On the pyschological struggle and the media

Tom Griffin has been digging in the National Archives and has come up with this little gem. He’s tracked down a confidential breifing that confirms that journalist Robert Fisk had blown the whistle on the (albeit virtual) presence of the SAS in Northern Ireland the year before its official introduction in 1976.

  • topdeckomnibus

    Mick There was some irritation I think some while ago (In the context of Bloody Sunday discussions) when it was suggested that contributors might consider the exercise of 1969 in the British Army “Job Evaluation”.

    The matter of multiskilling and civilian equivalence of trades (police being semi skilled incidentally).

    Many years later I heard a tory defence spokesman, on the subject of airport security, say “This surely can be solved by a simple piece of new technology”

    No change of appreciation since 1969 then.

    Those who know what “Ad hominem” means, without having to look it up, seem to think that their strategic analysis is superior to the old spanner wielder.

    I am trying to write a book. And, having read Pat Monteath’s “Who Pays the Ferryman”, I decided not to make my effort a story about the Irish tragedies.

    I got to three chapters and my mate’s wife (reckoned to be a critic with no prior knowledge) read these.

    She phoned me and asked for the next chapter as she could not wait to see what “Wee Sean Cause” would get up to next.

    So somehow or another, in trying to present a story free of good guys and bad guys, I had made the character (inspired by Sean Garland) the bloody hero and this was before I got to Chapter 4.

    Then I thought a bit more about the critic. Brought up in a deprived East End area. Tough life at the mercy of poverty pay or underpaid benefits. Her husband had done time at 18 on a stitch up and had come out to homelessness. Eventually (with her mixing the concrete etc) they made their money over many years by self building (now worth a mint).

    And I realised that anyone audacious enough to defy the condescending sort of establishment arsehole, who thinks new technology must be simple and who thinks the role of the lower classes is to be poor for Britain, would have her vote.

    And remember my critic’s qualifications are that she would reflect the usual citizen view.

    I just happen to think that someone behind the 1969 Job Evaluation Exercise had been given a similar assessment of public attitudes.

    I recall going along to an election meeting in Suffolk in that tinme. Harwood Harrison MP was up there well nourished and HALE and hearty (Or should that be hail ?) yet he had been a POW of the Japs just like the emaciated former other ranks of the Suffolks .. some of whom sat in dignified silence at the rear of the hall.

    Officers had accepted Geneva Convention Treatment and abandoned the men to slave labour .. so the story went.

    These ordinary people are also “The Brits”. And there was an underlying mood of the time.

  • topdeckomnibus

    The account of the ex other rank POWs was that the Japs marched them to their labour oast the officer compound where they coulod see Harwood and chums playing hockey and fruit set out on a verandah.

    No cunning plans to use the jolly hockey stick as a hurling instrument to propel fruit to the other ranks.

    I also recall in 1969 that we mutineed and refused to meet a chep called Dennis Healey. He remained unaware of this because the cunning sergeant major (ex SAS) borrowed a squad of men from another unit and paraded them as us.

    Meanwhile we were having a coffee and saw the circling “Pink panthers”. And someone remarked “Do you think that those little f-ckers would be daft enough to try coming in here and taking us on ?”

    They aint so scary when you can see them. Half the reason for concealing SAS deployment is that they aint too handy hand to hand (Pricking a balloon there). The poor bastards are selected by finding who can read a map, cope with their own company (what coping mechanisms !) and walk for ever in the cold over rough terrain carrying a moderate weight. The particular physique type that can do this is not well suited to the “On the cobbles” type fight at which some of the Irish historically seem to excel.

    The fact is that a broken jaw and being spark out after two seconds is not the best way to sustain regimental mythology.

  • Mickhall


    enjoyed your posts, if you get to write the book I will be first in the queue.


  • topdeckomnibus

    Whilst I am on, always a chance someone can provide the answer (research for the book)

    There was another mutiny some months after the above storm in a tea cup.

    This mutiny occurred in another unit commanded by Captain John Cornwell. He later captured by IRA with his 2IC and returned unharmed to the Army as more use to the IRA left in place as a disciple of Sandhurst officer.