THE DAY MOUNTBATTEN DIED is a documentary covering the significance of Mountbatten’s life and why the IRA wanted to target him.
Louis “Dickie” Mountbatten, better known as Lord Mountbatten, is perhaps one of the most influential royals of the 20th century. Uncle to Prince Philip, great uncle to Prince Charles, Lord Mountbatten was Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia during the Second World War, during which he retook Burma and Singapore.
The last Viceroy of India and first Governor General, Mountbatten oversaw partition and attempted to ensure calm in the transition between Britain and Indian rule. He would later become Chief of the Defence Staff and was once touted as a caretaker Prime Minister in a plot by disgruntled MI5 agents against Harold Wilson.
The Day Mountbatten Died tells the story of his assassination and why, forty years on, it is an event that has scarred the British public’s imagination.
Though Mountbatten’s murder is at the centre of the documentary it is not the only focus of investigation, rather it places the Mountbatten murder in the context of the other horrific crimes that members of the militant Republican movement in Northern and Southern Ireland committed during the Troubles.
It ensures that the horrific loss of life of not only Mountbatten’s party, which included the eighty three year old educational campaigner Dowager Lady Brabourne, Mountbatten’s fourteen year old grandson Timothy and fifteen year old Paul Maxwell, a member of the crew, but also those of the eighteen British paratroopers murdered at Warrenpoint and the one civilian killed accidentally by British soldiers believing him to be an IRA member is remembered.
The documentary makers are clearly aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter and treat those they interview, including India Hicks Mountbatten’s granddaughter and Paul Maxwell’s mother Mary Hornsey with respect and their memories of the events are presented as they should be; raw and frank remembrances of horrific crimes.
Similarly, the documentary ensures that it is clear how the IRA benefited from the terrible murders, seeing the murder of Mountbatten and the killing at Warrenpoint as retribution for Bloody Sunday and using them as such when recruiting people to their violent cause. It is also frank as to how then recently elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher viewed the murder of Mountbatten and the mass killings at Warrenpoint as less of a warning but intensified the British Army’s presence in the region.
The Day Mountbatten Died is an evocative and engaging documentary that seeks to reveal how devastating the deaths that occurred on the 27th of August 1979 are still impacting not only individuals but the politics of Northern Ireland forty years later.
The show is a powerful reminder of the cruelty of violence and how deep the scars are, not just for individuals but for whole communities because of the atrocities committed both by the IRA and in the case of Bloody Sunday by the British Army. It is well worth watching to remind you why we must ensure that the terror of the Troubles never happens again.
You can watch this episode now on BBC iPlayer