This is an exciting story that examines all of the many angles of what was a shocking attack on British Government. The author has looked at how close the attack came to killing more people, including the Prime Minister. The Bomber’s own reflection is included, together with any effect the attack may or may not have had on the subsequent peace talks. There is a well presented account of the bravery of rescuers and victims in the rescue and recovery at the Grand Hotel. This is a workmanlike review of an event that has received less attention than it deserves. High recommended.
NAME: Terror Attack Brighton, Blowing Up the Iron Lady
AUTHOR: Kieran Hughes
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Politics, terrorism, terrorists, Irish Independence, Ulster, IRA, bombing, counter-terrorism, hotel, public areas, guest rooms, Party Conference
DESCRIPTION: This is an exciting story that examines all of the many angles of what was a shocking attack on British Government. The author has looked at how close the attack came to killing more people, including the Prime Minister. The Bomber’s own reflection is included, together with any effect the attack may or may not have had on the subsequent peace talks. There is a well presented account of the bravery of rescuers and victims in the rescue and recovery at the Grand Hotel. This is a workmanlike review of an event that has received less attention than it deserves. High recommended.
The bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton, during a Conservative Party Conference was a shocking event that was not just an attack on a political Party, but an attack on the people of a democratic country by a terrorist who was determined to force a tiny and extreme minority view on the vast majority. As such, it should have seen the country come together behind its democratically elected Government. In fact, the Left of British politics rejoiced and the only regrets expressed were disappointment that the Prime Minister had not been killed. This was a disgraceful situation that insulted the British people as much as it insulted any politician.
There are many questions about the security at Brighton and it is easy to speculate about what might have happened, but that speculation is endless in both directions of fewer or greater casualties. Any broadly democratic country is potentially very vulnerable to terror attacks. The bomb and the machine gun have given terrorists ideal weapons. A single fanatic or deranged individual, who is previously unknown to the police and the anti-terrorist organizations, has freedom to plan an attack anywhere. The only way to dramatically reduce the risk is to flood every potential target with armed guards, but that is not practical, it is not desirable and there would not in any case be enough armed guards available to protect even the highest value targets. A terrorist organization has the advantage that it can not only pick and chose targets, but it can vary the targets and the forms of attack. Complete protection is just not possible and the real solution is to build an effective intelligence and infiltration program that is able to take the war to the terrorist. Then it is a matter of the Government holding its nerve and being prepared to visit proportional force directly to the terror group.
At Brighton, intelligence should have ensured that a higher state of alert was maintained. Given the range of threats from fanatics and the deranged, the search of the Grand Hotel should have been much more thorough than it actually was. A hotel is an obvious target because a bomber can book in as a guest and plant a number of devices well ahead of the target event. There is also wide choice of device, including explosives, chemical and biological weapons. Every room has a number of locations where a relatively large device can be easily concealed against the casual checks that form part of normal room cleaning. It is possible to plant a number of devices over a period of time, using a number of terrorists. Remote activation is practical to arm and initiate the devices at some future common time, with the terrorists exposed to very limited threats. Radio and phone activation allows the terrorist to be located well away from the target area and able to escape before a security cordon can be put in place.
As the terrorist has a number of well-known advantages, the security services can conduct a thorough search of the hotel ahead of the potential targets arriving. As the search is conducted, sensors and surveillance equipment can be installed to ensure that a terrorist cannot gain access after the search and then plant devices. Rooms that will be occupied must be searched, but the search must also include neighbouring rooms because a blast can destroy a floor above or a room next door. Inside a hotel bedroom there are several obvious places of device concealment, such as behind the panels surrounding a bath. A thorough search will involve the opening of these spaces and the sealing of all searched areas.
At Brighton there were deficiencies in the search before the occupation of the hotel rooms and failures to maintain security. However, when the bomb detonated, the casualties were relatively light, the Prime Minister escaped the bombing and the essential services responded rapidly, effectively, and with courage. There was also courage on the part of victims and political colleagues who also came to their aid.
The Brighton bombing provides many valuable security lessons, not all of which were learned and of those that were, attention waivers until the next attack.
A thought provoking book.