This year marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Louis Mountbatten, the 1st Earl of Burma, by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which occurred on 27 August 1979.

Earl Mountbatten of Burma, 1976 Photo: Allan Warren [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Lord Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s maternal uncle, Queen Elizabeth’s second cousin once removed, and was Prince Charles’ honorary godfather.

He was a British Royal Navy officer and statesman. Lord Mountbatten was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command, the last Viceroy of India and India’s first Governor-General once the nation gained Independence.

The 79-year-old Lord Mountbatten was on holiday with his family at Classiebawn Castle in a small seaside village called Mullaghmore in County Sligo, which was about 9 miles (19 kilometres) from the Northern Ireland border.

IRA member Thomas McMahon had sneaked aboard the Mountbattens’ rickety old boat, Shadow V, the night before, which was moored in the harbour, and attached a radio-controlled bomb that weighed about 50 pounds or about 23 kilograms.

Lord Mountbatten went lobster-potting and tuna fishing with family members, including his eldest daughter Patricia, (Lady Brabourne) and her husband John Knatchbull, the 7th Baron Brabourne, their twin sons Nicholas and Timothy and his mother, Doreen (the Dowager Lady Brabourne), and 15-year-old crew member called Paul Maxwell who was earning money pocket money helping out on the boat.

Thomas McMahon detonated the bomb at 11.46 am, when Shadow V, with Lord Mountbatten on board, was just a few hundred yards from shore, which completely destroyed the boat.

Lord Mountbatten’s legs were almost blown off but he was still alive when nearby fishermen pulled him from the water. However, he died from his injuries as he was brought to the shore. Nicolas Knatchbull and Paul Maxwell were killed by the blast, the Dowager Lady Brabourne died the following day and

Lord and Lady Brabourne and their son Timothy suffered from severe injuries and were rushed to hospital.

Lady Brabourne was barely recognisable, with over 100 stitches on her face, Lord Brabourne’s legs had been twisted and broken, along with multiple wounds and Timothy was covered with wounds from head to toe.

Timothy was discharged from hospital in London about two weeks later, and his parents about two months.

They were unable to look after themselves, let alone Timothy, so Queen Elizabeth invited Timothy to Balmoral for some motherly care.

Lord Mountbatten was given a ceremonial funeral at Westminster Abbey, which he had planned most of it, in great detail, beforehand.

Queen Elizabeth, along with the Royal Family and members of European Royal houses, led the nation in mourning during the service.

Thousands watched as the funeral procession began from Wellington Barracks, which included representatives from all three British Armed Services and military contingents from Burma, India, the United States, France and Canada.

Lord Mountbatten was buried in Romsey Abbey, close to his family home at Broadlands.

The Irish police rested and charged Thomas McMahon, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was later released in 1998 under the Good Friday agreement.

Tomb of Earl Mountbatten of Burma at Romsey Abbey, Hampshire, England. Photo: John Armagh [CC0]

Read our short biography of Lord Mountbatten and Viceroy’s House: the Partition of India.


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