Monday 6 January 2020


The Provisional IRA murdered three young British soldiers near the town of Castlewellan in County Down.  The three men were travelling in one of two Land Rovers when a huge culvert bomb was detonated at around 20:30hrs.  The terrorists were hiding in a derelict farm building 250 yards away and triggered the one ton device by command wire.  The explosion created a 30-foot wide crater, 13 feet deep.  The second Land Rover was unable to stop after the bomb exploded and ended up inside the crater with the shattered remains of the first vehicle.  The explosion also ruptured water mains, further complicating rescue efforts as emergency services had to work waist deep in muddy water in darkness.

The scene of the attack showing both Land Rovers inside the crater

The three murdered privates were all locally drawn members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, including a 21-year-old Catholic from Downpatrick - James Cochrane.  Catholics rarely enlisted in the army, but Pte Cochrane's mother successfully fought to have his name included on the local war memorial.  The others killed were Protestants Robert Smith, 18, from Comber, and Richard Wilson, 21, from Newcastle.  Four colleagues were also seriously injured in the attack.