Memorial to blast victims

A SERVICE station on the M62 was the scene of a moving ceremony to mark the rededication of a memorial to the Hartshead coach bomb victims.

Hundreds of people including ex-servicemen, the Royal British Legion, members of the armed forces and emergency services and local dignitaries joined the survivors and family members of those who were killed in the bomb attack on the M62 on February 4, 1974.

During the ceremony, which was held on Wednesday, the 35th anniversary of the tragedy, a stone monument bearing a plaque was unveiled and some of the victims' family members helped to plant an oak tree as a living memorial to those who died.

Opening the ceremony, Martin Watkins, county manager of the Royal British Legion, Greater Manchester, talked about how, 35 years ago, 12 people, including two children aged just two and five and their 23-year-old mum, lost their lives. Another 50 were injured in the incident.

They had been travelling on a coach transporting British Army and Royal Air Force personnel on leave with their families to several bases, including Catterick, North Yorkshire, when it was blown up near Gomersal and Birkenshaw.

As emergency services tried to deal with the carnage on the motorway, the Hartshead service station on the West bound side was used by paramedics, doctors and nurses who tried to deal with the injuries.

Originally a plaque was put up on the outside wall of the service station in memory of those who died, but over time, as the building was modernised, it ended up in the busy entrance foyer.

The new memorial, on a grassed area outside, will be a more fitting tribute and a better place for friends and family to pay their respects.

The Bishop of Wakefield, The Rt Rev Stephen Platten and the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Rev Martyn Jarrett blessed the new memorial and the tree which was donated by Life for a Life Memorial Forests.

The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, Sir Norman Bettison said people should remember those who faced danger at the time of the bombing and now, to defend their freedom and way of life.

He said: "Many soldiers have died with their rifles in their hand, but these men died with their children in their arms and their families by their side. "

Speaking on behalf of the families, Maureen Norton, whose brother Terry Griffin - a 24-year-old soldier from Bolton - died in the bomb, said: "Today is important for the families of those who were killed in the blast. On that day in February, 35 years ago, our lives were changed forever when those we loved were taken away from us. They may be gone, but In our hearts they will live on forever."

Towards the end of the ceremony wreaths were laid by the families and survivors, including the coach driver Roland Handley, who wrote: 'In memory of all those who travelled with me on that fateful night."

The Mayor of Kirklees, Coun Karam Hussain, also laid a wreath alongside the Mayor of Calderdale, mayors from the Manchester area and Regimental Associations.

Chelsea pensioner Alf Hay, who used to live in Clare Road, Cleckheaton, said: "It's been a great day. This should have happened years ago."