Northern Ireland in the 1970s - another perspective

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Number366, Jan 19, 2011.

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  1. What a strange coincidence. Just last night I was musing on my boyhood experiences of the army whilst growing up in Northern Ireland, then tonight I saw this thread, referencing a book recounting the NI experience from a soldier's perspective:

    http://www.arrse.co.uk/book-club/130762-contact-afn-clarke-northern-ireland-classic.html

    I grew up on a farm in rural Co Antrim, in an area that had no terrorist activity, however we did see the occasional landrover patrol and living not too far from Aldergrove, we were under a helicopter flight path.

    I was struck by the ground glass story and the possible dangers of accepting food or drink from the local population as one of my early memories is of an enormous soldier (to my 6ish year old eyes) sitting by our kitchen range while my mother served him and my father bowls of soup. I guess this was 1972-1973. I don't remember if there were others present or why this chap was extended the soup privilege, but it has stayed with me; he clearly didn't get the 'avoid locals bearing scoff' warning.

    Another notable event (bear in mind that playing hoop was one of our past-times then!) was when a single jeep army patrol got stuck in our meadows and needed a tow to get out. They didn't seem to have a radio that worked to summon help as they tried unsuccessfully to wave down a helicopter; my father eventually towed them out with the tractor. These guys with their big 1970s moustaches seemed like supermen to us kids and we spend a couple of happy hours in the vicinity; eventually they sent us on errands to get coke and chocolate bars at the little nearby shop - probably just to get rid of us. We then got a lift in the jeep up the laneway back towards our house - I remember the soldiers being very kind, one of them detaching the mag from his SLR and showing me the contents - thrilling indeed! Looking back, it seems strange that a single jeep without functioning radio would be working that area - it really is the back end of nowhere. Some time later on a trip with my father that took us through Lurgan (it's still a horrible dump today) I saw one of 'our' soldiers on foot patrol.

    One other time, in the late evening, my father and I were calving a cow in a byre (I must have been 8 or 9 years old then) when a patrol of 3 - 4 soldiers entered the byre - I imagine they saw the lights and thought something worth investigating was going on. I didn't hear a jeep but presume there was one parked up nearby. When they found out what was happening, they stayed until the calf was born, helping out by pulling on the calving tether.

    Another exciting distraction was to stand on top of a little hill, arms outstretched, waiting for a passing 'spotter' 'plane (Beaver 'planes?). On tilting our arms, we were sometimes rewarded by the pilot tilting the wings of the plane in response! Oh heady times!

    I'm sure there are other equally thrilling tales with which I could regale you, but that's the excitement quota for tonight exceeded.
     
  2. If you're looking for a bite you're not going to get one.....................bollocks
     
  3. I assume one of the soldiers touched you in your "special" place,and you will soon be launching your claim for compo?
     
  4. Depends if it was 'inappropriate contact'.;-P
     
  5. Tytus_Barnowl

    Tytus_Barnowl On ROPs

    In County Antrim there was very little if any terrorist activity. It is very rural and aside from the trashy estates in Ballymena etc there was never a whiff of trouble and certainly nothing like South Armagh where everyone supported the local terrorists. There was a bit of suspicion around places like Toomebridge and the towns along the Lough Neagh shoreline but nothing that the Army really needed to get involved in, unless it was helicopter support, so all the locals were encouraged to support the Army and indeed the police. What I do know is that the Army were actively encouraged to steer clear of North Antrim, the local RUC had that place sewn up and it was a great recruiting ground for the UDR, many of them Roman Catholics. I can fully relate to the subject of this post. Here is a great example of local people who at least in the early days were not going to let their community sink below anything that was dictated in their traditional Presbyterian doctrine. It is a great pity that the people of Belfast and even Lurgan did not do the same. I don't know where it all changed, I suspect it was around the time that a 14 year old got shot in a Churchyard after returning to an arms dump that he had originally found and reported to his family. He did not know who the SAS were or that they might be waiting for him.
    I can agree with most of the events that were described in the original post.