Over 150 people filled the Droppin’ Well pub in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland on December 6, 1982.
As the mix of off-duty civilians and soldiers enjoyed each other’s company over a pint, a time bomb was placed at the base of one of the building’s support pillars.
At 11:15 p.m., it exploded.
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17 people were killed and 30 were injured in the blast 19 years ago – many were killed by falling masonry and it was one of the deadliest attacks in County Londonderry during The Troubles .
He was targeted by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) because he was a favorite among young British soldiers.
The rescue took hours to free the survivors and many later spoke of the heartbreaking scenes as they tried to help the injured.
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Tory MP and former British Army officer Bob Stewart was one of the officers at the scene and told CheshireLive last year: “I was the incident commander. Upon entering the destroyed building that was the Droppin Well, almost the first person I saw was a girl lying on the ground. I was horrified.
“She had lost both her legs, as well as an arm. I knelt down, again horrified, and said to her, ‘Are you okay, dear?’ She said, ‘I think so.’ I said, ‘Are you in pain?’ “
‘She said no.’ I said to him: ‘How do you feel?’ She said, “I don’t know. What happened?” I said, ‘There was a bomb.’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘am I hurt?’ I said, ‘You’re hurt.’ She said, ‘Am I very badly hurt?'”
“I said, ‘You are very seriously injured.’ She said, ‘Am I going to die?’ Forgive me, I said “Yes.” I couldn’t see any other way out, there was blood everywhere.
“She said, ‘Am I going to die now? ‘, and I said, ‘I think you are. She said, ‘Do you want to hold me?’ I held her in my arms and she was dead in two minutes. I cried. She died in a state of grace. She was one of 17 killed that day.
Six of the servicemen who died that night were from the 1st Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment – the division many Wirral men signed up with when the peninsula was part of wider Cheshire.
Some of the deceased soldiers are said to have lived part of their brief lives in Wirral, although the birth certificates of find my past – a massive historical database of historical family records and photos – reveals where they were born before serving their country.
Private Steven Garry Smith was born in Somerset but is thought to have moved to the Wirral. He died while off duty during the Droppin’ Well explosion when he was just 24 years old. His name appears on the Birkenhead Cenotaph in Hamilton Square and was interred in Landican Cemetery.
The other seven soldiers of the Cheshire Regiment were;
Lance Corporal Steven Bagshaw, of Tintwistle Derbyshire – aged 21.
Lance Corporal Clinton Collins, of Stockport – 20 years old.
Lance Corporal Philip McDonough, of Walsall – 26 years old.
Private David Murray, of Stockport – 18 years old.
Lance Corporal David Wilson Stitt, from Cheadle, Greater Manchester – aged 27.
Private Neil Williams, of Chester – 18 years old.
Private Shaw Anthony Williamson, of Stockport – 21 years old.
Mr Stewart recalled attending the funerals of six ‘Cheshires’ who died in the incident.
“It took me four hours to identify my six soldiers at Altnagelvin Hospital morgue. I went to their funerals in Cheshire – six funerals in five days, two on Friday.”
The other three soldiers killed were;
Private Terrance Adam of the Army Catering Corps.
Private Paul Delaney of the Army Catering Corps.
Corporal David Salthouse of the Light Infantry.
There were also six civilians who lost their lives that night, three of them teenagers, including Angela Hoole who was celebrating her engagement with one of the soldiers who survived the bomb.
The other five civilians were;
Shortly after the explosion, the INLA issued a statement of responsibility for the bombing, but it was not until 1986 that four INLA members were convicted.
Sisters Anna Moore and Helena Semple, Patrick Shotter and Eamon Moore, all from Derry, received life sentences and Anna Moore’s daughter, Jacqueline More, was sentenced to ten years for manslaughter for her involvement.
There is a memorial garden in Ballykelly dedicated to the memory of the 17 people who lost their lives at Droppin’ Well.
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