28 August 2009

30 years ago today: Mountbatten murdered

Today, 30 years ago, a bomb went off in a boat off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland. On board was Louis Mountbatten, Nicolas Knatchbull (his 14 year old grandson), Paul Maxwell (a boy of 15) and Baroness Brabourne (the 83yo mother in law of Mountbatten's daughter Patricia). All would die as a result of that bombing, by the IRA.

The IRA called it an act of war, brave little men that they are. The man who planted the bomb, Thomas McMahon, is today living free, as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mountbatten's life was a full one. He had a distinguished naval career that took him into World War 2, although the military disaster at Dieppe, with particularly heavy casualties for Canadian forces would be a minor blot on his career. He oversaw the recapture of Burma from the Japanese and the surrender of Japanese forces in Singapore.

However, it is perhaps for his role as last Viceroy and first Governor General of India that he may be best remembered. He accepted early that India would have to be granted independence swiftly, and although he argued strongly for a united independent India, he faced the dogged determination of Muhammed Ali Jinnah, who pushed for partition. That partition, which Gandhi equally doggedly resisted, would see unforeseen bloodshed and dislocation. Whether Mountbatten could have insisted on a unified non religious India is a matter of conjecture, but his promotion of Indian independence saw him fall out with Winston Churchill at the time. Yes he was ambitious, and yes he was vain, but he was a significant figure in history - who fought for freedom against Japanese imperialism, and the rolling back of British colonialism in India.

The anniversary of the murder of Mountbatten will, of course, largely go unnoticed.

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