Thursday, December 27, 2007

Banner comes down on momentous year

The following article appeared on BBC today and I found it very interesting. The figures associated with " Operation Banner" are impressive indeed when placed in comparison to the current conflicts that the armed forces are engaged in. As many know my feelings as to the army's involvement in NI I'll not bore you with a tirade on the subject. Allow me but one line from a song " With your Kit bag on your shoulder, and a tear all in your eye,
Pardon me for smilin' while waving you goodbye".


Banner comes down on momentous year
By Vincent Kearney BBC NI home affairs correspondent

Troops regularly supported police operations It was the year the British army left Northern Ireland - in an operational sense anyway.
After 38 years, the longest continuous campaign in the Army's history ended.
A strong wind blew across the parade ground at the Army's headquarters in Lisburn as the last post sounded on Friday 3 August.
But this was no ordinary parade. A few hundred specially invited guests were there to witness a truly unique ceremony.
The winds of change were also blowing.
This was the official end of Operation Banner, the name given to the Army's support role for the police during the Troubles.
It started when troops arrived during the summer of 1969, when Army commanders expected them to spend a few weeks sorting out a small, local problem.
Looking back at the footage of the soldiers arriving, it was like a scene from a war movie as thousands disembarked from ships in Belfast as the small peace time garrison was reinforced from British army bases all over the world.
Troops and equipment arrived from throughout the United Kingdom, Germany and Africa.
The Army was clearly unprepared - soldiers arrived on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry with bayonets fixed, some of the signs they carried warning rioters to disperse were in Arabic, and many of the troops were issued with flak jackets the Americans had used in Vietnam.
By the height of the Troubles in 1972, there were 27,000 military personnel here, based in more than 100 locations.
The numbers are quite staggering - that's 1,000 more than the number of British soldiers deployed for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and more than double the combined Army force in Iraq and Afghanistan today.
In total, more than 300,000 British soldiers served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and for many years it was used as a training ground for the Army's most able officers.
Seven hundred and sixty-three military personnel were killed, and many more injured and maimed.
To put that in perspective, the number of combat deaths suffered by the army in Afghanistan since 2001 is 59, while in the worst year of the Troubles, 1972, the number of deaths was 129.

Thousands of troops arrived on the streets of Northern Ireland in 1969
Soldiers also killed more than 300 people, more than half of them civilians.
Many of the killings were highly controversial and provoked allegations of collusion.
A number of highly secretive military units also operated here during the troubles and they have been accused of working in collaboration with loyalist paramilitaries.
There were very different views about how the Army performed.
In unionist areas, generally speaking, the Army was regarded as a vital bulwark against terrorism, and part of the solution. However, in nationalist areas it was widely regarded as part of the problem.
Today, the Army doesn't have an operational role here.
Soldiers will still train and be based here, but they will be for deployment in trouble spots across the world, not on the streets of Northern Ireland.
The home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, the successor to the UDR, were also disbanded during the summer.
In future, there will be no more than 5,000 troops in Northern Ireland, but that figure will be significantly lower during periods when resident battalions are deployed to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

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