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Brighton bomber Patrick Magee on the grandad who fought for British in WWI

By Ivan Little

Published 11/07/2016

Ancestry: Patrick Magee
Ancestry: Patrick Magee

Brighton bomber Patrick Magee - who came close to killing Margaret Thatcher 32 years ago - has revealed that his grandfather fought for the British Army in World War One.

Two other ancestors were killed by the Germans, the convicted IRA killer said.

And two months ago Magee, who served life for murdering five people and trying to wipe out Mrs Thatcher and her cabinet at the Grand Hotel in October 1984, travelled to France to visit the grave of his great-uncle after whom he was named.

Nineteen-year-old Private Patrick Magee, from Plevna Street in west Belfast, was serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in December 1916 when he died in one of the battles of the Somme at Ginchy.

Writing in the July edition of the republican newspaper An Phoblacht, Magee stated: “I respect and even honour the integrity of those who fought, killed and died from wherever”.

But he added: “I profoundly abhor the war-mongering and imperialism that occasioned the slaughter”.

Magee said his visit to his great-uncle’s final resting place in the Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise cemetery and the sight of the thousands of graves brought home “something of the truly horrific scale of the carnage”.

But he went on: “I could not help reflecting why Patrick was buried here so far from Belfast”.

Magee asked: “Had poverty drawn him to enlist as thousands did or had he answered the duped and duping politicians’ calls to arms to defend small nations in exchange for Britain to implement Home Rule, deferred to the end of the war?”

Patrick Magee’s younger brother Joss, who was his namesake’s grandfather, enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles after his sibling’s death and also served in France.

In his article Patrick Magee questioned if his grandfather’s decision to fight had been motivated by revenge for his brother.

Magee wrote that he would never know the truth.

“None of this was ever spoken of during those regrettably few times I met him during my childhood. Without answers I feel haunted by the speculation”.

Magee said that after the Great War, his grandfather joined the Connaught Rangers and took part in their mutiny in India in protest at Black and Tan atrocities back home in Ireland.

“Whatever part he played, he was briefly detained and dishonourably discharged”, he wrote.

Magee said that on his return to Ireland his grandfather volunteered in the anti-treaty IRA and was later interned on the Argenta prison ship on Belfast Lough.

He said his grandfather remained as tight-lipped about his republican involvement as he’d done about his Army service.

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