A WOMAN from Sheerwater who survived a suspected IRA bombing paid her respects to those not so fortunate at an emotional and moving memorial service on Sunday.
The commemoration was held in North Yorkshire to remember the victims of a terrorist attack in which 12 people, including a young family, were killed 40 years ago.
Jenny McMahon, of Albert Drive, survived the 1974 attack when a coach carrying off-duty British Armed Forces personnel and their families was blown up on the M62.
Jenny, who retired from full-time employment in 2009, said: “I have always considered myself one of the lucky ones.”
Well over 200 people turned up for the anniversary service, including the bereaved families and representatives of regiments of soldiers who were killed that night.
There were standard bearers from the Royal British Legion, a pipe band and local dignitaries as well as a television crew.
Jenny said: “I met more people who had lost brothers in the atrocity. I also met the policeman who travelled with me in the ambulance back in 1974.
“There is a natural, emotional bond when you meet people who have been involved in events like this. In whatever capacity, you just want to hug them. On Sunday I met a chap who has been driving on the opposite side of the motorway when the bomb went off.
“He too was a serving soldier at the time and stopped to help. He said he had found a young child’s body by the roadside and had full view of the carnage around him. How horrendous is that?”
The coach had been commissioned to take soldiers from various regiments from their weekend leave and return them to their bases.
The vehicle was making its way from Manchester to-wards Catterick Army base in North Yorkshire when, just after midnight, when the bomb exploded.
Serving in the Army as a Physical Training Instructor at Catterick, the then 24-year-old Jenny boarded the vehicle that fatal day when 11 people, including a family of four – Lance-Corporal Clifford Houghton, his wife Linda, both 23, and their two sons, Lee, five, and Robert, three – were tragically killed.
More than 50 passengers suffered injuries in the attack on Sunday, February 4.
The explosion could be heard for miles and bodies were scattered for 250 yards along the road. The explosives had been hidden towards the back of the vehicle in a luggage compartment. Jenny recalled: “All I can remember was an almighty noise and I could feel my legs being tangled up. I must have blacked out after that.
“I had gone through the bottom of the coach and was dragged along the M62. I woke up on the middle of the motorway to screaming and shouting. I thought I was a goner.
“I spent nearly two months in Batley Hospital, near Leeds, with leg injuries, fractures, lacerations and flash burns. But I had a very lucky escape – those behind me were killed.”
Jenny was one of a dozen or so people taken to hospital. The number of those killed rose to 12, when an 18-year-old soldier died four days later.
Jenny said: “Fortunately I made a good recovery and subsequently trained in rehabilitation. I went on to work in military hospitals and centres treating servicemen and women injured in other IRA atrocities, the Falklands War and, more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan as a physiotherapist at Headley Court.”
“To this day, I don’t like coaches – and if I have to, I never sit near the back.”
The 50lb bomb was thought to have been planted in Manchester.
Always believed to be the work of the IRA, the prime suspects have never claimed responsibility for the atrocity.