IRA Smuggled Armalite Rifles on the QE2 (Ocean Liner)

The Times reports that the IRA smuggled guns and explosive from the U.S. to the U.K. aboard The Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) in the early seventies. “Brendan Hughes, one of the [IRA] provisionals’ first quartermasters, said he boarded Cunard’s flagship to remove caches of Armalite assault rifles and hand grenades that had been stashed by sympathetic members of the 1,000-strong crew . . .  Once he received a coded message by telephone that a shipment had arrived, Hughes and his team drove to Southampton. ‘I would drive into the docks, all prearranged through contacts, and actually get onto the boat to take the weapons off,’ he said. ‘Normally the shipments would have been five, six, eight or 10 weapons at the most, maybe a couple of hand grenades . . .

“The QE2 crossed the Atlantic about twice a month, so the IRA could have smuggled up to 240 guns a year. The Armalites made it a potent terrorist threat on the streets of Northern Ireland, where IRA snipers killed 64 soldiers in 1972.”

That’s bad enough. This is worse. “After the operation was rumbled [discovered], the IRA tried to blow up the ship on Guy Fawkes night in 1975. Police discovered 874 sticks of gelignite in a block of flats in Southampton and arrested six Irish people, including a crew member.”

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