Bloody Belfast: An Oral History of the British Army’s war against the IRA by Ken Whaton

“But it wasn’t really a war was it?” – John Humphrys

To the over 300,000 British servicemen who served in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 2007 it certainly was a war. To the hundreds of families who received the dreaded knock on the door, it was a war. To the countless families impacted on by the stresses and strains of Northern Ireland, it was a war. To my Nan, whose nerves were shredded dreading a knock on the door informing her of bad news, it definitely was a war.

It is not easy for me to talk objectively about Northern Ireland. Having been told about it by three of my uncles who served there in the 1970’s, and having read a fair few published accounts by certain Greenjackets and Paras, I was not picking up this book ‘blind’.

What this book by Ken Wharton tells us, is that we need to rethink what we think of as ‘war’, beyond the two world wars. Just because active service in Belfast and Londonderr and Crossmaglen did not meet our narrow definition of battle, it does not lessen the bravery of the men who served there. Those of us reading from the comfort of our armchairs cannot begin to imagine the human strain of being on service in the Province at the height of the Troubles. If anything Northern Ireland was a more difficult kind of war, as with yellow cards and rules of engagement, the Security Forces were incredibly hamstrung in what they could do.

What also leaps out from the pages of this book is the leadership that NCO’s and even Private’s were called on to show. Northern Ireland has often been called a ‘Corporal’s war’. Rather than in conventional battle where officers and senior NCO’s make decisions and give orders, the war in Northern Ireland was conducted largely by low-level units. On patrol every man had to show the utmost initiative. But along with showing incredible initiative – indeed, the Army gained long-term benefits from this learning curve – the physical and psychological toll was huge.

Oral History has always been a greatway of telling ordinary people’s stories – and they are old in their own words. The human memory being what it is, we cannot take every word as gospel, but as exactly wha they are – memories. I suppose in the interests of balance it might be interesting to compare the views of IRA members during the same period. But what is interesting is that for the large part, the squaddies interviewed seem to have been as bitter loyalist paramilitaries as much as republicans. As most often in history, the average British Squaddie does not seem to have been bothered with politics. Others might feel that the British Army acted like gangsters, but evidence suggests that time and time again British soldiers showed amazing restraint. And thats how the war was ‘won’ – by not letting the terrorists achieve their goal of dragging down the Security Forces. If other certain armies had been fighting in Northern Ireland, a lot of sledgehammers might have been deployed against walnuts.

Wharton also sheds new light on some aspects of the war that are perhaps no so well known. The not insignificant number of British Army personnel who took their own lives. The massaging of statistics by the Ministry of Defence. The dedication of the men of the Ulster Defence Regiment. That what the British public knew about what went on ‘over the water’ depended on the media. And how many of the events in this Book will be completely unknown to the reader – we have all heard of Omagh, Bloody Sunday and Warrenpoint, but these were by no means the only atrocities carried out. There is a comprehensive roll of honour at the end of the book, giving names, dates, units and causes of death.

This is an immensely readable book – I had great trouble putting it down.

Bloody Belfast is published by The History Press



Filed under Army, Book of the Week

15 responses to “Bloody Belfast: An Oral History of the British Army’s war against the IRA by Ken Whaton

  1. Pingback: Bloody Belfast: An Oral History of the British Army's war against …

  2. Pingback: cross tattoos for men

  3. Pingback: Cheapest Disneyland Tickets

  4. I am truly delighted to glance at this webpage posts which contains plenty of useful facts, thanks for providing these data.

  5. After an amazing day att the beach and in the water I could tell my daughter was reqdy for another go
    the day after. What can encohrage my kid to bee more confident in
    thhe water. Preferably, you should cooperate with a knowledgeable person
    to help you find the perfect fit and style you need.

  6. What the heck i just read? The initial idea is to consult your doctor before
    using this product. The extract of Saffron Extract can be purchased in the form of capsules and tablets and advising a doctor will give you you a transparent
    know-how about the point that will it fit your preferences or not.
    This product frequently satisfies the requirements of the persons but exclusions are normally there.
    So, you have to make sure that you usually are not the one
    which can not utilize this product. Another important problem is concerning the dose.
    You should question your doctor in regards to the intake
    and be certain about it authentic Saffron Extract.

    WOW.Nice read here. The genuine factor to exactly
    how this product gets results is that it is a dual action diet solution,
    and therefore functions being an appetite reducing drug including a “fat burner”.

    This actually shows that it oxidizes fat units making use of anti-oxidants, and this results in additional energy
    for your needs – although only when know how to take authentic Saffron Extract in the proper fashion.Many diet supplements currently available are intended all over reving up your metabolic rate,
    which is not really safe for most people – and
    that is why many people decide to get Saffron Extract extract instead.

  7. So, there’s the answer; she’s not peeing duing intimacy
    – rather, she iss she-mitting. It takes incredible strength and discipline these days to
    always do the righ thing when it comes to our health.
    Foor instance, dandruff is not ddry scalp; it is an
    inflammation of thhe scalp.

  8. You’ll quickly get mumbling under your breath, ‘Howdy Pardner?’.
    Bad technology is not a new comer to Hollywood movies.
    The thing is that Maria is really a slave of God, and Captain Von Trapp is engaged!

  9. The Jeep position as a good family car can be reflected in the films.
    This Really Is ofcourse the heart of the problem. Any tv program involving Diddy (also referred to as P.

  10. It has usually been anticipated that apple iphone add-ons will be
    produced. It is also very easy to thoroughly clean, and it is very durable.
    Hmm, now I question what Apple will do with all that money?

  11. It is a flexible surface but it does scar should you
    drop a heavy container or break a glass on it. Playdoh could be wonderful
    to squeeze and discrete your frustrations. I enjoy the choices which you have for kitchen

  12. The specific materials certainly are a secret,
    because The menu is managed by Dr. Siegal. Learn How To study
    beyond that marketing label to separate the unhealthy nonsense in the slim reality.

  13. It may take some time but it is very rewarding to see your finished product.
    If you are growing fig trees for landscaping, then you need to use plenty of fertilizer.

    When you put together your design, do marry practical elements,
    structures, utilities, trees and smaller plants with aesthetics.

  14. Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, amazing blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s