‘Probably the saddest moment’ survivors of IRA Household Cavalry horror remembered, 40 years on

  • The story of the four men and seven horses killed in a bomb attack in London — and those who survived — is the topic of a documentary being made 40 years later.

    Thread Films is behind the account of the IRA attack on the Household Cavalry on 20 July 1982. The Queen’s mounted guard of 15 soldiers was on its way to change the guard, near Buckingham Palace, when a remote-controlled device was triggered, blasting nails and shrapnel.

    Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, who was commanding the regiment at the time, said: “It was probably the saddest moment of my military career. I sort of worked myself up into quite a thing. Could I have done something better? Should we have done something better?

    “The general public reacted in a wonderful way. But it didn’t bring the dead soldiers back.”

    Many more were injured, including Metropolitan Police Horse Echo and Household Cavalry mounts Sefton and Yeti. Sefton, who became a public hero, suffered 38 wounds in his body and a piece of metal had severed a main artery in his neck.

    Sefton, second right

    Thanks to expert veterinary care, he recovered and returned to duty, and was retired to the Horse Trust aged 21, where he died in 1993.

    As the 40th anniversary of the atrocity approaches, Thread Films has been capturing survivors’ memories.

    Steve Sullivan, who was part of the guard that day, said: “I never forget the feeling when that bomb went off. It was like having every little bit of oxygen drawn out of your body.

    “It’s that feeling you get just before you pass out. And it’s an emptiness. It just sucks the life out of you. Awful feeling. Horrible.

    “It still hurts. There’s not been one day of my life since that day that I haven’t remembered something that went on. It’s always, always been part of my life ever since then.”

    The company is appealing for help to finish the film, and “commemorate this extraordinary event the way it deserves; both for future generations and for those who lived through it”.

    Director and former cavalryman Mauricio Gris said: “I couldn’t believe that the human story hasn’t been told before. At the time, horses like Sefton became the focus of the nation’s anger, resilience and hope. But the story of the men who cared for those horses became a secondary narrative. I want to capture the human side of this tragedy and explore what it means to those involved 40 years on.”

    The company has started a crowd-funding page to finish the film, with rewards including a behind-the-scenes champagne tour of the Household Cavalry museum at Horse Guards.

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