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Tony Flynn
80 YEARS AGO: IRA SABOTAGE BOMB FAILS TO EXPLODE IN ECCLES
Most of you will be able to remember the IRA bomb which exploded in Manchester city centre in June 1996 when a lorry packed with explosives was left on Corporation Street and exploded at 11:17 am, causing an estimated £700 million in damage, there were no fatalities, but 212 people were injured.

However did you know that the IRA organised campaign of bombing and sabotage against the civil, economic, and military infrastructure of the United Kingdom from 1939 to 1940,

The S-Plan or Sabotage Campaign or England Campaign as it became known was intent on wreaking death and damage to the country and it was partially successful.

In January 1939 bombs exploded in London and Manchester, sadly a chap called Albert Ross aged 27 was killed whilst walking through Stevenson Square when a bomb exploded and he was hit by a flying manhole cover.

The following day an unnamed man was walking along Barton Road when he noticed an alarm clock in a field next to an electricity pylon, he had heard about the bomb explosions that had taken place the day before and quickly informed the police.

D.S. Naylor and D.C. Downs from Green Lane police station arrived at the scene and quickly discovered that the clock was part of an explosive mechanism.

Fastened to the pylon and some seven feet from the ground were three sacks containing gelignite, detonators and dynamite, fortunately the clock which had been primed to explode at six o clock had stopped and thus prevented an explosion.

If the pylon had come down it would have meant a total power black-out in the Eccles and Davyhulme area and could have affected the nearby Barton Power Station, the possible real target.

Police also took possession of an IRA leaflet saying, "Give Ireland Its Freedom" which had been pinned to the noticeboard at St Catherine's Church, Barton.

The caretaker Mr Arthur Cookson had seen the leaflet earlier in the day and didn't take much notice, later in the evening he saw the notice flapping about soaking wet, hanging from the board.

Later on he saw a policeman at McAlpine's shop near Barton Bridge and told him what he had seen, both men returned and to their amazement found that a new notice had been pinned up, meaning that the IRA man was in the area at that time.

He described seeing a mystery man in the churchyard the night before, middle aged in his 50's wearing a light coloured raincoat and cap hanging about the church gates, who disappeared when he approached him.

Armed police were stationed at Barton Bridge and Barton Power Station in case of any further bombing attempts.

I couldn't find if any people were arrested in the Eccles area in connection with this bomb, however on 23 January two women were arrested in Manchester in possession of explosives including one barrel of potassium chlorate, two Mills bombs, 49 sticks of gelignite and 10 electric detonators.

Were these women in any way responsible for the Eccles bomb? again I could not find any record of anybody being charged with the Barton bomb.

A fascinating story which had an happy ending but could have been so close to disaster for the local area.


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