A special ceremony has been held to mark 50 years since one of the deadliest mainland terror acts in Britain when nine soldiers from Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire were killed alongside a young mother and her two sons.

The IRA blast at Hartshead Services on the M62 in West Yorkshire tore apart the Middleham-based coach driven by Roland Handley, who managed to control the wrecked bus and bring it to a standstill.

He was later commended for his actions, which undoubtedly saved lives. The 25lb bomb had been put onboard the coach as part of luggage belonging to the servicemen, and relatives, many of whom had been home to Manchester for the weekend.

Cpl Clifford Haughton and his wife Linda, who were both 23, and the couple's two sons Lee, five, and Robert, two, were killed in the blast.

To mark the 50th anniversary an extended parade was held along with a special memorial service and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Services, where a memorial garden was created. Hundreds of mourners and family members gathered to pay tribute.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The memorial at the M62 Hartshead Services

James Denny, Regimental Secretary of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said: "The 50th anniversary was a significant milestone, especially for the families. We came together, as we always do, to remember and pay tribute to those who were killed or injured on that fateful day."

Roland Handley, died in 2012, 37 years after the bombing, but had attended many of the memorial events held by the families to pay his own respects. Recalling the horror he once said: “I don’t remember much, just a bang that took me out of my seat and the windscreen broke all over my face.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Bus driver Roland Handley from Middleham

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

A spokesperson for the North Yorkshire based family company said: “Firstly our thoughts are with the families of all the passengers that lost their lives on that very sad day. Despite the horrendous attack, by the IRA, on one of our coaches carrying armed force personnel on their weekend leave, Roland Handley continued to drive coaches right up until he eventually retired in his 70s.

"We are very proud that R Handley & Sons is still owned and managed by the same family with an excellent team of drivers, mechanics and office staff, some can boast that they have taken three generations of the same Yorkshire Dales families to school and back. Roland would be proud.”

The victims also included: Cpl Terence Griffin, 24, Gunner Leonard Godden, 22, Signalman Michael Waugh, 23, Signalman Leslie Walsh, 17, Signalman Paul Reid, 17, L/Cpl James McShane, 29, Fusilier Jack Hynes, 20, and Fusilier Stephen Whalley, 18.

Bombardier Terrence Griffin joined the Army when he was 15. His sister Mo Norton took part in the service and said the passing of 50 years since does not make it easier to come to terms with. She told ITV News: "I don't think it is any easier because it's with you all the time. When you lose other people you love through illness or accidents that's heartbreaking but because this was done on purpose and nobody was brought to justice, I don't think it will ever leave me. I still miss him and I think about him all the time."

Darlington and Stockton Times: The wreckage after the bomb

After an investigation involving Supt George Oldfield of West Yorkshire Police, Judith Ward was convicted of the bombing in 1974 but was freed by the appeal court in 1992 amid controversy over forensic evidence not given to her defence. The conviction was declared unsafe.