Lord Mountbatten’s pistol returned to his family

Lord Mounbatten, who was killed in an IRA bomb in 1979
Lord Mounbatten, who was killed in an IRA bomb in 1979

Irish police are handing a personally-engraved pistol that belonged to Lord Mountbatten back to his family.

The Beretta .22 handgun, which is inscribed with the name of the Queen’s cousin, was believed to have been given up to authorities in Ireland during an amnesty more than 40 years ago.

“It is quite small, and would fit in the palm of your hand,” said one security source.

“It is like something you would see a man at a casino pulling out of his dinner jacket in a James Bond film.”

Firearms over a certain calibre had to be surrendered in the Republic in 1972 as emergency laws were rushed through parliament to deal with the conflict that broke out in Northern Ireland.

At the time, Lord Mountbatten used to spend his summer holidays at his imposing, fairytale castle in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo - where he was later assassinated by the IRA while on a fishing trip.

His personal pistol was only rediscovered at a military store in Custume Barracks, in Athlone, in the last few months.

Hundreds of weapons handed over during the amnesty at the outbreak of the Troubles are still being stored by the Irish Army.

“An officer noticed this pistol during a check, and brought it to the attention of our senior military personnel,” said an army spokesman.

“It was thought then it would be a fitting gesture of the goodwill and friendly relations these days between our two nations that the pistol be handed back to the Mountbatten family.”

The weapon is being handed over to British Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott during a brief ceremony at his official residence Glencairn House, in south Dublin.

It is believed Countess Mountbatten, Lord Mountbatten’s eldest daughter, wants to place it in a family museum at their country house estate at Broadlands in Hampshire.

Lord Mountbatten, 79, was blown up by the IRA while fishing along with two teenage boys on board his boat off Co Sligo, in 1979.

At the time he was staying at his holiday home, Classiebawn Castle, at Mullaghmore.

Years beforehand he had privately confided to an Irish diplomat that he secretly wished for a united Ireland.

State documents held in Ireland’s National Archives show Lord Mountbatten told the Irish Ambassador to London in 1972 that he was hopeful political developments in the early 70s would lead to reunification.