Armed Raid on Cough Barracks

#1
The IRA men removing the weapons from the Armoury paid little heed to the general movements of military in the barracks and seemed unconcerned as they continued with their task uninterrupted, despite an enquiry from one depot civilian employee and the curiosity of another, both of whom were forced, at gunpoint, into the Armoury.

At approximately 3.00pm a Territorial Army lorry, containing 18 men, entered Gough Barracks. On entering the gate, the sentry saluted the vehicle, which the occupants found strange as there was no officer on board. Once inside the barracks, the Territorial Army vehicle made its way to the Education Centre, passing the cattle lorry at the Armoury. It was not until a military lorry passed within feet of the Armoury, making its way to block the main gate, that the raiders began to panic, which hastened their withdrawal. The reason the raiders at the Armoury took the three men mentioned above unfolded as follows: On the day of the raid two civilians, employed by the Territorial Army as storemen, returned from lunch, separately, to the barracks at 2.00pm.

On their return, both men went to their store, which was 20 yards from the Armoury. At approximately 2.40pm, one of these men left the store to do a message at the Education Centre in the barracks. On leaving the building he saw the red lorry reversed back to the Armoury door. As he watched this vehicle he saw the driver being handed through the open driver. s window, a Sten gun, which had a magazine attached to it.

Although he thought this very peculiar, and being slightly suspicious, he did nothing about it for five minutes, until he approached the lorry on his return from the Education Centre. Once at the lorry he was moved into the Armoury at gunpoint, where he was tied, hand and foot, and then pushed onto his face on the floor.

At 2.45pm the second storeman was looking out of the store and saw eight to ten men loading rifles into the cattle lorry. At first he paid little attention to this situation, as occasionally . TA. members removed weapons from the Armoury. However, he became suspicious when he noticed that some of these men were in battledress, whilst others were in civilian clothes, and left his store to investigate.

On reaching the lorry he spoke to a man putting rifles into the back of the vehicle, asking him which company he belonged to. At this point he too was forced at gunpoint into the Armoury, where he was tied up.

At approximately 3.00pm the third man to be taken, was parking his Citroen car convenient to the Armoury, when he was approached by a raider armed with a Sten gun, who ordered him into the Armoury.

This man was a retired Major who had served for 13 years in the Royal Irish Fusiliers and had arrived at the barracks to see former comrades, a practice he normally performed when passing through Armagh.

Thinking it was a "TA" exercise, the Major refused to go into the building and was then struck a blow on the back of the head with a hard object. He was then forced again at gunpoint and by rough handling up the stairs of the Armoury, where he too was tied up.

As he was thrown face down on the floor, the general commotion about the front gate being blocked by a military lorry had just commenced.

The reason that the military lorry was used to attempt to block the gateway from the barracks and thereby prevent the escape of the raiders was found to have developed over a period of approximately half an hour in the following sequence of events:

2.30 p.m A member of the RASC had returned to the barracks in a Bedford three tonner, which he was using to deliver rations to the cookhouse.

Having completed this task the soldier had taken his vehicle back to the MT lines, where he had begun to read a book whilst he sat in the lorry.

2.45 p.m An Army Squad Instructor Sergeant in civilian clothes left his married quarters in the barracks and began to walk toward the Sergeants' Mess. He remained in the Mess for five minutes, before leaving it in order to get cigarettes. As he left the building he noticed the red cattle lorry parked at the Armoury door, with men in uniform carrying bundles of rifles from the Armoury to the lowered tailboard of the vehicle.

At the spot where the Sergeant had stopped to watch the vehicle there was a window, which he knocked, and another Sergeant opened it. The two men then had a conversation about the lorry and the activity around it. As this conversation was taking place, one of the civilian storemen approached the lorry and was seen to speak to one of the men who was loading the rifles.

On seeing the storeman talking to this man the Sergeant at the window stated, "There you are, it's Home Guard or TA". However, the other man was not satisfied as he did not recognise any of the men working at the lorry and stated that he would make his way to the Guardroom to check up on the lorry.

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Gough Barracks
The Gough Barracks gate after the raid with RUC detective staff.

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As the Sergeant approached the Guardroom he noticed irregularities in the dress of the sentry whom he had intended to question about the vehicle. On getting nearer to the sentry the Sergeant saw the other IRA man in civilian clothing beside the Guardroom, and being certain in his own mind that something was wrong he decided not to stop or speak to the sentry, but instead to walk straight past him and across the street to the shop opposite.

On entering the shop the Sergeant found three women inside, one being the wife of a soldier, the others being the shop owner and her middle aged daughter.

The Sergeant stated his fears that the barracks was being raided, and had moved back to the shop doorway, in order to view the sentry, when the sentry, who was pointing his Sten gun at him, nodded for the Sergeant to return.

Concerned that the women could be injured if the sentry opened fire, the Sergeant returned towards the gate, noting as he approached it that the civilian was now holding a revolver, and that both men had their guns pointed at him.

On entering the barracks the Sergeant was not told by either man to stop, so he immediately turned to his right and made his way between the outer security wall of the barracks and the Guardroom. When passing the Guardroom he glanced in a window and saw the activity inside, which confirmed his fears.

He continued walking towards the Sergeants' Mess, entering it via the rear entrance, telling a soldier working in the kitchen to go to the Officers' Mess and warn the first officer he saw that the barracks was being raided.

He then searched the building for a weapon, but could find none, so he made his way to the "TA" Drill Room, where he found a company of men, but again no weapons.

Once the Sergeant had gone, TA members helped one of their number scale the outer barrack wall in order that he could summons police assistance.

On leaving the Drill Room the Sergeant went to the MT line, where he ordered the RASC driver in this lorry to block the main gateway with his vehicle, by parking it at an angle across it, in order to prevent "them" getting out.

The driver did not know to whom the Sergeant was referring, but complied with his order, passing within feet of the red cattle lorry as he made his way to the gate.

When he pulled his vehicle across the gateway, the IRA sentry raised his Sten gun and ordered that he remove it, which the soldier ignored and attempted to get out of the passenger door of the vehicle away from this armed man. The IRA man in civilian clothing then came around the vehicle with his revolver drawn and again ordered the lorry moved. This time the soldier complied, reversing the truck back. Once he had done this he was removed from the vehicle at gunpoint and taken into the Guardroom where he was forced to kneel with his hands above his head.

At approximately 3.00pm as the daughter of the shop owner watched the sentry she also noticed that he was not properly dressed and was giving signs with his hand to a man in civilian clothes on the footpath. She then spoke to a TA major who was on his way to the barracks for his normal Saturday afternoon duties, of her fears, after which she went to make a telephone call to the police.

The Major was immediately told to get inside by the sentry, which he did, walking down the offside of the military lorry. On seeing that there was nobody on the other side of the vehicle, the Major quickened his pace and cut to his left down steps to the administrative block.

As the cattle lorry left, the woman noticed the sentry get into its cab, joining the driver and two other men, which was then followed towards the Mall by a car full of men. As this action with the military lorry was taking place at the gate, the Sergeant who had been joined by three other Sergeants, one of whom had a rifle but no ammunition, had begun to make their way towards the Guardroom via the back of the Sergeants' Mess. As they approached, they heard the alarm being shouted from the Armoury windows, but by the time they reached the gates the red cattle lorry and the IRA raiding party had departed. They were joined at the gate by the duty officer who had run over from the Armoury, along with the armoury storeman who brought two Bren guns with him.

Meantime two soldiers, one in uniform, the other in civilian dress, climbed onto the barrack wall and shouted to people in the houses opposite to contact the police and inform them of the raid. Due to the confusion it had been left to the shop owner's daughter to inform the police about the raid. When the Sergeant had left the confectionery shop she had run to a neighbour's house, from where she phoned the police at Russell Street barracks.

On his arrival at the Guardroom the duty officer found the whole place in confusion, but he gathered what arms and ammunition were available in the Guardroom and with a party of military and TA began a pursuit in the abandoned army lorry, loading magazines for their weapons as they went.
From
http://www.psni.police.uk/index/pg_police_museum/pg_academic_research/pg_armed_raid_on_cough.htm

Now the reason I haven't put this in Military History is because I thought it posed the question:

Could it happen today?

OPSEC mind! Don't encourage them!
 

chrisg46

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
Did they catch them??

I dont think it could happen as easily today, but i really dont think we can discuss it due to, as you say, opsec.
 
#3
chrisg46 said:
Did they catch them??

I dont think it could happen as easily today, but i really dont think we can discuss it due to, as you say, opsec.
I haven't been able to find the beginning or ends of the story so don't know.

Perhaps a little discussion on here might prompt people to consider what would happen in their own units today. A very cheap exercise to run I think!
 
#4
It didn't always work then. A similar attempt to steal weapons from St Lucia Barracks in Omagh (Depot of the Inniskilling Fusiliers) was foiled shortly after the above theft.

The IRA were spotted by a prisoner in the guard room who raised the alarm. The IRA were fired on and had to bail back over the barracks wall and escape into the town.
 
#5
LEGZ30 said:
It didn't always work then. A similar attempt to steal weapons from St Lucia Barracks in Omagh (Depot of the Inniskilling Fusiliers) was foiled shortly after the above theft.

The IRA were spotted by a prisoner in the guard room who raised the alarm. The IRA were fired on and had to bail back over the barracks wall and escape into the town.
I'd like to know if he got remission of sentence :D
 
#6
I'm sure there are plenty of nutjobs in the RIRA willing to pull such a stunt off today.
 
#7
Depends. I suspect NI security is leaps and bounds better than that in the UK.

Before anyone kicks off i think thats common knowledge.
 
#8
There is a rather embarrasing thread in the TA forum (one about beefing up TAC security) which actually tells people how to go about doing a simaler raid.

I pointed this out but not many people seemed to see the problem with posting "the gate to my TAC is always unlocked for the cadets on a wednesday night" after they had made there unit known in the forum on other threads.

Any terrorist with access the google has a tutorial on how to attack or steal from a TA centre.
 
#9
Of course it could happen today (far to easily and scarily to think about), im not one of these who shouts OPSEC and PERSEC at the drop of a hat, obviously im not going to say the ins and outs of the proceedure, but its not hard to impersonate an officer/soldier to gain access to a camp especially in Germany, not to hard to convince a guard commander to let you have the keys and then drive the arms through the gates smiling at the poor 18year old lad on the front gate who's mind is on getting down town for a beer and a whore!
 
#10
The 1956-1962 border campaign was planned well in advance. Raids at Felstead (Essex OTC school) in July 1953, Gough barracks, Armagh, in June 1954, and Arborfield on 11 August 1954, had gained guns and kudos, as well as life sentences for Donal Murphy, James Murphy and Joe Doyle,and eight years for Cathal Goulding, Sean MacStiophan and Manus Canning.

http://www.irishresistancebooks.com/internment/intern4.htm
 
#14
Blimey! I was an arms storeman at Gough Barracks for four months in 1974. they never got any of mine!
 
#15
Could it happen today?
It used to be a regular event for the IRA.

They nicked tons (literally) of weaponry, including a million rounds of .45" ammunition from the Irish Army in 1939. Most of it was recovered.
Christmas Raid - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I think they later found the USA and Libya more reliable sources of supply whilst UK & Irish stores were better secured than in the old days.

Forty odd (very) years back, a PSI of my acquaintance wandered into a UK TA armoury and unknowingly set the alarm off. When he bimbled out a short time later, he found himself at the centre of a semi-circle of armed bastards, the local CID, all pointing Webleys at him. That was probably brave and/or unwise of them, considering the contents of the armoury. The alarms have probably been greatly improved since then.

http://youtu.be/Y4Us7ygIUII
 
#16
Well this a thread revival, however to touch on something someone said about impersonating someone and having the guard commander hand the keys over. When I was an armourer a few years back only the people authorised could draw the keys and they were locked away in a combination safe.
 
F

Flash Back

Guest
#17
Depends. I suspect NI security is ******************************* in the UK.

Before anyone kicks off i think thats common knowledge.
Well it certainly is now.

It's people lives at risk ffs. What you think you're doing giving out that level of detail??!!

Jesus Christ, give me strength.
 
#18
The Gough Barracks raid was aided by the fact that the IRA had placed one man inside the Barracks after he joined as a Royal Inniskilling Fusilier recruit (although I am not certain if he was a Regular or Territorial). In addition, female members of the IRA, (not sure if they were Cumman na Bann or not), used to attend the regular Wednesday evening dances held in the NAAFI in the weeks and months prior to the raid. As has already been alluded to in this historical blog, the Armagh raid and subsequent raids at Omagh and on the UK mainland (Felstead OTC, and Arborfield) were well planned. A further attempt to raid the Royal Signals training establishment at Blandford in Dorset was disrupted by an Intelligence Corps Field Security Detachment investigation during which a member of the IRA was discovered after joining the Army as a recruit.
 
#19
Well this a thread revival, however to touch on something someone said about impersonating someone and having the guard commander hand the keys over. When I was an armourer a few years back only the people authorised could draw the keys and they were locked away in a combination safe.
That only came into usage during the early 1970s following publication of the then Manual of Army Security Volume 2 and United Kingdom Land Forces Standing Instructions No 1-Security. Prior to that, keys to the armoury/armouries and ammunition stores/bunkers, were held together (not separately) in the Guardroom Key Safe, controlled during the day by the Provost Sergeant and at night by the Guard Commander. Manifoil Mk III Combination Key boxes were generally not available before 1970 and the Mk IV wasn't introduced until 1976.
 

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