July 20,1982 Terrorism strikes the Cavalry Blacks

When my friend Winston is on guard duty at Horse Guards, he will leave the Knightsbridge Barracks with the other Cavalry Blacks at 10:30 am. They walk through Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace, up the Mall and turn into the Horse Guards Parade for the Changing of the Horse Guards.  On July 20, 1982 the 16 horses of the Blues and Royals and their soldiers never made it to the Horse Guards Parade.

2-IMG_6653 At 10:40 am, as they were walking along South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park, a nail bomb, composed of 25 lbs of gelignite and four and six inch nails ,that had been placed in a parked car, was remotely detonated. The explosion was devastating. Three soldiers were killed outright and a fourth died of his wounds in hospital three days later. In total seven horses were killed and 8 were severely injured. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) claimed responsibility. 

The IRA had been carrying on an intermittent campaign of bombings and as I lived in London from 1971 -1984 I was familiar with it. There had been pub bombings, train station bombings, bombs at the Tower of London, The Houses of Parliament, Harrods and Selfridge’s department stores, the Hilton Hotel and several restaurants. In doing research for this blog I learned that in 1974-1975 there were a total of 40 bombs killing 35 people. But let me be clear. London was not a Damascus and the IRA did not go in with assault weapons and kill dozens of people in a pub. It was Terrorism and it was dreadful but it was not at the level we see today.

Nonetheless the Hyde Park bombing, which was followed two hours later by the bombing of a bandstand with a military band playing in Regents Park  killing 6 bandsmen and a 7th dying later of his injuries, was a devastating event.   I remember the front page of the newspaper I got that evening had a picture of the wreckage of the car and the dead horses lying on the pavement and above it a single word: ”BASTARDS”. 

England is a horse loving country and it was almost as if killing people in the military or civilians was one thing but to kill a horse…..that was too much. There was an overwhelming outpouring of anger and outrage.  One of the horses, named Sefton, had 38 wounds and went through 8 hours of surgery and managed to survive. I remember well the day Sefton was well enough to come out to greet the media and the public at the entrance to the Knightsbridge Barracks. There were stacks of carrot bags and treats, the media recording the event and the public cheering. Sefton took it all in stride and actually came back to work as a Cavalry Black once he was recovered.  Support for Sefton led to a fund being established that raised £300,000 that went towards the construction of the Sefton surgical wing at the Royal Veterinary College.

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Sefton ( second from right with white blaze) returning with the Cavalry escort from the Queen’s procession after the State Opening of Parliament. Nov. 1982                Photo credit: Mail Online  copyright PA

Sadly Sefton’s rider Michael Pedersen could not recover from the mental injuries he suffered that day and decades later, separated from his wife, he took his own life and the lives of his two children.  Not all the scars are physical.

There is a permanent memorial in Hyde Park at the place where the bomb exploded. As the Horse Guards ride past the memorial the soldiers turn and salute.  Even today I suspect that Winston and the other horses may also have a sense of what happened there.

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 The Cavalry Blacks have served in many wars in the past but I would never have been imagined these horses would perish on the streets of London as victims of terrorism.  On that day these lives were lost: Lieutenant D.R.A. Daly aged 23, Staff Corporal R.J. Bright aged 36, Lance Corporal J.V. Young aged 19 and Trooper S. A Tipper aged 19. And the horses: Cedric, Epaulette, Falcon, Rochester, Waterford, Yeastvite and Zara.

I think that despite this tragic loss of life it is worth remembering that after many years of the “Troubles” in Ireland and the terrorism of the IRA a peace agreement was finally reached.   I have purposely chosen not to show any photos of the scene of the bombing.  

 

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Riding Orange says:

    “England is a horse loving country and it was almost as if killing people in the military or civilians was one thing but to kill a horse…..that was too much.”

    I think a lot of this stems from the fact that while it is of course tragic when people are killed in the line of duty, in the end, it was their choice to serve knowing that they may be asked to make that brave and ultimate sacrifice, while horses on the other hand, did not. For centuries horses have served people faithfully in fights that are not their own which I think makes their death that much more difficult to bear.

    Wonderful blog on a tough topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you so much for this comment. I agree 100% the animals did not sign up for battlegrounds. There was also something so unexpected about this bombing. There had been a lot of bombing fromthe IRA at the time but the idea that the Cavalry Blacks would be attacked was unthinkable. I am glad you found the post worthwhile.

      Like

  2. Vicky Earle says:

    I can’t fathom that anyone, for any reason, can kill and maim innocent, trusting, beautiful horses. I confess that I can’t forgive people who do this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I agree. The outpouring of rage from the British public at the time showed that many felt as we do.

      Like

  3. A beautiful tribute Anne and a very sad moment in history I will never forget. I was living in London at the time and travelling on a bus past the other side of Hyde Park when the bomb went off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Oh my! That must have been a terrible moment. I was living there then and I know that every loud noise put me on alert. Also on the Underground if anyone saw a package or bag unattended there was an immediate uproar. I was not riding at the time but the death of those horses was terrible for me. Thanks for commenting Xenia.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this story. I was too young when it happened to remember. Horrible. I was actually thinking about becoming a part of the mounted patrol in Sweden, when I accidentally found myself in the middle of a riot in Gothenburg when people threw sharp object on the police horses, I changed my mind after that. I’m not sure I could actually push a horse through all that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I am always amazed at how well horses behave in massive crowds. I dont think I could do it either.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. kunstkitchen says:

    Such a moving tribute to those lost that day. I was living in Holland and was so shocked at the brutality of the bombings. Thanks for sharing the details of the events.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting! I remember the day so well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. anne leueen says:

    Reblogged this on HorseAddict and commented:

    On the eve of Remembrance Day/Veterans Day I am reposting this to remember horses lost not in battle but to terrorism while they served their country.

    Like

  7. Jean Jennings says:

    Staff Corporal (SQMC) Roy Bright, was my childhood friend. There is a Memorial Service held every year on the 20th July at the spot where it happened, which I attend. I have a love for horses, and have been lucky enough to go into the stables at Knightsbridge to see them. They will Never Be Forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Oh my! I am happy to hear about that memorial service. I lived in London when it happened and can remember the shock and outrage. Thanks so much for leaving this comment!

      Like

  8. Elizabeth (HorseLover4Ever) says:

    That is so sad… =(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It was a terrible day.

      Like

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