The centre of Guildford was a busy place on a Saturday night in 1974. Stoughton Barracks was the home of the Women’s Royal Army Corps and male recruits from Aldershot and Pirbright, and even sailors from Portsmouth, would come to the town for a night out.
Robert Bartlett was a sergeant, based in Cranleigh at the time, and arrived before the second blast, but a junior colleague of his was quickly on the scene after the explosion in the Horse and Groom.
“Just around the corner was WPC Jackie Parish and she went to the pub,” said Mr Bartlett. “As she got to the front door the floor gave way and all the injured and the dead fell into the cellar.”
Other officers described medical staff among the rubble, treating the victims who were covered in dust.
Mr Bartlett himself was collected from Cranleigh by an inspector and they drove to Guildford and parked in Haydon Place.
“My image to this day is parking and getting out of the car, and walking past a dead body in the gutter,” he said. “I always remembered that but thought it can’t be right, but about two years ago I was shown a photograph of a stretcher in the road where I parked my car.”
The most seriously injured victims of the blast were taken to Royal Surrey County Hospital, then in Farnham Road, but many others remained in the street.
“Set against the wall, around the corner from Haydon Place were lots of injured people. These were the least injured – the most injured had been moved to hospital,” said Mr Bartlett. “They were bleeding and being treated as best people could.”
Outside the library, on the opposite side of the road, he described a tense and hysterical atmosphere where crowds of young men and women watched on.
Some still thought the explosion was caused by a gas leak but at 9.30pm the bomb at the Seven Stars detonated.
“Suddenly there was this boom and silence. Then the glass dropped,” said Mr Bartlett.
“At that point Divisional Officer Shettle shouts out ‘stand by your pumps’. I’ve never heard that phrase since.
“The young people started screaming.”
Mr Bartlett ran down North Street to where a cordon was being placed across the entrance to Swan Lane. He ran though and in the front door.
“I was actually the first man in the pub, thinking I was going to see pretty horrible sights,” he said. “Fortunately it was just the landlord, his wife and a couple of other people.”
The landlord, who had already cleared most of the bar, was bleeding from a head wound. The explosion had blown a hole in the ceiling and white paint was dripping through.
The pub was evacuated and Mr Bartlett continued to work through the night, until 8am. He ensured cordons were secure around the two sites, letting the emergency services through – and the occasional journalist such as Trevor McDonald, from ITN news, who had been having dinner at the Angel Hotel.