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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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