The BBC have recorded a programme documenting 27 August 1979, a day when 18 soldiers lost their lives in an IRA bombing at Narrow Water, Warrenpoint while another IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten his grandson Nicholas, Lady Brabourne and Paul Maxwell on their boat at Mullaghmore, County Sligo. Civilian William Hudson also lost his life at Narrow Water, across the lough in County Louth when soldiers opened fire, reportedly thinking he was involved in the bombing.

The new BBC Northern Ireland documentary marking the 40th anniversary of the death of Lord Mountbatten, seeks to retell the events of that day which also included the ambush of the convoy of British soldiers, near Warrenpoint which resulted in the biggest loss of military life in a single day during the 30 years of the Troubles.

The Day Mountbatten Died, to be broadcast on Monday 19 August, BBC One Northern Ireland at 9pm, features interviews with Lord Mountbatten’s granddaughter India Hicks, who was holidaying with her grandfather and family at Classiebawn Castle at Mullaghmore, County Sligo that summer and Mary Hornsey, from County Fermanagh, who was on holiday in the area with her family at the time and whose 15-year-old son Paul Maxwell was one of the young people killed on board the boat. 

The documentary also hears from locals from the village who were involved with the rescue operation, some of those who witnessed the explosion, and the Garda Protection Officer assigned to Lord Mountbatten and his family that summer.

Former freelance photographer Peter Maloy who features in The Day Mountbatten Died on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday 19 August at 9pm
Former freelance photographer Peter Maloy features in The Day Mountbatten Died on BBC One Northern Ireland, Monday 19 August at 9pm

General Sir Mike Jackson was the Para officer who was company commander with the regiment at the time and was sent to Narrow Water who tells of how they dealt with the aftermath and we hear from the cousin of Bill Hudson, an English civilian who also died as a consequence of the Narrow Water attacks.

Former freelance photographer Peter Maloy also recounts how he happened to come upon the scene at Narrow Water after driving out of Warrenpoint heading for Newry.

He tells the filmmakers: “I came into the roundabout (out of Warrenpoint) and you couldn’t see past the roundabout, totally obscured with smoke. I got out and grabbed the cameras and just as I’m going into it a policeman is coming running out and he’s screaming. I just put the camera into auto focus and I just shot generally. The first thing I saw was a long wheel based jeep and it was soldiers in that and one look told you they were obviously dead. And the heat, you couldn’t really go to close to it.”

Also interviewed in the film are Anthony McIntyre, a former member of the IRA, who was in prison at the time of the assassination and Kieran Conway, who gathered intelligence for the IRA, and who talk about the IRA’s operations at that time.

The one-hour documentary reveals for the first time that an earlier attempt on Lord Mountbatten’s life had been planned four years before his eventual assassination.

India Hicks describes how the family is still struggling to come to terms with the tragic loss of that day.

She says: “Everybody coped very differently…and some didn’t cope well and of course we’re seeing the side effects of that, even to this day, and the damage that was done was so much deeper than any of us could ever have imagined and adult lives are still being horrifically disrupted.”

The Day Mountbatten Died, commissioned jointly by BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Two and made by Erica Starling and Ronachan Films, is part of a series of specially commissioned documentaries to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the troops in Northern Ireland.

The film is produced and directed by Sam Collyns, whose credits include the BAFTA winning documentaries, “The Shame of the Catholic Church”, and “The Disappeared”.

The Day Mountbatten Died - Monday 19 August, 9pm

BBC One Northern Ireland, 9pm (and also on BBC Two network, 9pm)

Available via BBC iPlayer


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