I’m still haunted by IRA bomb attack after 39 years

Frank Patterson.
Frank Patterson.
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A CHORLEY man has spoken publicly for the very first time about the night he was an eyewitness to the M62 IRA coach bomb horror.

Frank Patterson was one of the first people on the scene of the 1974 atrocity.

The father-of-two, who was 21 at the time, was so deeply affected by what he saw, he needed counselling to help him get over it.

For years afterwards, he was tormented by nightmares and flashbacks.

Around 100 people attended the annual ceremony – the anniversary of the attack was Monday, February 4 – at the memorial garden at Hartshead Moor Services on the motorway on Sunday .

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the bombing in which 12 people, including two young children, died.

The attack targeted off duty soldiers who were travelling with family members by coach from Manchester to barracks in Catterick.

The bomb exploded in the luggage compartment of the vehicle in West Yorkshire.

A nightclub entertainer at the time, Mr Patterson, 60, was travelling in a car on the M62 with a friend just after midnight, back to Chorley from a gig in Leeds, and he is still haunted by the memories of that night.

The most enduring one is of a toddler he found on the motorway embankment with a leg blown off.

He cradled the dead child in his arms, still thinking it was alive, until a policeman pulled him away.

He said he thought the child was a little girl, who had been blown out of the coach by the explosion.

However, through his counselling he met the people who had set up the memorial garden, who confirmed the child was actually a boy.

“He had been placed there
by driver Roland Handley who had found him in the wreckage,” said Mr Patterson.

“After all the years of seeing that perfect baby face, eyes still open and not being able to leave him till a policeman pulled me away, it was a revelation to find the little girl in my nightmare was in fact a boy, as was the other baby that died, his brother, his mum and dad, all blown to pieces.”

Mr Patterson, who lives in Heapey, described how he saw “something go up.”

“I was coming home when the bomb went off, travelling west. We were coming back on the motorway, we certainly saw something go up, coming up the hill.

“We were moving in traffic and then all the traffic had stopped.

“I ran over to the barrier and obviously realised a bomb had gone off.

“There were body parts and all kinds of stuff all over the carriageway.

“There were still people crying out.

“I was one of the first there, there were other people on the scene at that point.”

Mr Patterson said he has stopped off at the memorial garden a couple of times as he passed on the motorway to pay his respects.

“I met the sister of one of the soldiers who was killed and she was involved in the Warrington bombing memorial.

“Meeting her was a big help.”

A former army man, Mr Patterson served with REME, based in Germany for five years, taking in two tours of Northern Ireland.

He said he had seen some harrowing incidents.

“But nothing compares with that,” he said.

“After all these years. I’ve never tried to investigate what happened.

“My mum was a nurse and she said it’s best if you put it out of your mind.”

He said: “As I’ve got older it’s got easier, but funnily enough just these last few days I’ve been thinking about it again.

“It’s one of those pictures you don’t forget.”