Deal barracks bombing

Deal barracks bombing
Deal barracks bombing
Part of The Troubles
Location Royal Marine barracks, Deal, England
Date 22 September 1989
08:27 (GMT)
Target Royal Marines School of Music
Attack type Time bomb
Death(s) 11 Royal Marines
Injured 21 Royal Marines
Perpetrator Provisional IRA

The Deal barracks bombing was an attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on a Royal Marines barracks in Deal, England. It took place at 8:27 am on 22 September 1989, when the IRA exploded a time bomb at the Royal Marines School of Music building. The building collapsed, killing 11 marines from the Royal Marines Band Service and wounding another 21.



The Royal Marines School of Music is a professional training centre for musicians of the Royal Marines Band Service, the musical army of the Royal Navy. It takes students at school-leavers age of 16 and trains them for 32 months to become both professional musicians and battlefield medics.[citation needed] Originally created at Portsmouth in 1930, it moved to Deal in 1950 and in 1989 was still there as part of the Walmer Barracks.[1] Throughout the 1980s, the IRA had been waging a paramilitary campaign against targets in Britain and Northern Ireland with the stated aim of achieving the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.[2] These operations had included an attempt to kill the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and a similar attack on a military band in London in 1982.


At 8:27am on 22 September 1989, a 15lb time bomb detonated in the recreational centre changing room at the Royal Marines School of Music.[3][4][5] The blast destroyed the recreational centre, levelled the three story accommodation building next to it and caused extensive damage to the rest of the base and nearby civilian homes.[3] The blast was heard several kilometres away, shaking windows in the centre of Deal, and created a large pall of smoke over the town.[3] Most of the personnel who used the building as a barracks had already risen and were practising marching on the parade ground when the blast occurred. These marines witnessed the buildings collapse, and many of the teenaged personnel were in a state of shock for days afterwards.[6]

Some marines had remained behind in the building, and thus received the full force of the explosion. Many were trapped in the rubble for hours and military heavy lifting equipment was needed to clear much of it. Kent ambulance services voluntarily agreed to end its industrial strike action to aid those wounded by the blast. Ten marines died at the scene with most trapped in the collapsed building, although one body was later found on the roof of a nearby house.[6] Another 21 were seriously injured and received treatment at hospitals in Deal and Canterbury. One of these men, 21-year old Christopher Nolan, died of his wounds on 18 October 1989.


Grave of Mark Petch, one of the dead bandsmen
Memorial bandstand at Walmer Green

The IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying it was a continuation of their campaign to rid Northern Ireland of all British troops who had been deployed there since 1969.[6] Many British people were shocked at the attack, carried out on a ceremonial military band whose only military training was geared towards saving lives.[6][7] The public were also shocked by the ages of those killed, as many were new recruits to the School and most of those injured were teenagers.[2]

The British Government also condemned the IRA's attack. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a statement from Moscow, where she was on an official visit, saying that she was "shocked and extremely sad".[4] Leader of the opposition, Neil Kinnock, described the attack as an "awful atrocity" and said, "Even the people who say they support what the IRA calls its cause must be sickened by the way in which such death and injury is mercilessly inflicted".[4]

The base's security caused controversy as this was partly provided by a private security firm. This arrangement prompted a thorough review of security procedures at all British military bases and the replacement of the firm's employees at Deal with Royal Marine guards.[4]

One week after the bombing, the staff and students of the School of Music marched through the town of Deal, watched and applauded by thousands of spectators. They maintained gaps in their ranks to mark the positions of those unable to march through death or serious injury.[7] A memorial bandstand was constructed at Walmer Green to the memory of those who "only ever wanted to play music".[8] A memorial in the Walmer Barracks chapel was destroyed when the building burnt down in 2003, but the site is now a memorial garden.[9] The surviving barracks at Walmer were converted into flats when the base was decommissioned in the late 1990s, and the School of Music is once again based in Portsmouth.[1]

Every year the Royal Marines Band from Portsmouth visit the memorial bandstand in Deal to pay their respects to those who died in the bombing. In July 2009, a memorial concert and re-dedication ceremony was held at the bandstand on Walmer green, attended by thousands.[10]

No one has ever been arrested or convicted in connection with the Deal bombing.[9]

See also

  • Timeline of the Northern Ireland Troubles
  • Timeline of Provisional Irish Republican Army actions


  1. ^ a b, 'Royal Marines School of Music', retrieved March 6, 2007
  2. ^ a b P.374, Williams & Head
  3. ^ a b c P.376, Williams & Head
  4. ^ a b c d BBC On This Day, '1989 Ten dead in Kent barracks bomb', retrieved March 6, 2007
  5. ^ CAIN incorrectly states that the bomb was placed in the concert hall at the base. CAIN database, Chronology of the Conflict - 1989, retrieved on March 6, 2007
  6. ^ a b c d P.377, Williams & Head
  7. ^ a b BBC On This Day, '1989 Remembering the Deal bombing', retrieved March 6, 2007
  8. ^ Inscribed on the bandstand, P.379, Williams & Head
  9. ^ a b P.379, Williams & Head
  10. ^ "Concert recalls 11 killed by IRA". BBC News. 2009-07-12. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 

Further reading

  • Anne Williams & Vivian Head (2006). Terror Attacks: The Violent Expression of Desperation - Attack on the Royal Marine School of Music. Futura. ISBN 0-708807-83-6. 

External links

Coordinates: 51°12′49″N 1°24′0″E / 51.21361°N 1.4°E / 51.21361; 1.4

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