1974
22:00 (UTC)
TargetBritish establishment
Attack type
2 thrown bombs
Non-fatal injuries
PerpetratorProvisional Irish Republican Army
Balcombe Street Gang
2008 photograph of the Talbot Arms, now called the Talbot
The Talbot Arms, Little Chester Street, as seen in 2008, renamed The Talbot

The Talbot Arms pub bombing took place on 30 November 1974. It was carried out by the Provisional IRA's London-based active service unit (later nicknamed the Balcombe Street Gang). Eight people were injured in the attack, which involved the IRA men throwing homemade bombs through the pub's window. Only one of the devices exploded; the other was taken as evidence and used to discover how the unit assembled its devices. Fingerprints were also found, but, when the unit was arrested and brought to trial the following year, they were not charged with the attack.


The attack came on the back of a string of IRA operations in England carried out by the Balcombe Street unit.[1] The unit had already carried out attacks on pubs in and around London, including in Guildford on 5 October—killing four off-duty soldiers and a civilian, and injuring 65 others—and on 7 November another off-duty soldier and a civilian were killed in the Woolwich pub bombing in which 35 people were also injured.[2] The day before the Talbot Arms bombing, the British government had passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act. At the time described as “draconian”, it banned the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Britain and gave the police unprecedented peacetime powers.[3]


The Talbot Arms pub has been described as then being a family friendly hostelry situated in Little Chester Street, a small mews in the upper-class area of Belgravia, Central London.[4] It was, one recent commentator observed, "ideally situated" for the IRA's purposes, as it attracted "little or no passing traffic".[4]


The attack on the Talbot Arms pub happened at around 10:00pm on the night of 30 November 1974. ASU members Eddie Butler and Joe O'Connell were both armed with a 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg) short-fused throwing bomb.[5] With them was a third man, Brendan Dowd, who drove their stolen Mark III Ford Cortina, and who had assisted O'Connell in the bombs' construction.[6][note 1] Parking their getaway car a short distance away, they approached the pub on foot;[4] there were approximately 70 customers inside.[6]

Butler thre his bomb first, intending it to smash a window and detonate inside the pub; however, he misaimed and the device bounced off the window-frame, exploding outside.[4] The bombs were wrapped in industrial tape and contained shrapnel composed of nuts and bolts[6] packed around the gelignite,[4] which was later found to be labelled Irish Industrial Limited Eversoft Frangex.[6] Eight people were injured inside the pub, mainly from flying glass and debris.[8] The sociologist Steve Boysey has suggested that, had Butler's bomb exploded as intended, the result—a consequence of the shrapnel—would have been "carnage".[4] O'Connell then threw his bomb, which succeeded in penetrating a pub window. This, however, failed to explode, and the Bomb Squad were later able to dismantle and forensically analyse it for clues.[9] Following his capture in 1975, O'Connell told Jim Nevill in an interrogation that his bomb had been a deliberate dud, and not intended to explode.[7] This was the first occasion on which they had this opportunity.[4] A joint investigation between the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Armament and Research Development Establishment[4] deconstructed it and judged it to be a carbon copy of that used in the Woolwich bombing three weeks earlier.[10] It was considered the biggest breakthrough the police had enjoyed up until then.[6] The day after the bombing, Special Branch detained a number of suspects,[10] although these were to have, commented McKee and Franey, "no effect at all" on the gang's campaign.[6]

Later events[edit]

The attack on the Talbot Arms was followed by further attacks with throwing-bombs; a month later, only about 200 yards (180 m) around the corner from the pub, in Wilton Street, they attempted to bomb the London flat of Prime Minister, Edward Heath, but missed him by 10 minutes. By August the following year the ASU had returned to the tactic of time bomb—rather than manually throwing devices as at the Talbot Arms attack—when they bombed the Caterham Arms pub.[7] Although many senior Sinn Féin men and republican symapthisers were arrested under the PTA following the attack on the Talbot Arms, Boysey has noted that "the ASU, safe in their anonymity, had no such concern", and continued their planned campaign.[4] When they were eventually arrested and brought to trial, the Talbot Arms bombing was not among the charges, and remained on file.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ When Dowd was subsequently arrested, he confessed that, for the purposes of getaways, he always favoured Cortinas or Corsairs, saying "they're easy to nick, those old Fords".[7]


  1. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1974". cain.ulster.ac.uk.
  2. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1974". cain.ulster.ac.uk.
  3. ^ "6 Hurt by Bomb Thrown in Bar Near Irish Embassy in London". 1 December 1974 – via NYTimes.com.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Steve Moysey (19 November 2013). The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London. Routledge. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-1-317-85607-8.
  5. ^ Steve Moysey (19 November 2013). The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London. Routledge. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-1-317-85607-8.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Grant McKee (1988). Time bomb : [Irish bombers, English justice and the Guildford Four]. Bloomsbury. p. 226. ISBN 0747500991. OCLC 993287445.
  7. ^ a b c Steve Moysey (19 November 2013). The Road to Balcombe Street: The IRA Reign of Terror in London. Routledge. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-1-317-85607-8.
  8. ^ "Prevention of Terrorism Legislation (Hansard, 4 March 1993)". api.parliament.uk.
  9. ^ "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1974". cain.ulster.ac.uk.
  10. ^ a b "CAIN: HMSO: Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisons) Act 1974". cain.ulster.ac.uk.