Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland legacy: 'The fabric of our life was torn apart by shrapnel, never to be whole again'

Today marks the end of the Government's public consultation into addressing the legacy of the Troubles. This is the final article in the series of thought-provoking interviews the Belfast Telegraph has published each day this week, highlighting how victims have been affected by violence

By Mark Bain

It was on a quiet, tree-lined avenue in Hanover, Northern Germany, on July 2, 1989, that an IRA car bomb ripped a young family apart as they set off for a Sunday afternoon at a fairground.

Lance Corporal Stephen Smith (31), who was following in a family tradition of serving in the armed forces - as a rations officer with the 1st Royal Tank Regiment - was killed instantly.

His wife, Tina, and four young children were badly injured in the blast.

Daughter Louise Freeman, now living in Canada, was only 11 when, along with her two sisters Leanna (7), Jade (2) and brother Lee (9), she was left without a father and her mother left without a husband.

And while time has healed the many serious physical injuries inflicted on her family, Louise says the family's heart has yet to mend. She still finds it painful to talk about that day.

"My dad was murdered by Provisional IRA terrorists, on July 2nd, 1989. We are survivors of that heinous attack," she said.

"Dad was a happy man. All his friends knew him as 'Smudge'.

"The Army and his family were the pillars from which he drew strength and he was devoted to both institutions."

Above all, Louise remembers her father as a 'dad'.

"Dad was a career soldier and dedicated family man," she said.

"My brother Lee and I remember spending hours with him, helping him to polish his boots to be as shiny as a mirror. It wasn't a tedious task but a treasured time during which our dad showed us his perseverance and commitment to his profession.

"As serious as he was about his duties, dad had a playful and impish side and we well remember the playful pranks that he played on our mum. We remember he loved to fish in his hometown of Cleckheaton near Leeds when we went home from Germany to visit.

"He liked to listen to Chris de Burgh and Rodger Whittaker. He liked steamed puddings and his brogues, which he wore with everything. He loved his fish tanks.

"Most importantly, we remember him loving us.

"He'd take us everywhere with him. To the mess hall for a paper cup full of sausages, to the storehouses for our favourite chocolates, and even the tattoo shop, when he got his British Bulldog tattoo and I got my ears pierced for the first time. These small moments were the taste, the sound and the soul of our dad and they meant everything to us. They still do."

But that life disappeared forever on July 2, 1989.

"The terrorist attack on our young family completely changed the direction of life as we knew it," said Louise.

"I remember we were going out as a family to a local fairground when the car exploded.

"The terrorists knew full well we were a very soft target, a family with little children in an un-patrolled civilian neighbourhood.

"Our father was killed instantly. We were just children. Mum survived but like the destructive nature of a bomb, the fabric of our life was torn apart by shrapnel, fractured and scattered, never to be made whole again. Our many serious physical injuries were only the introduction to our new life," said Louise.

"We healed physically, but we are left with broken spirits and hearts which have yet to mend."

Cpl Smith signed up for the army in 1975 as an 18-year-old because he wanted to travel and serve his country. His father Brian had served as a gunner during the Korean war.

His parents found out about the bombing on television before the army could contact them.

Belfast Telegraph

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