A retired senior detective, Detective Superintendent Cliff McHardy, 81, has claimed that unidentified conspirators put a wooden log on a railway track to try to derail the official train transporting the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh from Sydney across Australia's Great Dividing Range of mountains. Since the original story, two other officers have come forward to corroborate this. They are former Chief Superintendent Barry Antill, 70, and former Detective Senior Sergeant Doug Bentley, 69.
According to Bonnie Malkin and Andrew Pierce in the London Daily Telegraph of 27 January, this incident lacked the precision and detailed planning of some other better known assassination attempts on world leaders. As for the train, after it struck the log it was merely forced to slow and came safely to a halt at a level crossing.
The report says “the so-called Republican plot” was revealed when retired Detective Superintendent Cliff McHardy, 81, decided to break his silence in an interview in his local newspaper to try to clear-up one of the great unsolved mysteries of his long police career. He said that on 29 April 1970, The Queen and the Duke were travelling by train to Orange in New South Wales.
When the train entered a winding cutting near Lithgow, two hours to the west of Sydney, it struck a large log wedged across the rails. From his investigations she concluded this was an act of deliberate sabotage to force the train off the tracks. Fortunately the train driver was moving unusually slowly.
"If the train had reached its normal speed it would have plunged off the tracks and into an embankment," Mr. McHardy said. The log became stuck underneath the front wheels for 200 metres before the train, largely undamaged, came to a halt at a level crossing.
…tracked checked one hour earlier….
A security "sweeper" train had checked the line an hour before and had found nothing. He concluded that the assassins had knowledge of the official train's schedule.
He told The Daily Telegraph: "The log had been moved onto the line in darkness, by one or two people who had prior knowledge of the area," he said. "Vandals couldn't have been involved because there's no pub nearby, so you couldn't put it down to hoodlum behaviour. It was pre-planned."
Mr McHardy and two detectives interviewed witnesses including railway employees and local people but no arrests were made. The Lithgow Mercury says Australian Irish Republican Army sympathisers were among those questioned. Mr McHardy said the incident was covered-up by the government which issued a suppression order.
"They said keep it out of the press because The Queen is still out here and if it had broken the next morning there would have been all sorts of trouble and we can do without that in a small country town," said Mr McHardy.
He said that he had decided to speak out now in the hope that "it would prompt the people responsible to come forward and own up".
The rest of the trip unfolded without incident and hundreds of well-wishers turned out in Orange to greet the young Queen and Duke. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace declined to comment but said the archives for the trip showed no records of the train hitting a log.
…Nine years later, Lord Mountbatten murdered…
In 1979 the Irish Republican Army murdered The Queen's uncle, war hero and the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten in 1979. Two children and an elderly lady who were on his launch were also killed in the outrage.
IRA leader Gerry Adams, who at the time pretended not to be part of the IRA leadership, said:
"The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution. I think it is unfortunate that anyone has to be killed, but the furor created by Mountbatten's death showed up the hypocritical attitude of the media establishment. As a member of the House of Lords, Mountbatten was an emotional figure in both British and Irish politics.
"What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don't think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation. He knew the danger involved in coming to this country. In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective: people started paying attention to what was happening in Ireland."
Later in the eighties, the IRA did apologise for murdering two young Australians whom they thought were British soldiers holidaying in the Netherlands, the IRA never handed over their murderers to Dutch or Australian justice.
The then Prime Minister Bob Hawke rejected their apology with disgust.