Service of closure for the Army

I’d never heard of Operation Banner before it ended – it seems somehow diminishing to have the tumultuous experience of 30 years of the Troubles described in one of those curious military labels like “Operation Market Garden” for the Arnhem landings. The military – and that also means thousands in NI connected with the UDR and part-time RIR – have held an official ritual of closure in a commemorative service in St Paul’s Cathedral. For me, this is not the time for yet another audit of the Troubles but a moment to recall the humanity involved on all sides. Naturally there was not a single note of triumphalism. The bald facts of this side of the story is that 300,000 personnel served in the province since 1969 and a total of 763 were killed. Attendance at the service by the establishment was mandatory , The Prince of Wales, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher. And what the army would call the rank and file and local people were present too, quoted by the BBC

“Mary Moreland served in the Ulster Defence Regiment with her husband John, who was shot dead in 1988. “Every day is a remembrance for people that suffered, and I think what we have to do is not live in the past, but remember it. Don’t let us rewrite history, let us remember it how it was, and let us move forward.”

Steve Norman, who served on three tours of NI with the Royal Anglian Regiment, was shot and wounded in the Creggan estate in Londonderry in 1973. “To a great extent, a lot of British soldiers do feel a bit let down or ignored or the sacrifice has not been recognised, but today goes a long way to redress that,” he said.

The MOD maintain a Roll of Honour website which is an absorbing browse..
See the first soldier to die in the Troubles, Robert Curtis February 1971. One simple comment
“I was a boyhood friend of Bobby we were both the same age he joined the RA whilst I the Royal Army Pay Corp ironically I was attached to an RA Regt in Germany when I learnt of his death each Remembrance Day I have a special prayer for him he was a great Lad”

“The last soldier” to die almost exactly 26 years later. A corrective from Stephen Restorick’s mum
“Stephen was not “the last one ever killed in service whilst on duty in Northern Ireland”. That was Cpl Gary Fenton killed on duty at a VCP in Crossmaglen in 1998. However, Stephen was the last soldier killed by the IRA. Thank you for remembering Stephen.”

  • slug

    We owe an enormous debt to those men and women who laid down their lives.

    We shall remember them.

  • fair_deal

    I wish a/the Unionist MP(s) would take a much more active interest in veteran affairs. It would seem to me the least we can do to show our appreciation for their service.

  • bootman

    There’s a hilarious mistake in the “first soldier to die” link.

    Instead of BA it say RA:

    Comment Comment Details
    I was a boyhood friend of Bobby we were both the same age he joined the RA whilst I the Royal Army Pay Corp ironically I was attached to an RA Regt in Germany when I learnt of his death each Remembrance Day I have a special prayer for him he was a great Lad

  • Mark McGregor

    bootman,

    Is it not the Royal Artillery?

  • Yes, it’s the Royal Artillery; hence he was Gunner Curtis.

  • Mr E Mann

    >mistake…RA…
    >Is it not the Royal Artillery

    Those Brits sure are crafty. A lot of volunteers are going to be disappointed when they figure out they were fighting for other side 🙂

  • qubol

    RA – that is actually pretty funny.

  • USA

    I would not have been a supporter of the British presence in Ireland over the years. I read some of the posts on the British NI memorial site and found myself feeling great sympathy, some very sad posts that really pull at the heart strings.

  • Truth

    USA
    Yes very sad stories alright from an Armed occupier of another country. The British Army have a terrible murderous track record in Ireland.

  • Rory

    On the Radio 4 report of this event on PM just now, an army widow (with a northern Irish accent) selected to speak for all the relatives of those honoured today told us that we should remember those who fought for “good against evil”.

    Now I have before heard the conflict described as parochial, even tribal and once even as primeval but never before had I realised it was actually metaphysical.

    My old memory is not what it used to be, can anyone remind me, please, which side claimed to be fighting for the triumph evil? Were they obliged to wear horns and forked tails so that they could be easily identified, I wonder. The devil, you see, is in the detail.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    the RA’s forerunners the IRB are operating openly out of an office in Dublin.

  • Dave

    The ‘R’ in RA could equally stand for Royal given that they were the stooges of British Intelligence for most of their dismal existence.

  • Good point Dave

  • Steve

    so dave and phil

    what you are saying is that it wasn’t the RA out killing people it was the british government that was? Ties in neatly with the nationalists narative but its highly unusual for a couple of loyalists to be calling the english terrorists

  • True Republican

    These disgraceful cowards who came to Ireland to murder those who desire Irish freedom should only be remembered with disgust, and not honoured.

    Of course they are still here, so let’s no pretend that “Operation Banner” has ended – it’s not called “Operation Helvetic”. Genuine people, however, rightly call it foreign occupation.

  • True Republican

    ‘Not called “Operation Helvetic”‘ should have read ‘now called “Operation Helvetic.”‘

  • Steve I think the role oflong-term highly placed informers in the PRM like Scapaticci or Denis Donaldson does beg the several questions about the role of the British security forces.
    The same goes for the other side of the street with agents like Brian Nelson.

    if asking those questions makes me a “loyalist” then i will add that to my CV;0)

  • cynic

    “Steve I think the role oflong-term highly placed informers in the PRM like Scapaticci or Denis Donaldson does beg the several questions about the role of the British security forces.”

    What? Like why it was so easy to do it?

  • cynic

    “Genuine people, however, rightly call it foreign occupation”

    Aye….that would be all those genuine people who voted for the political settlement or do you seek to define them as “non-genuine” or “unter-mensch”.

    And in that it agreement we settled that NI is part of the UK until we vote otherwise and the soldiers are British soliders, so how can it be a foreign occupation?

    You may feel it’s foreign to you but frankly that is your problem. The world has moved on and most of the rest of us want to focus on real issues like gas prices and getting our kids a good start in life.

  • cynic

    Truth

    “The British Army have a terrible murderous track record in Ireland.”

    Not a fraction as bad as some of the natives including some of our ‘political’ leaders who, following a long Irish tradition, got to their current jobs across a sea of blood.

    The Britsh Army (with the RUC and MI5) defeated PIRA and cleared the way for all that to end. And the Army paid an awful price for it – especially the UDR / RIR. So grow up, move on and let them remember their dead with dignity.

    PS be careful of Truth. It’s often painful

  • cynic

    “Were they obliged to wear horns and forked tails so that they could be easily identified”

    I dont think they were. But speaking personally planting bombs in fish shops to kill women and children, murdering fathers in front of their families, disappearing people for over 30 years and kidnapping young men and slitting their throats down dark alleyways were usually good enough indicators for me.

  • Truth

    cynic
    You seem very defensive cynic and are deliberately avoiding the facts, I never mentioned the PIRA, I stated facts, the British Army have murdered Thousands of Irish men, woman and children here for hundreds of years. Operation banner ended after 37 years, but as someone earlier stated it was replaced by operation helvetic. The British invaded Ireland 800 years ago cynic the history books if you care to read them can tell you the rest, so excuse me if I don’t jump up and down to remember a bunch of murdering thugs, that is not fiction that is the TRUTH.

  • runciter

    Richard Chartres: “Military intervention can hold the forces of chaos at bay while people learn again how communities with very different histories and aspirations can live together and do business with one another.”

    http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/833158?UserKey=

    So the problem with NI was the backward natives – and the solution to the problem was British military intervention.

    How is this not triumphalism?

    “Triumphalism is the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumphalism

  • Driftwood

    So the problem with NI was the backward natives

    Got it it one sentence Runciter.
    It still is, only now the British throw money at us instead of soldiers.

  • cynic

    “Triumphalism is the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others”

    Yes … presumably the sense of triumph that says that democracy and politics is superior to murder as a means of solving political and social disputes. Personally, I can live with that one.

    And yes, by containing, subverting and defeating the IRA and loyalists the British Army played a major role in creating the conditions in which polics could develop a way forward (however imperfect it may be).

  • runciter

    Got it it one sentence Runciter.

    I like to be succinct.

    Question: if you believe that the root of the problem was the indigenous culture, why did it only manifest itself in six of the 26 counties of Ireland?

  • Driftwood

    I think it’s in the water Runciter.
    Though I dont remember much trouble in Groomsport.

  • fed up

    Truth,

    ‘The British invaded Ireland 800 years ago’

    WE KNOW!! Can people not let history be exactly what it is meant to be- HISTORY! Silly petty bickering is what keeps this country continually divided!
    Are we not meant to be a modern civilised people? Are we not meant to be intelligent? How can progression be made without putting these historical hang ups behind us?
    I am a firm believer that no matter who dies and no matter how their death takes place they should be respected and treated with dignity by all!
    Cynic makes a good point that there are more important things in this day in age to be concerned with!

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘…presumably the sense of triumph that says that democracy and politics is superior to murder as a means of solving political and social disputes.’

    Considering the partition of Ireland went against the democratic will of the people of Ireland and the union was one forged through murder and mayhem I take it your sentence has nothing to do with either northern politics or the union. Apart from that I agree.

  • frank the tank

    defeating the loyalists!!!!!LOL surely you mean directing/contolling the loyalists right

  • cynic

    “defeating the loyalists”

    Frank

    …..err look at what they were in the early 1970s when the could confront the Government and win and what they had been reduced to by the late 1980s – feuding criminal gangsters who couldnt even win at Drumcree. You have a short and selective memory.

    Bringing peace meant making both sides realise that the military option was unwinnable

  • cynic

    “the union was one forged through murder and mayhem”

    So what? That was 800 years ago. What possible relevance has that to today?

    And partition “went against the democratic will of the people”? Says who?

    Didnt the people in the South vote for a Dail (in fact two Dail’s) that ratified the Anglo Irish Treaty? Later didn’t even De Valeara admit that his biggest mistake was not accepting the Treaty?

    The alternative was civil war with the Unionists -but then the people of Ireland got one anyway courtesy of the power grab between the different Republican factions.

    Now, remind me, what was that you said about being forged in murder and mayhem?

  • cynic

    “if you believe that the root of the problem was the indigenous culture, why did it only manifest itself in six of the 26 counties of Ireland”

    … because the two parts of Ireland have developed distinctly different cultures. And that’s not just a Unionist perspective. Ask any Dubliner if they think they share the same culture as Northern Catholics.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘So what? That was 800 years ago. What possible relevance has that to today?’

    the Union was formed 800 yrs ago was it? Wow either you had a bad history teacher or you never attented school.

    ‘Says who?’

    Obviously you never got a better teacher. I suppose there was never any vote for Home Rule in ‘Ireland eh?

    ‘..that ratified the Anglo Irish Treaty’

    And i expect you’ll deny that Britain never threatend all out war if it wasn’t accepted.

    Now, remind me, what was that you said about being forged in murder and mayhem?’

    For those at the back of the class…the union was forged through the subjugation, murder and dispossession of the irish people. Are you now in a position to deny this?

    ‘… because the two parts of Ireland have developed distinctly different cultures.’

    MMM, no, the irish in the occupied north have exactly the same culture as those in the south. The different culture comes from those who identify with the colonizer-Britain. To say the two parts of Ireland have different cultures is complete bollox. There is the irish culture, which is evident both north and south, then there is the colonial culture with its makey-upey bits bolted on. Its pretty simple.

  • runciter

    … because the two parts of Ireland have developed distinctly different cultures.

    Even if this is true, doesn’t this suggest that the root of the problem was not actually the indigenous culture (as the bishop implied), but rather British rule?

  • frank the tank

    “You have a short and selective memory”
    so do you-here are some of the highlights of british intelligences war with the loyalists
    -The dublin and monaghan bombings
    -The miami showband massacre
    -Brian nelson and his army and police files
    -Pat finucane assasination
    -Michael Stone and his grenade attack
    -Billy Wright campaign of terror-before they offed him because he was no longer following “orders”