A Sheerwater woman has attended an emotional memorial service to mark the 50th anniversary of a suspected IRA coach bombing in which she was seriously injured.

Jenny McMahon, of Albert Drive, was among 50 people injured in the blast on the M62 in 1974. Eleven people, including eight off-duty soldiers and two young children, were killed instantly and a 12th person died of their injuries four days later. 

Those killed included a whole family, Cpl Clifford Haughton, his wife Linda, both 23, and their sons aged five and two.

Jenny, who was 24, was serving in the army as a physical training instructor at Catterick, North Yorkshire, when she got on the coach after attending the christening of a friend’s baby in Manchester.

The coach had been commissioned to take soldiers from various regiments from their weekend leave and return them to their bases. The vehicle was on its way to Catterick when, just after midnight, when the bomb exploded.

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.

“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 conflict and 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.”

Jenny shows no animosity and has taken part in the Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, set up in memory of the two children killed in IRA bombings in Warrington in 1993. 

Jenny said she was not able to talk about the bombing for over 30 years and it was only in 2009 that she attended her first memorial service at Hartshead Moor service station, near Brighouse, West Yorkshire, close to where the bomb went off. 

She has since returned regularly and is in contact with other survivors and bereaved families.

At one service, she met Dave Harrison, who was a policeman in 1974 and the first person to tend to Jenny. Dave went with Jenny in the ambulance to hospital. They have become friends since reacquainting with Jenny visiting Dave and his wife Margaret at their home.

About 500 people were at the 50th anniversary service, including representatives of the Royal British Legion and the regiments and corps of those who died; Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Royal Artillery and Royal Signals.

The service included a Roll of Honour of those who died and bereaved families laid wreaths at the memorial.

“It is always a very moving and poignant occasion for the bereaved families who lost loved ones on this fateful day, many still finding the tragedy very raw after 50 years,” Jenny said.

“There is a strong bond between the families and survivors. I go to support the families; and they get some comfort knowing someone who was on the coach and survived.

“Although I don’t dwell on the event, it is one of those life experiences you never forget.”