To help put things in perspective it is important to remember that prior to 7/7 London was no stranger to bombings. Irish anti-British sentiment had been expressed through terrorist bombings since the Fenian Dynamite Campaign from 1867–1885.
On 16 January 1939, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) commenced a campaign of bombings that would last on and off for the next 60 years.
With this extensive history of terrorist activity one might ask oneself what was so different about 7/7 to instill so much fear. Londoners were no strangers to bombings.
Here is a time line of IRA bombings in London from 1939 - 1999.1939
- January 16: a bomb exploded outside the control room of a large power station, which supplied the whole of south-east England with electricity. It created a large crater in the forecourt of the building. There were no casualties and the control station was reportedly undamaged. A second explosion damaged an overhead cable running from Grand Union Canal to Willesden Power Station.
- January 17: a bomb exploded at Williams Deacons Bank, damaging gas mains.
- February 4: two bombs exploded in the London Underground – one at Tottenham Court Road station and one at Leicester Square station. They were timed suitcase bombs stored in the left-luggage rooms overnight. There were no deaths, although two people were wounded and severe damage was done to the stations.
- February 9: two bombs exploded at King's Cross station.
- March 2: a bomb exploded on an aqueduct for the Grand Union Canal near Stonebridge Park.
- March 23: five bombs exploded at different times during the day. Targets included telephone and gas installations, and the offices of the News Chronicle in Fleet Street.
- March 29: two bombs exploded on Hammersmith Bridge.
- March 31: seven bombs exploded in different parts of the city.
- May 5: two bombs exploded.
- June 10: bombs exploded in thirty post offices and postboxes in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
- June 24: several bombs exploded before or after a republican demonstration (under police protection) demanding the release of IRA volunteers.
- June 24: bombs exploded at the London branches of the Midland Bank, Westminster Bank and Lloyds Bank.
- July 26: two bombs exploded in the London Underground – one in the left-luggage area of King's Cross Station and one in the left-luggage area of Victoria Station. In the King's Cross attack, one man was killed and two wounded. In the Victoria Station attack five were wounded.
- February 6: two bombs exploded in mailbags at Euston Station.
- February 23: two bombs exploded in the West End. The devices had been placed in litter bins. Thirteen people were wounded.
- 8 March 1973: The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) conducted its first operation in Britain, planting four car bombs in London. Two bombs exploded, killing one person and injuring 180 others. Ten members of the IRA team, including Gerry Kelly, Dolours Price and Marian Price, were arrested at Heathrow Airport trying to leave the country.
- 17 June 1974: A bomb exploded at the Houses of Parliament in London, causing extensive damage and injuring 11 people.
- 7 November 1974: An off-duty soldier and a civilian were killed when a bomb was thrown through the window of the Kings Arms pub in Woolwich, and 28 people were injured.
- 21 December 1974: A bomb was defused in Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, London. A second bomb was defused in the King's Arms public house in Warminster, Wiltshire.
- 28 August 1975: Seven people were injured when a bomb exploded in Oxford Street, London. A telephone warning was issued to The Sun newspaper five minutes before the explosion.
- 5 September 1975: Two people were killed and 63 injured when an IRA bomb exploded in the lobby of the Hilton hotel in London.
- 6–12 December 1975: Four IRA members held two people hostage in the Balcombe Street Siege.
- 27 March 1976: A bomb placed by the Provisional IRA exploded in a litter bin at the top of an escalator in a crowded exhibition hall, Earl's Court. 20,000 people were attending the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition at the time. 70 were injured, 4 people lost limbs.
- 30 March 1979, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Airey Neave was killed as he left the House of Commons car park by a car bomb planted by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1979.
- 10 October 1981: a bomb blast on Ebury Bridge Road next to Chelsea Barracks kills two people and injures 39.
- 26 October 1981: a bomb planted by the IRA in a Wimpy Bar on Oxford Street kills Kenneth Howorth, the Metropolitan Police explosives officer who is attempting to defuse it.
- 20 July 1982: Two bombs in Hyde Park and Regent's Park, London by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) kill 11 members of the Household Cavalry and the Royal Green Jackets. Seven horses are also killed.
- 17 December 1983: Harrods was bombed by the IRA. Six people were killed (including three police officers) and 90 wounded during Christmas shopping at the West London department store. (See Harrods bombing)
- 16 May 1990: Wembley IRA detonate a bomb underneath a minibus killing Sgt Charles Chapman (The Queen's Regiment) and injuring another soldier. No one was ever convicted of Sgt Chapmans murder.
- 20 July 1990: London Stock Exchange, the IRA exploded a large bomb at the London Stock Exchange causing massive damage.
- 18 February 1991: A bomb explodes in Paddington Station, damaging the building's roof but causing no casualties. Three hours later another bomb explodes at Victoria Station. One man is killed and 38 people injured.
- 10 January 1992: Small device exploded. No injuries, Whitehall Place, London SW1.
- 28 February 1992: A bomb explodes at London Bridge station injuring 29 people.
- 10 April 1992: A large bomb explodes outside 30 St Mary Axe in the City of London. The bomb was contained in a large white truck and consisted of a fertilizer device wrapped with a detonation cord made from Semtex. It killed three people: Paul Butt, aged 29, Baltic Exchange employee Thomas Casey, aged 49, and 15-year old Danielle Carter. Several people were critically or severley injured. The bomb also caused damage to surrounding buildings (many of which again be damaged by a second bomb the following year). The bomb caused £800 million worth of damage—£200 million more than the total damage costs resulting from all 10,000 previous explosions that had occurred relating to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. A new skyscaper was built on the site of the previous historic building.
- 12 October 1992: A device exploded in the gentlemen's toilet of the Sussex Arms public house in Covent Garden, killing one person and injuring four others.
- 16 November 1992: the IRA planted bomb at Canary Wharf in the Docklands. The bomb was spotted by security guards and the bomb was deactivated safely.
- 27 February 1993: a bomb exploded in a litter bin outside a McDonalds restaurant in Camden Town, injuring several people.
- 24 April 1993 Bishopsgate bombing: the IRA detonated a huge truck bomb in the City of London at Bishopsgate, It killed journalist Ed Henty, injured over 40 people, and causing approximately £1 billion worth of damage, including the destruction of St Ethelburga's Bishopsgate church, and serious damage to Liverpool Street station. Police had received a coded warning, but were still evacuating the area at the time of the explosion. The insurance payments required were so large that Lloyd's of London almost went bankrupt under the strain, and there was a crisis in the London insurance market. The area had already suffered damage from the Baltic Exchange bombing the year before.
- March 1994 Heathrow Airport, The IRA launched a series of mortar attacks on the airport, partially paralysing the capital's main air route.
- 9 February 1996 Docklands bombing: the IRA bombed the South Quay area of London, killing two people.
- 15 February 1996: A 5-pound (2.3 kg) bomb placed in a telephone box is disarmed by Police on the Charing Cross Road.
- 18 February 1996: An improvised high explosive device detonates prematurely on a bus travelling along Aldwych in central London, killing Edward O'Brien, the IRA operative transporting the device and injuring eight others.