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Firefighters of Belfast: A canister bomb exploded immediately, killing six

Rose and Crown Bar: Extracts are taken from the new book Firefighters of Belfast: The Fire Service During the Troubles 1969-1994, written by Brian Allaway

Carnage: the scene of Rose and Crown bar bomb in May 1974
Carnage: the scene of Rose and Crown bar bomb in May 1974
Another photo showing the scene of the Rose and Crown bar bomb in May 1974

May 2 was a night shift for me. That night, I watched a priest give the last rites to a human torso lying on the pavement outside the Rose and Crown Bar on the Ormeau Road, following an explosion. A human torso looking for all the world like a big lump of scorched meat with bits of burnt clothing stuck to it; it was difficult to tell if it was a man or a woman.

I also did my best to help and rescue the injured and carried some of them, and perhaps some of the dead, to ambulances on a stretcher.

The incident started at about 10.15pm, when Chichester Street received a call to the Rose and Crown Bar on the Ormeau Road. When we got there, a few minutes later, we were met with a scene of terrible devastation. The front of the bar was blown out and there were several people trapped in the rubble, which was all that remained of the bar, as well as a torso on the ground outside.

Moving into what was by then a well-practiced routine, we suppressed our natural feelings for those that were dead, or dying, closed off our emotions and did our best to help those we could.

I worked with Billy Little, digging people out with our bare hands, helping ambulance staff treat those that were less badly injured and transporting those who were more seriously hurt on stretchers to ambulances for onward transmission to hospital. Other firefighters were doing the same.

We worked at the scene for over two hours, organising and helping a human chain to move the rubble and wreckage from the bar, which had only recently reopened after an earlier bomb attack.

The canister bomb, which caused the damage on this occasion, had been thrown into the bar, where it exploded almost immediately.

Six men died, five at the time of the explosion and one nine days later. Eleven others were injured, an elderly man lost a leg and another man lost an arm. It was reported that laughter had been heard from the getaway car as it left the scene.

A News Letter report indicated that four bodies and "half of a fifth body" were taken to the city mortuary.

An elderly man, who was having a drink in the bar when the explosion occurred, said: "I was blown off my feet and, when I looked round, I saw the place was full of people lying in the most gruesome positions imaginable. Some were terribly injured. One man's leg was hanging by a thread. Some were moaning in pain and others were cursing the people who had bombed the place."

Two people were jailed for the atrocity; they were both 16 at the time of the bombing.

Extracted from Firefighters of Belfast: The Fire Service During the Troubles, 1969-1994 by Brian Allaway, published by Luath Press, priced £12.99

Belfast Telegraph


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