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1972: 'A gust of wind followed by a bang'
On 22 February 1972, a huge car bomb planted by the Official IRA exploded outside the officers' mess of Aldershot British Army base in Surrey.

Five female kitchen staff and a padre were killed and 19 others were injured.

The force of the blast was felt for miles around.

Here, local residents remember the moment the bomb went off and its aftermath.

I remember this day as if it was yesterday.

I was manager of the Arthur Cooper wine merchants and a voluntary fireman at the local Aldershot Fire Station.

We had been practising for months prior (under government direction), for we all knew that sooner or later the IRA would attack the barracks due to the "open planning" of the barracks.

On arrival, it was like a film set - people hanging out of trees, cars on the road, a bit like a mock-up exercise, but this was very real
Derek, Australia
I was in the shop behind the counter when the bomb went off. Bottles of spirits came crashing down off the shelves. At the same time my in-house linked alarm system when off but I was already out of the shop door running down the hill to the station.

As I arrived it was made clear to us volunteers that the full-time firemen were out on another job, and it was up to us as we were "first on the job".

Whilst we were grabbing our gear ,Tony (driver and pump operator) started up the engine and told us what had happened, but we had aready guessed by the smoke.

I knew, like all my mates, that a bomb had gone off, but [had] no idea of the carnage I was about to see.

On arrival, it was like a film set - people hanging out of trees, cars on the road, a bit like a mock-up exercise, but this was very real.

For a long time, we spoke about the lack of entry into the building due to the army personell blocking our entry into the building. In fact, it became very heated between us the emergency services and the military.

However, I need to say that it would have made no difference to those that died on that day - just very sad and personally disturbing to see bits of bodies everywhere.

We spend a long time there - if there had been a second bomb, dozens would have been killed and dozens more injured.

I remember when we got back we just sat around each trying to deal with what we had just experienced.

The pure evil of what transpired and the wonderful response of those involved says a lot about whom and what we were as fellow human beings.

To any of my fellow firemen, especially my team of voluntary "blokes", I think of you often.
Derek, Australia

I heard this one go off. At first we thought it was the army playing their games at Bordon, but my mum, sister, and myself were soon caught up it the goings on as we were being driven back to shcool after our half term.

The view in the photo is pretty much what we could see as we "drove" past the end of the road there. There was traffic backed up many miles as the police checked every single car before they could get onto the M3 at the Frimley/Camberly junction.
Susan Gay-Knott, UK

I worked for the S.I.B. Royal Military Police and had gone into Aldershot at lunchtime. As soon as I arrived the bomb went off. The glass shuddered in Burtons window and I thought it was a gas explosion.

I went to a nearby pub where I was to meet friends from work but they didn't show. I knew then something else must have happened so I made my way back to work. The bus took forever, we were stopped and checked and when I got back to work it was empty, all the staff were at the explosion.

A typist also called Jenny and I stayed all afternoon on our own not knowing much at all.The next day things came to light. It was a dreadful day.
Jenny Mackley, UK

That day I was with some other young men working on a roof of a church about a mile or so from the explosion.

One by one sirens started to go until it seemed as if there was nothing but sirens
Roger Warren, Canada
We were up on the roof when there was a gust of wind followed by a bang.

For a time after that it was as if everything stood still for not even the sound of a bird could be heard.

Then one by one sirens started to go, until it seemed as if there was nothing but sirens.

The noise somewhat baffled us, and we thought between us it must be a gas explosion to be so many sirens going.

It was not long after that we had army personnel all over the place asking us what we were doing and so on.

Because we were sub-contractors working on army contracts we were asked to go on standby just in case it rained and they needed tarpaulins to cover some areas.

It was not until five or six o'clock that we learned it had been a bomb.

The real shocker came the following day for me, to find out I knew some of the people that had been killed.
Roger Warren, Canada

I was 12 and at school in a music room when we felt the blast across a polo field which is still there.

As we were near the RAE establishment and it regularly made loud noises we didn't think too much about it.

A little later the head teacher arranged a special assembly to tell us the news.

I remember feeling completely lost because I needed to bus through the area where the bomb blast had happened and worried where my parents (both MoD employed) had been.

I even remember the music lesson - for once instead of playing classical music the teacher had played Crocodile Rock by Elton John for no reason. To this day the two events are linked.

As an aftermath, all through my childhood, woods, fields and even Army-owned areas were out of bounds.

My father neglected to say that the Army was now patrolling with live ammunition - it wasn't widely known at the time and I didn't realise when trespassing where (as kids) we shouldn't, we could have been shot.
Trina Fitzalan-Howard, UK

My wife of four months and I were in our first house, a tiny bungalow just south of Farnham, about five miles from the Officer's Mess in Aldershot.

I still vividly recall the concussion of the blast, which sprang the window panes beside the desk at which I worked as a freelance journalist.

"That sounded like a bomb," she said "Or the Aldershot gasometer [a prominent local landmark] going up".

Sadly, it was the former. I have always remembered that shudder of the window pane - even at a range of five miles it was a big blast.
Doug Nye, UK

As a 10-year-old at St Joseph's school on the other side of Aldershot from the barracks I can remember the very loud explosion happening while all us children were in the playground.

Then there was a pall of smoke. The journey home on the bus that afternoon took a very long time. All vehicles out of Aldershot were being stopped and searched.
Ralph Johnson, UK

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Aerial view of barracks
The bomb exploded outside the officers' mess

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