December 19, 1974: IRA bombs department store in downtown London

On December 19, 1974 the IRA detonated a 100-pound car bomb exploded in a parked car outside Selfridge’s in downtown London, wounding nine people.

LONDON, UK – Can’t an average citizen go to a shopping centre without having to think about a terrorist act?

Many, many years ago I found myself in downtown London – the UK, NOT my hometown in southwestern Ontario! – on a nice crisp evening. I was sauntering down Oxford Street with gazillions of stores on my left and on my right. If memory serves me correctly (!) it was in early December and the whole road was ablaze in Christmas lighting. Quite the sight!

I ended up at Selfridge’s, an iconic British brand that dates back to the very early days of the 20th century. It is a very impressive building and what I would call an quintessential UK department store. I enjoyed walking through it.

On that night I must confess I did not have terrorismon the brain‘. Although I was still a counter terrorism analyst for my (Canadian) government I did not glance hither and thither wondering whether a person in a bulky coat was concealing a suicide bomb. As this was December and EVERYONE was wearing a bulky coat that would have been a trying task.

Then again, by the mid 2010s the threat from Irish terrorism, mostly in the guise of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had mostly dissipated. In 1974 the situation was quite different.

On this day in 1974

A 100-pound car bomb exploded in a parked car outside Selfridge’s, wounding nine people. The IRA terrorists had issued three telephone warnings allowing time for evacuations to be carried out. Still more than 1.5 million GBP of damages were caused.

The explosive was possibly the biggest planted in recent bombings.

Scotland Yard spokesperson

I guess it was good of the IRA to call in advance: a 100-lb bomb could have killed many. Not to mention ruining a shopping outing.

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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