Bloody Sunday, sometimes referred to as the Bogside Massacre, occurs on January 30, 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. Twenty-six unarmed civilians are shot by British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, as they march in protest of internment (imprisonment without trial). Thirteen people are killed on the spot and another dies over four months later as a result of his injuries.
The march, organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Northern Resistance Movement, begins at about 2:45 PM at Bishop’s Field and is to conclude at the Guildhall, in the city centre, where a rally is to take place. There are as many as 15,000 people in the march, with many joining along the route.
As the march makes its way along William Street and nears the city centre, its path is blocked by British Army barricades. The organisers then redirect the march down Rossville Street with the intention of holding the rally at Free Derry Corner instead. Some of the marchers, however, break away from the march and begin throwing stones at soldiers manning the barricades. The soldiers fire rubber bullets, CS gas, and water cannon to try and disperse the rioters and observers report that this rioting is not intense.
Some of the marchers spot British paratroopers hiding in a derelict three-story building overlooking William Street and begin throwing stones at the windows. At about 3:55 PM, the first shots are fired as these paratroopers open fire with real bullets. Civilians Damien Donaghy and John Johnston are shot and wounded while standing on waste ground opposite the building. The soldiers claim Donaghy is holding a black cylindrical object.
At 4:07 PM, the paratroopers are ordered to go through the barricades and arrest rioters. On foot and in armoured vehicles, the paratroopers chase people down Rossville Street and into the Bogside. Two people are knocked down by the vehicles. Although Brigadier Pat MacLellan orders that only one company of paratroopers be sent on foot through the barricades and that they should not chase people down Rossville Street, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford disobeys this order. This results in no separation between the rioters and the peaceful marchers.
There are many claims of paratroopers beating people, clubbing them with rifle butts, firing rubber bullets at them from close range, making threats to kill, and hurling abuse. One group of paratroopers take up position at a low wall about 80 yards in front of a rubble barricade that stretches across Rossville Street. Some of the people near the barricade throw stones at the soldiers but they are not close enough to hit the soldiers. The soldiers then open fire on the people at the barricade, killing six and wounding another.
A large group of people flee or are chased into the car park of Rossville Flats, which is like a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high-rise flats. The soldiers open fire, killing one civilian, Jackie Duddy, who is shot in the back, and wounding six others.
Other people flee into the car park of Glenfada Park, which is also a courtyard-like area surrounded by flats. From a distance of approximately 50 yards, the soldiers shoot at people across the car park. Two civilians are killed and at least four others wounded. The soldiers pass through the car park and out the other side. Some soldiers exit the southwest corner, where they shoot and kill two civilians. The remainder exit the southeast corner and shoot four more civilians, killing two.
Only about ten minutes elapse between the time soldiers first drive into the Bogside and the time the last of the civilians is shot. Under the command of Major Ted Loden, more than 100 rounds are fired by the soldiers.
Some of those shot are given first aid by civilian volunteers, either on the scene or after being carried into nearby homes. The first ambulances arrive at 4:28 PM. The injured are then driven to the hospital, either in civilian cars or in ambulances. The three boys killed at the rubble barricade are driven to hospital by the paratroopers after, as witnesses claim, they lifted the bodies by the hands and feet and dumped them in the back of their vehicle as if they were “pieces of meat.”
In April 1972, the British government releases a report exonerating British troops from any illegal actions during the protest. The shootings act as a rallying call for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as their numbers swell and Irish indignation over Britain’s Northern Ireland policies grow. As a result, Britain increases its military presence in the North while removing any vestige of Northern self-rule. On July 21, 1972, the IRA explode 20 bombs simultaneously in Belfast, killing British military personnel and a number of civilians. Britain responds by instituting a new court system composed of trial without jury for terrorism suspects and conviction rates exceed 90 percent. No criminal charges have ever been brought against the participating members of the British military.