LOUIS, 1st EARL MOUNTBATTEN OF BURMA
1979: Murdered by the IRA
Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore,
ABOVE & BELOW:
Mountbatten and members of his family
onboard 'Shadow V'
whilst on his annual Summer holiday
As part of the 'Palmerston' inheritance, Edwina brought to the Mountbatten family the wonderful Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, in the Republic of Ireland. The castle is a neo-Gothic Victorian mansion, considered by some to be ugly - but Mountbatten said of it that "no place had ever thrilled me more". From its strategic outlook over Donegal Bay, to this day it stands proud over the dramatic coastline it surveys. Every year Mountbatten and his family would spend August on holiday there, with carefree fishing on-board Mountbatten’s boat 'Shadow V', setting lobster pots and riding horses along the sandy beach. Although Mountbatten was a high profile figure with considerable Royal and military connections - it was always thought that the threat of kidnap or violence to him was remote. He had already made meticulous plans for his own funeral (always in control - even in death!) and said in an obituary documentary made eighteen months before his murder - "I enjoyed the fun of living and I'm going to enjoy the fun of dying. I am only sorry I won't be there to enjoy the fun of the funeral." He once said (modestly) - "do you really think the IRA would think of me a worthwhile target?" Mountbatten was sadly wrong.
Each year, prior to the family holiday in Ireland, Mountbatten would seek security advice from the Metropolitan Police, who would liaise with An Garda Síochána (the Irish Police). During the time of the sectarian political terrorism and violence - known today as 'The Troubles', Mountbatten would seek security briefings and updates from Ambassadors in Dublin and London, the Home Secretary and sometimes the Prime Minister and would often alter his travel plans and even cut short his annual holiday. In 1970 Mountbatten had been allocated eight police officers (two on duty at any one time), however as political assassinations and kidnappings proliferated - eg. John Hely-Hutchinson, 7th Earl of Donoughmore (1902-1981) and his wife were kidnapped in June 1974 by the IRA and released after a week) - Mountbatten's allocation of officers was increased to twenty-eight police officers. Mountbatten's protection was extended to members of his family too.
ABOVE: Mountbatten and members of his family
onboard 'Shadow V'
LEFT: Mountbatten (halfway under the sand) on the beach
in front of Classiebawn Castle, with his eldest daughter
Patricia (later 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma)
and his grandchildren enjoying
their annual holiday in Ireland
The other innocent victims of the explosion -
(top left to right)
Doreen, The Dowager Lady Brabourne (aged 83yrs);
the Hon. Nicholas Knatchbull (aged 14yrs)
(centre) Paul Maxwell (aged 15yrs)
Mountbatten had set to sea in his 30 feet long wooden boat 'Shadow V' with his eldest daughter Patricia, later 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma (1924-2017), her husband John, 7th Lord Brabourne (1924-2005) and his elderly mother - Doreen 'Dodo', The Dowager Lady Brabourne (1896-1979). Also in the boat were Lord & Lady Brabourne's identical twins - The Hon. Nicholas 'Nicky' Knatchbull (1964-1979) and The Hon. Timothy Knatchbull (b.1964). They were joined by a young local lad acting as a crew member, Paul Maxwell (1964-1979). The Irish republican paramilitary terrorist organisation - the Irish Republican Army (IRA) indeed saw this grand old man a prime target and it was at their hands, that he was murdered. At exactly 11.45am on 27th August 1979, the peace of the Mountbatten family holiday and the silence over the calm Donegal waters was broken with an explosion. Mountbatten and his family had gone to collect the lobster pots that they had set the previous day, but unbeknown to them, concealed beneath the decking was a plastic tube, 17 inches long, full of gelignite - which the IRA had planted some time before. Mountbatten’s boat was just 200 yards from the shore when the IRA detonated their remote-controlled 50lb bomb. 'Shadow V' disintegrated and countless fragments of wreckage showered down onto the water. Mountbatten (aged 79yrs) was killed immediately.
ABOVE & BELOW: Scenes from the aftermath
of the explosion of 'Shadow V'
at Mullaghmore in August 1979. Many local
people came to the help of
the Garda Síochána
(the Police Service of Ireland)
Patricia wtote in her diary - "I only remember terrific explosion (and thinking it was the engine which had been playing up) and immediately being submerged and going down and down in sea with water rushing in ears. Frightened I would not get up before drowning (forgot it was shallow) or get caught beneath hull. Remembered Darling Daddy's story of Kelly sinking." The force of the explosion killed The Hon. Nicholas 'Nicky' Knatchbull (aged 14yrs), Paul Maxwell (aged 15yrs) immediately and Doreen 'Dodo', The Dowager Lady Brabourne (aged 83yrs) subsequently died the next day at Sligo General Hoapital as a result of her injuries sustained in the explosion.
Mercifully, Mountbatten’s daughter Patricia and her husband John, 7th Lord Brabourne and Nicholas' twin Timothy survived, despite sustaining severe injuries. Patricia suffered the effects until her own death in 2017, calling her facial injuries her "IRA facelift", and of course members of the family still to this day deal with the mental scars of the events of the 27th August 1979.
The pointless and futile murder
of 2 elderly people and 2 teenagers
achieved NOTHING ...
despite the IRA’s protestations
The IRA were swift at claiming responsibility, saying - "this operation is one of the discriminate ways we can bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country." The 'bomb-maker' (whose name is a matter of public record, however I refuse to name on this website) was arrested by the Gardaí at a routine checkpoint in County Longford, believing him to have been driving a stolen car. Although he was convicted of murder on 23rd November 1979 and sentenced to life imprisonment, he served less than 20 years because he was released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement (the political agreement signed in April 1998 which finally brokered peace in Northern Ireland). Many years later, his wife said that her husband "never talks about Mountbatten, only the boys who died. He does have genuine remorse."
On the same day as the explosion in Mullaghmore, the IRA ambushed and killed eighteen British soldiers at Warrenpoint, Co. Down, Northern Ireland and four Army bandsmen were also killed in Brussels, Belgium as they set up to perform at a public concert.