I remember very clearly while driving home from work on New York’s Long Island (August 27 1979), hearing the news on my car radio that Lord Louis Mountbatten, great grandson of Queen Victoria, had been assassinated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorists.
Mountbatten was spending the day on his fishing boat Shadow V in Donegal Bay off Ireland’s northwest coast when a 50-pound bomb hidden on the vessel exploded killing him and three others, including his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas.
This was the first blow struck against the British royal family by the IRA during a long terrorist campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland and unite with the Republic of Ireland. Mountbatten was a favorite of the British people and this act of terror was the catalyst that hardened the hearts of the people against the IRA cause and convinced Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to take a hard-line stance against the IRA.
The IRA claimed responsibility for the attack immediately and said that the bomb was detonated by remote control from the coast. On the same day it took responsibility for a bombing attack on the same day against British troops in County Down, claiming 18 lives.
IRA terrorist Thomas McMahon was arrested and convicted of making and planting the bomb that destroyed Mountbatten’s boat. He was a near-legend in the IRA and a leader of the IRA’s notorious South Armagh Brigade, which killed more than 100 British soldiers. McMahon was one of the first IRA members to be sent to Libya to train with detonators and timing devices and was an expert in explosives.
Lord Mountbatten joined the British Royal Navy in 1913, during his early teens, and served during WWI and at the outbreak of WWII. The HMS Kelly his naval destroyer was sunk of Crete early in the WWII. Considered a hero he was appointed supreme Allied commander for Southeast Asia in 1943 and successfully conducted the campaign against Japan that led to the recapture of Burma.
In 1947, he was appointed the last viceroy of India, and he conducted the negotiations that led to independence for India and Pakistan later that year. Lord Louis Mountbatten was made Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and a first earl. He was the uncle of Prince Philip Mountbatten and introduced him to the future Queen Elizabeth and was godfather to their first born son, Charles, Prince of Wales.