Remember Narrow Water and the Bloody Armalite…

In late August of 1979, volunteers of Irish Republican Army South Armagh Brigade ambushed a large British Army convoy with two roadside bombs at Narrow Water Castle (near Warrenpoint).

On August 27th, at 16:40, a British Army convoy consisting of one Land Rover and two four-ton lorries was driving past Narrow Water Castle on the A2 road. As it passed a 500-pound (227 kg) fertiliser bomb, hidden in a lorry loaded with straw bales and parked near the castle, was detonated via remote control. The explosion caught the last lorry in the convoy, hurling it on its side and instantly killing six members of 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, scattering them across the road. Those who survived the blast were met with a hail of gunfire from volunteers cloaked within the nearby woods at the boarder of the next county.

Beaten by the tactical surprise of the IRA the surviving soldiers could do nothing except fire upon two uninvolved nearby civilians who lay at the edge of a lake within the boarder jurisdiction of the 26 county state. One of whom they successfully murdered.

On hearing the first explosion a Royal Marine unit alerted the British Army and reinforcements from other units of the Parachute Regiment were dispatched to the scene by road. A rapid reaction unit, consisting of medical staff and senior commander Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair (the commanding officer of the Queen's Own Highlanders) and Lance Corporal Victor MacLeod, were sent by Gazelle helicopter with an accompanying Wessex helicopter.

Having previously studied how the British Army reacted after a bombing the IRA correctly predicted that they would set up an incident command point (ICP) in the gatehouse on the opposite side of the road. At 17:12, thirty-two minutes after the first explosion, an 800-pound (363 kg) bomb hidden in milk pails exploded against the gatehouse, destroying it and hurling lumps of granite through the air. It detonated as the Wessex helicopter was taking off carrying wounded soldiers.

The helicopter was damaged by the blast but did not crash. The second explosion killed twelve soldiers: ten from the Parachute Regiment and the two from the Queen's Own Highlanders.

The Warrenpoint ambush was a propaganda victory for the IRA. It was the deadliest attack on the British Army during the liberation campaign and the Parachute Regiment's biggest loss since World War II, with sixteen paratroopers successfully killed and 18 members of the occupation forces overall. The ambush occurred the same day the IRA assassinated Louis Mountbatten, a prominent member of the British Royal Family. A day of true testament to the IRA’s guerrilla ability!