Friday 23 August 2019

Service marks 50 years since British troops first deployed in the North

People in the Bogside area of Derry after a night of rioting. Photos: PA Wire
People in the Bogside area of Derry after a night of rioting. Photos: PA Wire
Troubles: Women on Crumlin Road, Belfast, pushing a pram around the legs of a soldier lying down with his gun trained on Hooker Street, one of the trouble spots in the riots in August 1969. Photos: PA Wire

Richard Vernalls

There was a memorial service yesterday to mark 50 years since the first British troops were deployed on the streets of Northern Ireland.

The operation to send troops to Northern Ireland, between August 14, 1969 to July 31, 2007, to tackle sectarian violence would become the longest continuous deployment in modern British military history.

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In the course of the operation, 722 military personnel died in paramilitary attacks, and 719 from other causes.

Over the years, more than 300,000 personnel were deployed in total over the course of the whole operation.

About 2,000 veterans, their families and UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace paid their respects to the 1,441 military personnel who died on active duty during the deployment, which lasted almost 38 years.

The service, organised by the Royal British Legion, took place amid tight security at a rain-swept National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire in the UK.

It comes as a number of contentious cases make their way through the courts and amid continuing legacy investigations into British military personnel, with some veterans complaining of a witch hunt.

Mr Wallace, who served in Northern Ireland with the Scots Guards in the 1990s, said: "Operation Banner, 50 years ago, was a success. It was a military deployment in support of civilian powers and the police, to make sure we saw off the threat of terrorism and the attacks that were going on.

"In order to defend both communities, it wasn't a one-sided affair, there were people being intimidated in the nationalist community by terrorists and people in the loyalist community."

He said Operation Banner "allowed space to be created for a political solution to the Troubles that had lasted for a very long time".

Irish Independent

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