Fascinating pics show British troops sent into Northern Ireland 50 years ago – kicking off Britain’s longest military campaign


TODAY marks the 50th anniversary of when British soldiers were deployed to Northern Ireland in The Troubles, with these fascinating pictures showing troops’ in the conflict.

More than 720 soldiers were killed in paramilitary attacks during the violence, the majority killed by the Provisional IRA in the Republican group’s bloody terrorist campaign.

A young Catholic boy wearing a gas mask holds a petrol bomb in Londonderry during rioting in August, 1969. British troops were called on to the streets of Northern Ireland on August 14 to keep order shortly after violence erupted that summer between Catholics, the police and Protestants.
Getty – Contributor
British soldiers guard shops in Northern Ireland after the army was sent to the province in Operation Banner. Dozens of people died or were injured and hundreds were forced from their homes during clashes between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast and elsewhere during the summer of 1969.
Corbis – Getty

Soldiers were sent to the province in Operation Banner after violence erupted between Protestants and Catholics in August 1969 and local police force The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was unable to control the trouble.

Catholics demanding improved civil rights clashed with the RUC in Londonderry, and riots in Belfast left dozens dead and injured.

The bitter conflict saw British soldiers stationed in the province until July, 2007, the longest military campaign in the army’s history.

Soldiers pull down a barricade that went up during the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ in Londonderry between Catholics and the Northern Ireland police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Riots also broke out across the province in other Catholic areas.
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Comrades of an injured British soldier rush to help after a bomb explosion in Londonderry, the day after Remembrance Sunday, 14th November 1971. Although soldiers were at first welcomed by Catholics, the Official IRA and, later, the Provisional IRA soon began mounting gun and bomb attacks on soldiers
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Children hijack vehicles to celebrate the shooting of a British soldier by an IRA sniper in West Belfast in 1972, the bloodiest year for casualties in The Troubles. Snipers caused huge casualties to soldiers during the early years of the conflict, with more than 100 soldiers killed in 1972, many shot dead by snipers.
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A soldier from the Parachute Regiment drags a Catholic demonstrator away on Bloody Sunday in January, 1972, when soldiers shot dead 13 Catholic civil rights marchers. A fourteenth man died of his injuries later. The killings saw a surge in support for the IRA across Northern Ireland. In March this year, a former soldier was charged with murdering two people on Bloody Sunday.
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A soldier prepares to fire a plastic bullet during riots on the Catholic stronghold of the Falls Road, Belfast in 1976. More than 1,700 victims had been killed already in the conflict by this time.
Getty – Contributor

British Army sent to Northern Ireland 50 years ago

Since soldiers first appeared on Northern Ireland’s streets on August 14 1969, the Army witnessed and was involved in some of the darkest hours of the Troubles.

A total of 722 soldiers died during Operation Banner, which ran from 1969 to 2007.

The Army was also accused of murdering civilians during those decades of bloodshed.

To some, troops were peacekeepers who helped in the battle to maintain law and order as the region teetered on the brink of civil war; to others they were an occupying force who used violence indiscriminately against nationalists and republicans, with rogue members even working in cahoots with loyalist paramilitaries.


In August, troops were brought in after police were faced with inter-community rioting in Londonderry and west Belfast. The loyalist marching season sparked violence in Derry in July but the worst rioting occurred in August following the annual Apprentice Boys march in the city.

– 1972:

In January, paratroopers shot 13 demonstrators dead during a march for civil rights in Londonderry. The event became known as Bloody Sunday, galvanised IRA recruitment, and was condemned around the world. The Irish government lodged protests and rioters burned the British Embassy in Dublin.

– 1979:

In August, an IRA landmine and shooting ambush at Narrow Water, Warrenpoint, Co Down, killed 18 soldiers. An 800lb bomb detonated in a trailer at the side of the road near Carlingford Lough, the boundary with the Republic.

– 1987:

The SAS ambushed and killed eight IRA men as they attempted to blow up a part-time police station at Loughgall, Co Armagh. The IRA raked the barracks with gunfire and used a digger to carry a bomb which they intended to destroy the site. The SAS fired at least 600 shots in response and all the dead republicans were shot in the head.

– 1997:

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, 23, was killed while manning a checkpoint at Bessbrook, south Armagh, in February. He was the last soldier to die in the conflict, shot by IRA sniper Bernard McGinn.

A masked IRA gunman aims his M-60 machine gun during a demonstration in the Republican Creggan estate in Londonderry.
Getty – Contributor
A child peers through the a soldier’s rifle sight during a patrol in Belfast in May, 1981. Northern Ireland was plunged into fresh turmoil that summer after Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner, and nine other Republicans died on hunger strike.
Hulton Archive – Getty
Terrified civilians flee after an IRA bomb murdered 11 people at a Remembrance Day memorial in Enniskillen in November, 1987. The massacre caused revulsion across the world.
Pacemaker Press
A British Army soldier draws his gun as a crowd of Republican mourners attack him and his fellow soldier. The two were dragged off and executed by the IRA in cold blood shortly afterwards. Mourners burying the victim of a man killed during an attack on an IRA funeral the week before launched themselves at the soldiers’ car when it drove into the funeral cortege. Chilling TV footage broadcast to the world showed the moment the mourners attacked the soldiers’ car.
Pacemaker Press
Women on the Republican Falls Road of Belfast give some advice to a soldier on patrol in Belfast after the IRA announced a ceasefire in August, 1994. The ceasefire was the start of a peace process that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. But the bloodshed did not end yet.
PA:Press Association
An RUC officer walks past a mangled baby’s pram after the Omagh bombing in 1998, which killed 29 people. It was the largest loss of life in a single incident during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Real Irish Republican Army claimed responsibility for the massacre.
Soldiers prepare to leave the Republican heartland of Bessbrook Mill, South Armagh, for the last time as soldiers leave Northern Ireland. Operation Banner ended in 2007, with 722 soldiers killed and 6,100 injured in terrorist attacks.
PA:Press Association

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