Lord Mountbatten murder: Villagers ‘felt so bad and embarrassed about it’

Lord Mountbatten's body is brought back to shore after the attack on August 27, 1979
Lord Mountbatten's body is brought back to shore after the attack on August 27, 1979
Share this article

The IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten has been recalled 40 years on from a tragedy that sent shockwaves around the world.

A new BBC documentary – The Day Mountbatten Died – also revisits events surrounding a bomb attack in Warrenpoint the same day that claimed the lives of 18 soldiers at Narrow Water.

Nicholas Knatchbull aged 14 and 15-year-old Paul Maxwell, along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, 83, all died when an IRA bomb exploded on board the former Admiral of the Fleet’s fishing boat at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo on August 27, 1979.

On Saturday, the News Letter reported how one former IRA member described the bombing of the boat as a “war crime”.

Another former senior IRA figure said the late Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness – as the then IRA chief of staff – had to “take responsibility”.

The film has been produced and directed for BBC1 by Sam Collyns, who said he was surprised at how fresh and vivid the memories of those caught up in the events of that day was.

He spoke to one Mullaghmore resident who said there was a “dark cloud over the village” and a collective “sense of shame” for many years afterwards.

“People didn’t talk about it. People felt so bad and embarrassed about it,” the villager said.

In Warrenpoint, freelance photographer Peter Maloy was travelling behind the military truck carrying the nine soldiers blown up by the first of the two massive IRA roadside bombs.

Despite being in shock at what he witnessed, instinctively he switched his camera to auto-focus and was recording the aftermath when the second device exploded killing a further 11 soldiers.

In the film he says August 27, 1979 was the day he ended his photography career.

“I never took another photograph,” he said. “I watched the firemen and thought ‘that’s what I want to do’.”

The following week he successfully applied to join the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

Mary Hornsey, the mother of 15-year-old ‘boat boy’ Paul Maxwell, also contributes to the documentary. She said she heard the loud bang of the bomb going off from the family’s holiday home and said she immediately knew her son was dead “because I felt a part of me go”.

Ms Hornsey added: “I will always grieve for Paul. I carry him in my heart everywhere I go.”

Film-maker Mr Collyns told the News Letter he was pleased to bring the stories of that day to a new audience.

“I’m very conscious that anyone under the age of 50 is going to have no first hand memory at all. Ever the younger Irish audience is often uninformed about some of these things.”

• The Day Mountbatten Died is on BBC1 tonight at 9pm