A grave injustice: The Birmingham Pub Bombings 21 November 1974

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February 25, 2013 by amoolyarajappa

(An article written by Pauline Geoghegan, Politics in Brum, on the 38th anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings)

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On a dark November night, thirty eight years ago, 21 citizens of Birmingham lost their lives when this city was rocked to the core by bombs and 20 families lost family members; one woman lost not one but two sons. Much has been written (quite rightly) about the wrongful imprisonment of the men known as the Birmingham Six; but far less noise has been made about the plight of the families enduring thirty eight years of living bereavement, those left behind to literally pick up the pieces.

Last Thursday evening at 5:45 pm, family members of those murdered thirty eight years ago gathered at St Phillip’s Church for a service of remembrance.The cameras rolled and the interviews flowed as the media captured the poignant images and comments of dignified brave but desolate bereaved relatives. The choral evensong wafted around the eaves of the beautiful church, pulling on the heart strings of family, media, campaigners, senior police officers and surely, even the few politicians who had turned up.

People travelled far and wide from Liverpool, Wales even Wigan, to be in Birmingham. The Reverend Catherine Ogle’s gentle words bestowed dignity and respect on this city’s forgotten victims, the ones the bombs left behind. In the midst of the soft music Catherine’s reference to “the Birmingham Pub Bombings” rang raw.

Campaigners were guided to the microphone to read out the names of the twenty one dead, and a poem; simple acts of unity designed to show support to families burning with not just pain, but anger at the failure and cruelty of the authorities to seek out and punish the perpetrators of this atrocity.

Poignant words, beautiful music, a circle of pink and white flowers, handshakes, words of condolences were in abundance; the crowd slowly dispersed but the family and campaigners lingered in the churchyard, until 8:27pm, the time the last bomb ripped through our city centre.

One man stood shattered by the reality of meeting other victims for the first time. His father had been killed on that night, along with his unknown uncle. His nineteen year old mother was left pregnant and alone. His grandmother has died and his mother also more recently prematurely at fifty seven. He has no siblings. He is alone. He was comforted by Julie Hambleton sister of Maxine who died aged eighteen.

It is unforgivable that these families should be left to struggle for justice, asked to dig deep into their emotional resources to fight for what is only right, for almost four decades. Julie Hambleton’s tremulous voice filled with gratitude and generosity should shape West Midlands newly elected PCC Bob Jones’ policy priorities.

Maxine Hambleton smiling in a straw hat, pretty in a long floral dress, a harrowing symbol of the seventies in Birmingham: Dead at eighteen, identified by only her fingertips: Here we have a dark stain on our city’s soul.

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