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IRA Terror on Britain’s Streets 1939–1940 (Paperback)

The Wartime Bombing Campaign and Hitler Connection

True Crime P&S History 20th Century Ireland

By Dick Kirby
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 16 black and white
ISBN: 9781526786425
Published: 30th April 2021

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It is little known today that, in January 1939, the IRA launched a bombing campaign, codenamed The S - or Sabotage - Plan on mainland England. With cynical self-justification, they announced that it was not their intention to harm human life but in just over a year, 265 explosive devices resulted in the deaths of seven innocent people, with 117 injuries and widespread devastation. London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and many other towns and cities were targeted.

On 25 August 1939, detectives in London defused three devices set to detonate that afternoon at 2.30 and arrested four terrorists. At the same time an identical bomb exploded in Coventry city centre killing five civilians and injuring 72, the highest body count of the campaign.

Numerous arrests were made nationwide but ill-trained personnel and additional national security resulting from the threat of Nazi invasion caused the campaign to falter and fade away in early 1940. The author, a former detective, is well qualified to write this book, having spent 18 months in Northern Ireland combatting terrorism, for which he was commended by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Imbert, for displaying ‘courage, dedication and detective ability’.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The narration of this book is very informative, although it doesn’t strive to be very neutral (if one can be in a situation like this). Being a former Detective that worked directly in Northern Ireland for a period, one can assume that Kirby wouldn’t be too excited to sing the virtues of men that would have wanted him dead. With his unique insight on the situation, and both an acerbic wit and self deprecating humor – this book is very addictive and sometimes humorous despite the dark topic.

I think my biggest takeaways from the book are some of the origins of The Troubles, even dating back into the nineteenth century. I had no idea that The IRA sprang from groups like the Fenian Brotherhood and the fact that it was originally an American organization that repatriated back into Ireland to instigate an uprising was interesting. I also had no idea that some versions of the IRA had ties to Hitler during the Second World War.

Just like with many books from this publisher that I have been reading lately, I quite enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in true crime books, Ireland, or World War II history. It covers a topic that not many of my American friends, with me being an American myself, would know about.

NetGalley, Stephen Kelley

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought I was quite well-educated on the history of Britain in 1939, a year that saw the beginning of the war with Nazi Germany. While most will be aware of that I doubt I'm the only one surprised to learn that it was also the year the IRA launched mass bombing attacks in a campaign that lasted through to the next year.

Dick Kirby is one of my favourite True Crime authors and I interrupted my "catch up" of his back catalogue to devour his latest book, IRA Terror on Britain's Streets 1939-1940. As always with one of Mr Kirby's books this is meticulously researched and goes into great detail about the protagonists ,the plot,their capture and trials. It also tells in great detail the carnage wrought by the cowardly attacks with the protestations that those of us who remember later attacks will be familiar with that they were planned so as not endanger human life. which were just as dishonest and cynical then as they have been since.
As usual Dick Kirby treats us to his disdainful view of the justice system and again he shows that weak sentencing and certain Judges being in the wrong job entirely is not new either.

This is a fascinating book on events that many will be totally unaware of,lost amongst the better known history of that era.

NetGalley, Dave Blendell
 Dick Kirby

About Dick Kirby

Dick Kirby was born in the East End of London and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967. Half of his twenty-six years’ service was spent with Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Squad and the Flying Squad.


Kirby contributes to newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, as well as appearing on television and radio. The Guv’nors, The Sweeney, Scotland Yard’s Ghost Squad, Brave Blue Line, Death on the Beat, Scourge of Soho, Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad, London’s Gangs at War, Scotland Yard’s Gangbuster, The Mayfair Mafia, Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad and The Racetrack Gangs are all published under the Wharncliffe True Crime imprint and he has further other published works to his credit. On retirement he lives near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

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