LETTERS of condolence from President Bush and Margaret Thatcher sent in the wake of an IRA bomb attack on the Royal Marines School of Music have gone on display today.
The items were presented to the modern day school of music, at Portsmouth Naval Base, in memory of the 11 military musicians killed in the blast at the previous school in 1989.
A watch worn by one of the bandsmen injured in the blast, badly damaged but frozen on the time the bomb went off, also went on view today.
The items were presented to the Royal Marines School of Music for display in its memorial room to mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing.
The explosion at Deal barracks in Kent – then home to the school of music – took place on September 22 1989.
As well as the 11 servicemen killed, 22 were seriously injured. The barracks and several nearby homes were extensively damaged.
In days following the blast, prime minister Margaret Thatcher and US President George H W Bush wrote letters to the Royal Marines Principal Director of Music, Lieutenant Colonel John Ware.
The letter from President Bush reads: ‘Please accept my condolences on the tragedy that the British Royal Marines suffered. The loss of such fine people in a brutal terrorist attacks is truly shocking.’
Mrs Thatcher wrote to Lt Col Ware after he accompanied her to visit the wounded in hospital.
‘It has been a devastating blow for everyone in the Royal Marines as well as for the people of Deal,’ she said.
‘I wanted to show on my visit that the whole country is intent on sharing your sorrow, but also in admiration for the courage and fortitude of the Royal Marines and their band which gives so much pleasure to so many people year after year.’
Lt Col Ware has now chosen to present the letters to the school of music – which re-located to Portsmouth in 1996 - for permanent display in honour of those killed and injured.
And Terry Holland, now a civilian employee within the band service, has taken the opportunity to present his watch to go alongside the letters.
Lieutenant Colonel Nick Grace, the principal director of music for the Royal Marines Band Service, said: ‘This year is a very special year for the Royal Marines Band, with it being 350 years since the creation of the corps, 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, 70 years since D-Day and 25 years since the IRA bombing in Deal.
‘I was in the Royal Marines Band Portsmouth, based at Eastney, at the time. We heard that morning of a possible gas explosion and it was only later on that we were told about the devastation that went on where 11 Royal Marines died as a result.
‘These were marines going about their day, working in their own barracks, and the front line came to them.
‘I am extremely grateful to Lt Col Ware and Mr Holland for what they have presented to the Royal Marines School of Music.
‘It is a significant contribution for the 25th anniversary.
‘What happened that day really did have an effect on the whole country and across the world.
‘These are important exhibits and really do demonstrate the personal effects it had on a lot of people.’