With the threat of war with Germany looming, the British Government had a further problem in January 1939. The IRA threatened violence if Britain didn’t agree within four days to withdraw all its armed forces from Ireland. The four days expired, the ultimatum was rejected, and the IRA launched a bombing campaign.
Manchester was the first target, then London, and on AUGUST 25th, 1939, Coventry city centre was rocked by an explosion which killed five people.
The bomb had been left in the carrier of a delivery bicycle which had been propped outside a shop in Coventry’s Broadgate. The bike’s purchase was traced to James Richards, a 29-year-old Irish labourer lodging in Clara Street, and he was arrested together with four alleged accomplices.
All were charged with murder, and at their trial Richards and another Irishman, Peter Barnes, were convicted and sentenced to death. The other three defendants were acquitted.
The condemned men’s appeals were dismissed, a petition for reprieves was rejected, and Richards and Barnes were hanged together at Birmingham’s Winson Green Prison on February 7th, 1940.