16th January 1939. The Troubles.

The Fenian, Sinn Fein, founded by Arthur Griffiths in 1902 was superseded by the IRA in 1916, the year of the Easter Uprising, when it proclaimed the Irish Republic of Eire and fought a successful and bloody war against British Forces between 1919-21.

Churchill proposed partition in 1920 with the establishment of separate parliaments which proved unacceptable to the Republicans who in the process killed one of their negotiators Michael Collins.

The Irish Free State came into being in 1921 under de Valera, when Northern Ireland withdrew immediately accepting self-government in the UK as Ulster.

Today in 1939 the IRA began a campaign of terrorism based on their ‘S Plan’ to force Britain to cede a united Ireland, at a time when war against Hitler seemed inevitable.

The bombing began with an explosion outside a control room of, as reported, a ‘large power station’ in London. The second explosion damaged an overhead cable from the Great Union Canal to Willesden Power Station.

The IRA realised that attacks on utilities would cause maximum disruption and there were explosions at gas and electricity stations in London, Liverpool and Manchester.

Suspect Irishmen were rounded up and in February 1939 twenty-one people were charged in London and Manchester.

The violence continued with explosions on the London Underground and throughout the summer with shop and letter bombs, use of tear-gas, emptied cinemas and balloon acid bombs were put in pillar-boxes.

A Prevention of Violence Bill was rushed through the Commons at the end of July, but while the Bill was being debated bombs exploded at Victoria and King’s Cross Stations.

On 25th August, five people were killed in Broadgate, Coventry causing a round up of suspected terrorists and expulsion orders.

Coventry attack.

Coventry attack.

The public was banned from the House of Commons, bus passengers weren’t allowed to carry suit-cases and arrests were made without warrants.

By the end of the so-called ‘Phoney War’ the campaign was over as quickly as it started, with the last bomb exploding on 23rd February 1940, in a litter bin in the west end of London.

In that IRA campaign there were 300 explosions, 7 deaths with 96 injured.


The Prevention of Terrorism Act expired in 1953, but re-introduced in 1974 as Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provision) Act to combat the successor to the S-Plan, the Provisional IRA from attacks on British soil.

As Kipling said, ‘A thing is not finished if not finished right’: in 1969 British troops were sent to Northern Ireland to deal with unrest.

Ref: historic Coventry.co.uk.

Ref: Wikipedia: 1939 IRA bombing S-Plan/Pic.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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