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  • Christina Drummond

The Droppin Well bombing, Ballykelly, Northern Ireland

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1982, the INLA exploded a time bomb at the Droppin Well, a disco in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland, killing eleven soldiers and six civilians, and injuring thirty other people.

The soldiers who died were (pictured, left to right):

Corporal David Salthouse, Light Infantry, 23 years old and married.

Private Stephen Smith, Cheshire Regiment, from Wellington in Somerset, 24 years old and married.

Corporal Clinton Collins, Cheshire Regiment, from Stockport, 20 years old and married.

Lance Corporal Stephen Bagshaw, Cheshire Regiment, from Tinwistle in Cheshire, 21 years old.

Not pictured are

Private David Murray, Cheshire Regiment, from Stockport, 18 years old.

Lance Corporal David Stitt, Cheshire Regiment, from Cheadle, 27 years old.

Private Neil Williams, Cheshire Regiment, from Chester, 18 years old.

Private Paul Delaney, Army Catering Corps, from Warrington, 18 years old.

Lance Corporal Philip McDonough, Cheshire Regiment, from Walsall, 26 years old and married.

Private Shaw Williamson, Cheshire Regiment, from Stockport, 21 years old.

Private Terrance Adam, Army Catering Corps, from Sydenham Hill in London, 20 years old.

The bomb was believed to have been 5-10 lbs. of Frangex explosives, and had been left beside a pillar support, so when it exploded it brought down the roof causing falling masonry to kill and injure the people present. The last survivor was found at 4:00 a.m., and the last body was recovered six and a half hours later. The INLA issued a statement claiming responsibility: “We believe that it is only attacks of such a nature that bring it home to people in Britain and the British establishment. The shooting of an individual soldier, for the people of Britain, has very little effect in terms of the media or in terms of the British administration”. They described the murdered civilians as “consorts”. Both sides of the conflict decried the atrocity, and the Irish government made the INLA an illegal organization.

In 1986 four INLA members were given life sentences, and another was given ten years as she claimed coercion. The barman Martin McCann, who was seventeen years old at the time, said: "…the craic was good, the music was good and there was plenty of noise and plenty of people. I was one of the lucky ones, I didn't get hurt. I dropped the lid of a bottle…that saved me because I bent down to pick it up whenever the blast went off. I didn't see anything only the flash, that's all I can remember at the time, being put through to the kitchen and then the darkness and flickers of flame. It's just a nightmare that never goes away. Everyone involved…will remember exactly what they were doing 30 years ago. They are going to remember the last time they spoke to the person that didn't come home."

Colonel Bob Stewart, veteran of six tours of Northern Ireland, was the incident commander at the scene. He had earlier been playing squash with one of those killed, and lost six of his men. He remembers: “It was deadly silent and very black. As I shone my torch I could see people who were either dead or dying….I had to not only be the incident commander through the night, but it took me six hours to identify my men. I then had to bring them home.”

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