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Roadside memorial for 30th anniversary of bomb attack


The scene after the bus bomb attack which claimed the lives of eight British soldiers.

A MEMORIAL to the eight British soldiers killed when their bus was blown up by a massive roadside bomb in the townland of Curr, near Ballygawley, 30 years ago is to be re-dedicated at the site of the IRA attack this Sunday.

An Act of Remembrance is being held at the roadside on Sunday morning to mark the 30th anniversary of what has become known as the Ballygawley Road bus bomb, which occurred in the early hours of August 20, 1988.

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A busload of soldiers serving in the 1st Battalion Light Infantry were being transported from RAF Aldergrove to their base at Lisanelly Barracks in Omagh.

The servicemen were returning from a short holiday, having completed an 18-month tour of duty in the North.

At around 12.30am, members of the IRA remotely detonated a roadside bomb containing 200lbs of semtex.

The force of the explosion hurled the bus 30 metres down the road and threw the soldiers into neighbouring hedges and fields. It left a six-foot deep crater.

Eight soldiers were killed and a further 28 were injured in the Provisional IRA attack.

It was the single biggest loss of life for the British Army since the Warrenpoint ambush in 1979.

Some of the first people to arrive at the scene and offer help included local farmers and bandsmen from the Omagh Protestant Boys, who were returning by bus from a parade in Portadown.

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Every year, survivors and relatives of the deceased, along with members of the local community, gather at the site of the bomb for an Act of Remembrance.

Traditionally, the service has been held on Remembrance Sunday in November.

At this year’s commemoration, due to start at 10am this Sunday, a memorial to the dead soldiers will be re-dedicated along with a series of interpretive panels explaining what occurred on the road on the road 30 years ago.

The names of other members of the security forces killed in the area during the Troubles are also listed on the memorial, including four UDR servicemen, a lieutenant serving in the 15th/6th Lancers and RUC reserve Joseph Clements, originally from the townland of Fernaghadrum in Eskra.

Welcoming everyone to the event will be veteran Ulster Unionist councillor Allan Rainey, a farmer who lives close to the site and was one of the first people at the scene.

Presiding over the re-dedication and Act of Remembrance will be Sixmilecross native, Rev. Alan Irwin, whose father and uncle were killed in separate incidents in the Troubles.

A Bible reading will be given by retired surgeon, Dominic Pinto, who treated many of the injured at Tyrone County Hospital on the night of the bomb.

Wreaths and floral tributes will also be laid in memory of the deceased.

The poignant roadside ceremony will be followed by a morning prayer service at Newtownsaville Church of Ireland, starting at 11.30am.
This service will also include a special Act of Remembrance in respect of the victims of the Ballygawley bus bomb, prayers for their families and also for the surviving injured.

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