A soldier’s farewell to Ulster…

Bob Stewart was 20 and a young Second Leuitenant when he was first sent to Northern Ireland in the first months of the troubles, talks about what Northern Ireland came to mean to the British Army over its thirty five years of ’emergency tours’.

  • Harry Flashman

    Is that the famous Colonel Bob who had the big ding dong row with some Croatian Ustashe that had just murdered some Serb civilians in Bosnia in 1992? He shouted at them “I don’t need the permission of the bloody HBO to get through here!” (I may have misheard that bit as I don’t think the Home Box Office were deployed during the Bosnian civil war!)He was quite cool then and showed that the Serbs weren’t the only problem in the break up of Yugoslavia, as I recall he returned home with a cute looking interpreter too, I’m sure his wife was delighted.

    On a serious point though he is absolutely correct about the experience the British army gained in N. Ireland. I remember reading an article in August 1989 (twentieth anniversary of deployment) by some senior officer from the Falklands war who said that that war was won on the streets of Derry. The Troubles were an NCO and junior officer’s war, no grand strategy just young troops out in the field having to think for themselves.

    I remember too how at the time we were always told the enormous cost to the British taxpayer of keeping the troops in Northern Ireland even though at the time three hundred thousand men were scratching their arses in Germany waiting for the Red Army which never came. British soldiers based in Cyprus with all the sun and fun that that implied consistently suffered lower morale than those based in Crossmaglen, strange isn’t it?

    I didn’t realise he was at Ballykelly, that’s one of the atrocities we forget about now but Lord it was a nasty one. It was carried out by a couple of girls, I met the daughter of one of the bombers later, a lovely sweet girl but badly affected by what her mother did, she was nine when her mother went to prison. I don’t think it was for a short time either. Ah well, we have to draw a line under the past now don’t we?

  • Christine Casey

    I was 16 and was invited to a birthday party in the Droppin’ Well that night. My sister and I didn’t go but friends were lost and maimed. Just kids, kids from a wee country village. I am a catholic and I don’t believe anyone has the right to take anyone elses life. I think the bombers were arrogant, how dare they have killed Alan Callaghan, Patricia Cook etc and some very young soldiers. Don’t get me wrong,soldiers too had no right to take life, as they often did here wrongly (bloody sunday). No – one deserves to be killed with violence, its just plain wrong. All these politicians and their petty wars, perhaps if they concentrated on global warming we would be handing a safe planet to our kids. Time a lot of folk here wised up.

  • Brian Boru

    The British army were part of the problem, as shown by the cases of Lee Clegg, and Mark Wright and James Fisher, the Miami massacre, Bloody Sunday, and allegations of involvement in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. They may have been sent to protect Nationalists from Loyalist pogroms, but they seen reverted to historical type as the oppressors of Irish Catholics.

  • Christine Casey

    Brian, still no excuse. My friends were just innocent kids as indeed were those in Bloody sunday etc. Please don’t justify murder. There were soldiers at that disco – so what, no reason to blow innocent kids apart.Too many paramilitries have become very rich as a result of the troubles. Yes everyone knows the british army were part of the problem and no doubt the iraqis are experiencing it now. God love them. If I met the bombers children I would love to explain the true loss we all suffered at their parents hands for I don’t think statistics does it. Whilst I do try and forgive them its very hard. I am glad their children have problems with what they have done. It gives me hope that the children will treasure human life for what it is and will never repeat what the parents did wrong. There are other ways to get peace, a bomb just breaks hearts.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Don’t take it personally Christine.
    From other posts on this site it seems obvious that Brian is very young and has no appreciation of what the Troubles actually meant to people who lived through them.
    He’ll grow up eventually.

  • Brian Boru

    Christine I am most certainly NOT justifying any of the killings by Republicans – far from it. I am just pointing out that no side has clean hands regarding the Troubles. And I am sorry about what happened to your friends.

  • Comrade Stalin

    .. but they seen reverted to historical type as the oppressors of Irish Catholics.

    The IRA killed far more Catholics between 1969 and 1994 than the army did. Were the IRA oppressors of Catholics as well ?

  • Brian Boru

    Comrade Stalin actually I would say Yes.

  • Brian Boru

    However, I am not convinced of your assertion that the IRA killed more Catholics than the security-forces, because over 2,000 murders in the North are unsolved.

  • Christine Casey

    Actually on re-reading this I jumped to conclusions. Sorry Brian, you were not justifying it. It is a hard time of year because of this and I’m a bit sensitive on the subject. The screams still ring in my ears, it was bloodcurdling.

    Comrade Stalin I agree, the IRA did oppress the catholics too. Bombs went off in shopping areas, they didn’t disciminate. We were catholics who moved to a protestant vilage, we were threatened by the loyalists for buying a business (pharmacy) in a protestant town and by the IRA for serving ALL sick people who came through the door. You just couldn’t win! I always thought it was stupid for nationalist catholics who lived in basically catholic areas to threaten catholic ‘settlers’ who dared to set up shop in protestant areas. If they had of thought about it, it was a better way forward.It would have saved many lives. Oh and before you tell me ‘but they hadn’t the money’ – some definately did. It was just easier to stay with your own. I reckon part of any nationalist ‘solution’ was to buy the land.
    Also a lot of land has been sold by the government to very rich protestant landowners for pittance without it going on the market – what did certain nationalist catholic solicitors do about that – nothing. Many benefitted on the QT. Lets see an investigation into that!