The night the IRA tried to blow us up

ITN News Clip

By Janet Penn

This ITN news clip dated 18 January 1979, shows aerial pictures of the fuel terminal the morning after the IRA tried to blow it up and the description of the clip says:

'There was a bomb at Canvey Island, Essex, the country's biggest fuel storage complex. It blew open a tank holding kerosene, but there was no fire and no-one was hurt.'

Photo:The night they tried to blow us up

The night they tried to blow us up


This page was added by Janet Penn on 04/10/2011.
Comments about this page

I would like to correct the above info regarding the IRA Bomb on Canvey Island, I was a Leading Fireman and was on duty at Canvey Island Fire Station, the explosion occurred at approx 2340hrs and shook the Fire Station Building making the snooker balls go from one end of the table to the other and back and the windows vibrate. We were initially turned out to the "Methane Terminal" but upon arrival they stated it was not on their site it was in the Texaco Terminal next door.

We then redirected to the Texaco site and upon arrival found windows blown out on the sites offices near the entrance gate. We proceeded in but was not able to find any trace of a fire, but there was a horrible smell of fuel in the air and a complete ban on smoking in the area surrounding the site was invoked. The Officer in charge, Fire Station Officer R Davies, sent several small groups of Firemen out to search the perimeter to try and locate the location of the explosion, I, as a Leading Fireman with a Retained Leading Fireman, went around the perimeter to the left of the main entrance. After a short time we found the damaged tank with a large hole at the base of the Tank and there was AVIATION Fuel leaking into the BUND Wall (Built to retain in case of spillage from a Tank using an amount of 110% ) The Bund wall had also been breached and a small amount of AVTUR (Aviation Fuel as it’s called ) was seeping into the ditch around the site.

We reported back to the Station Officer and arrangements were made to stop the breach in the Bund wall and all the contents of the ditch went directly into Texaco's system to collect any discharge from getting into public systems. The Leaking fuel was covered by us with using Foam, at times we had to wade into the fuel to ensure that all the Avtur was covered to ensure there was no Fuming off to endanger the residents in the area. It was believed at the time that the Target intended was the Methane Terminal next door and when the people went to plant the bomb they were not aware of the amount of security present and the Security Dogs within the double fencing so they headed across the bit or land at the side of Terminal between the two sites and placed the bomb, foolishly, at the bottom of the tank not realising that the contents would exclude any oxygen from any fire that started when they came out of the tank.

There was no fuel or anything stored at Occidentals new site, which had been stopped during its initial construction, the tanks and the associated pipework were deliberately not completed so that nothing could be stored in them. It was common knowledge that Occidentials site was incomplete because of the setback in oil extraction and price rises by the suppliers.

By Keith Verrall
On 30/12/2011

Many thanks for adding your comment on the IRA bomb. The text that was added to our page at the top, was the description from the ITN News clip. It is great to get the whole story most of which we have never heard before even though we lived through the 'event'. We are of course aware no oil was ever stored at the Occidental site.

By Janet Penn
On 30/12/2011

I seem to remember that the tanks instaled at the Occidental Refinery had serious flaws and would have collapsed if used.

By Maureen Buckmaster
On 30/12/2011

i was a police officer on duty that night and was the first member of the emergency services to attend. Together with a colleague and security from the site we discovered the tank where the bomb had exploded. I reported in to HQ and that’s when the fun started and others were called out.

By Martin Lucking
On 20/05/2019