A poignant ceremony was held to dedicate a new memorial to those murdered when a suspected IRA bomb blew up a coach on the M62 near Bradford.

On February 4, 1974, eight soldiers and four civilians were killed in the blast when a coach carrying servicemen and their families exploded between Hartshead Moor and Chain Bar.

On the 35th anniversary of the atrocity, the families of those killed were part of a large crowd that gathered to see the new memorial unveiled and a commemorative tree planted in a special garden outside the main entrance to Hartshead Moor service station.

Maureen Norton, the younger sister of Terry Griffin, a 24-year-old Bolton soldier killed in the blast, had campaigned long and hard for a more fitting memorial to replace the plaque inside the service station’s busy foyer.

She said: “Today makes the campaign feel worthwhile. It will be a more fitting tribute and more respectful memorial.

“The impact it had on my family is indescribable. I have never known actual pain like it and to see my parents so heartbroken was just terrible. My father died prematurely through the stress of it.”

Also present at the event was Kath Moores, whose brother Clifford Haughton was killed in the bombing along with his wife and two young children. She said: “It’s nice to have a plaque where we can actually lay flowers because the one inside was in a bad place and was just forgotten.

“Today brings back painful memories but there are also good memories of when they were here.”

The Royal British Legion played a large part in organising the impressive ceremony. A band, piper and bugler provided the musical backdrop.

Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, said: “The Troubles, as they were and are euphemistically called, cost the lives of military personal and civilians in Northern Ireland and on England’s shores. Many soldiers died with their rifle in their hands. These soldiers died with their children in their arms and their families by their sides.”

Roland Handley, who was driving the bus when it exploded, said: “I never imagined there would be so many here. The turnout today is unbelievable.

“I have had the parents come and hug me and it really takes your breath away.”

Recalling the incident, Mr Handley said: “I don’t remember much – just a bang that took me out of my seat and the windscreen broke all over my face.

“There were no lights on the motorway so we were in complete darkness. It was frightening so I found a torch and shone it on the coach and there were bodies all about.

“I had to walk up onto the embankment just to get my breath back and then I have never been as glad to see blue lights in my life.”