Remembering victims of M62 coach bomb

Victims of the M62 coach bomb will gather at Hartshead Moor service station on Sunday to mark the 40th anniversary of the atrocity.

By Margaret Heward
Friday, 31st January 2014, 3:00 pm
Scene of the M62 bombing
Scene of the M62 bombing

On Monday February 4, 1974, a 50lb bomb ripped through the coach carrying service personnel, their wives and families along the M62 between Birstall and Birkenshaw, reducing the vehicle to a twisted heap of metal.

The atrocity left 12 people dead – nine soldiers and the wife and two young sons of one of them – and sent shock waves not only through Batley and Birstall, but the whole country as one of the worst atrocities committed by the IRA on the British mainland.

Though no local people were injured in the explosion, the horrific incident had a profound effect on those who were first on the scene and tended the injured and dying.

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Mo Norton, whose brother Terrence Griffin was killed in the coach bomb.

Hartshead Moor was used as a first aid station for those wounded in the blast and has since become the focal point for those wishing to honour those killed and injured.

In 2009 a permanent memorial was created outside the service station and each year it hosts a service to mark the anniversary.

Former Kirklees councillor Derrick Yates helps organise the service, and said this year’s would be even more poignant.

“Standards will be flown and as well as the victims and families of those who died, there will be people who helped in the aftermath of the atrocity,” he said.

Derrick was, in fact, among those drafted in to help.

His wife, Ruth, was a radiographer at Batley General Hospital, and received a call in the middle of the night to respond to the emergency.

“We’d just gone to bed – we lived in Upper Batley at the time – and heard a big bang, but had no idea what it was. And then we got the call,” he said.

“I took her up to the hospital, and got roped in as a porter helping the victims.

“I can still vividly remember the extent of people’s injuries, the burns and the suffering. It was quite traumatic, a dreadful night.

“But the major disaster contingency plan swung into action and everybody got stuck in and worked tirelessly throughout the night to help. The calm professionalism of the staff was incredible. There was no panic, they just got on with it.

“It’s only afterwards that you start thinking about it.”

Among those paying their respects on Sunday will be the Mayors of Kirklees, Calderdale and Oldham, and members of the Royal British Legion. The service will be conducted by the vicar of Cleckheaton, the Rev Brunel James.

Those who want to attend are asked to gather at 10.30am for the service at 11am.

No-one has ever been brought to justice for the atrocity which was blamed on the Ira, but never proven. A 25-year-old woman, Judith Ward, was originally convicted of involvement in the explosion but her conviction was quashed 18 years later.