Aldwych bus bombing
Part of the Troubles
A Leyland Titan double-decker bus identical to the one involved in the bombing.
LocationAldwych, London, UK
Date18 February 1996
22:38 (UTC)
Attack type
Deaths1 (the perpetrator)
PerpetratorProvisional Irish Republican Army (IRA)

The Aldwych bus bombing occurred on 18 February 1996 when an improvised explosive device being carried by Irish republican Edward O'Brien detonated prematurely on a number 171 bus in Aldwych, in the West End of London.[1][2] The 2 kg (4 lb) Semtex bomb detonated as he sat near the door of the bus.

The bomb killed O'Brien instantly and injured people both inside and outside the bus, including the driver who became permanently deaf. The victims were brought to St Thomas's Hospital and University College Hospital. Three of them were in two cars in front of the bus at the time. The blast could be heard from 5 miles away. Police said they received no warning about the bomb. The incident also forced the closure of Charing Cross railway station.[3]


The bus bombing came just nine days after the Docklands bombing in east London, which marked the end of the IRA's ceasefire and the resumption of its armed campaign in England.[4][5] On 16 February, an IRA bomb planted in a telephone box on Charing Cross Road, near Leicester Square tube station, was destroyed by a police remote controlled robot after a telephone warning.[6]


It was initially reported by some media that three people were killed, but it then became clear that only one, the perpetrator, had died.[7]

A subsequent police search of the London address of Edward O'Brien, a Provisional IRA volunteer, discovered 15 kg (30 lb) of Semtex, 20 timers, 4 detonators and ammunition for a 9 mm Walther revolver, along with an incendiary device. The Walther pistol was discovered on him after his death.[8] The police said they were also almost certain that O'Brien was the person who planted the telephone box bomb three days before the bus bombing.[9]

Another Irishman, Brendan Woolhead, who was in the area at the time of the explosion and suffered a fractured skull, was briefly suspected and accused of involvement. His name was cleared and he subsequently won around £200,000 in damages for libel. Woolhead died in October 1996 due to drug detoxification treatment for addiction to heroin.[10]


The destroyed bus was a Leyland Titan double-decker bus - fleet number T990, registration WLT 990, originally registered as A990 SYE in 1984[11] - operated by London Central and travelling its route from Catford to Holborn. The bus had travelled across Waterloo Bridge and just passed Somerset House and the Strand intersection when the explosion happened.


In February 2021, in Dáil Éireann, the Tánaiste criticised Sinn Féin for organising a commemoration for O'Brien. The commemoration was organised by Wexford Sinn Féin councillor Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, and was cancelled on 19 February 2021, "at the request of the family, due to significant online abuse targeting the family".[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ "Bomb blast destroys London bus". BBC News. 18 February 1996. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  2. ^ English, Richard (2003). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Pan Books. p. 291. ISBN 0-330-49388-4.
  3. ^ "1996: Bomb blast destroys London bus". 18 February 1996 – via
  4. ^ Peadar Whelan. "Ed O'Brien remembered". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  5. ^ IRA Man: Talking with the Rebels by Douglass McFerran (ISBN 978-0275955915), page 8
  6. ^ Lyall, Sarah (16 February 1996). "I.R.A. Bomb Destroyed in Central London" – via
  7. ^ Archive, Abdul Kareem, Head of (17 February 2016). "February 18, 1996: IRA bomb on London bus kills three".
  8. ^ Lost Lives, ISBN 1-84018-504-X
  9. ^ "Dead IRA man 'had hit-list' of bomb targets". 17 April 1996.
  10. ^ "Doctor linked to drug detox death 'danger to the public' -".
  12. ^ McGreevy, Ronan; O'Halloran, Marie. "Online commemoration for IRA volunteer who died in 'bus bomb' is cancelled". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2021-02-19.
  13. ^ "Sinn Féin councillor organises commemoration for IRA bomber". independent. Retrieved 2021-02-19.