Article: Bloody Belfast: Voices from Northern Ireland by Ken Wharton

Discussion in 'vBCms Comments' started by Ageing_Gracefully, Jan 24, 2011.

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  1. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

  2. My first visit !
    Served with 42 Cdo for most of the 70's and have read this and Warton's previous books.
    Unfortunately I signed up to the NIVETS site and drew attention to a couple of howlers in the book, without realising that Warton IS NIVETS (Right Marker at the Cenotaph last year)!!
    So I received a load of 'How very dare you' from his wee club and haven't been back since.
    One thing that always surprises me is how little coverage Bootnecks get of their time in the Province, yet along with the Fusiliers, Anglians, and LI we completed more tours than any other mob.
    It's almost as if we're too shy to talk about it !
    The only people who have written anything significant are Mike Pinchen and Ken Lake on the 'Britain's Small Wars' site.
    There are stories waiting to be told, and if we wait any longer they'll be lost.
    Perhaps the RMA should commission a 'Warton-type' book specifically for Royals ?
  3. Disregarding the obvious.
  4. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer


    if you know of any books written by/about (Yes, I know the idea of a Bootie writing a book seems ridiculous!) then let me know the title/author and publisher if you know and I will try to get it for review.

  5. Should get 'Baron Adams of Northstead' to review it. Now i think I'v heard it ****ing all. Whats next? Lord Hamza of Finsbury?:-D
  6. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    You'll know my old fella then, he (in so much as a bootneck does) had 42 as his "home" unit.

    Bootnecks spent alot of time over there, sh1ts n giggles would probably fill one book, the next one could be serious and "warry". I went further south than Belfast, as my old man said to me as I went in the 80's, "dunno why they call it bandit country anymore, we got rid of them all"...:-D

    Booties as a rule dont write books, if you look at recent history you'd be excused for thinking the Guards or Para Regt did the whole Falklands thing on their own, bless 'em.....

    If you want real recent history, the Army wrote about some Apaches helicopters in Afganistan, the Marines didn't. The Army did rather well on the medal and media front. The Marines cracked on.

    I'll raise a glass of Claret to the Corps. (Pun intended)
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  7. Perhaps being 'understated ' of ourselves in our achievements, whilst a good thing in my view, the Corps might have missed out on garnering increased public recognition of its operational activities when compared to 'pongo regiments'

    In my experience 'Royal' does not see the need to go around gobbing off about what they have done in order to try and impress (there will of course be the odd exception to this, like that convicted fraudster ****** from the apprentice)

    i am always more interested to hear what the quiet man in the corner has to say than someone else 'holding court' and making all the noise

    The cap badge says more about the man than any book can

    and finally the saying 'go tell it to the Marines' speaks for itself

    anyway, time for a beer....
  8. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Blobs & Rigsby

    While I hear what you are saying I don't believe that Maureens are that shy and retiring:slow:

    There are a couple of books featuring RM in Afghanistan for instance and have been reviewed on ARRSE. The two that come to mind are 3 Cdo: Helmand Assault by Ewan Southby-Tailyour and Immediate Response by Maj Mark Hammond RM.

    Now I am sure there must be something out there about RM on Op Banner. Let me know and I will try to get it from the publisher.

  9. A_G

    as you have no PM facility then send me one (!) so we can communicate further
  10. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    I was given "Bullet proof" by Matt Croucher GC a few weeks ago. It comes in bootneck friendly big print and took me about 4 hours to read.

    It is a very, "me, myself and I" type book. It left me with the impression he felt he deserved a MC for an earlier incident and a VC instead of a GC. A suprising lack of NCO's and Occifers making decisions as well, seems the author was able to do his own thing, lucky bugger.

    Cahunas made of steel for smothering that grenade tho. Good effort.
  11. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer


    PM sent.
  12. Evening All.

    There are no books written about Op Banner by Booties A-G. I've checked, and I keep checking. It was an Army thing. We weren't there (the photos are rigged). Just look at the book titles.
    I think I've got just about everything written about Banner from a military standpoint, including the hard to find Barzilay trilogy and Chartres/Henshaw/Dewars 'NI Scrapbook'. I even bought De Bil's recent 'Operation Banner', and then destroyed it in an Amazon review (his Falkland's stuff is just as bad).

    It's personal. I did my training with Graham Cox. He was a good mate, and I knew most of our other fatalities.
    Tom R (legs blown off) spent some of his training with my troop at Deal and CTC. My section Commander in '73 was shot in the arm and gut, and spent six hours with his blood drying into my denims because naturally it was - 'You take over the section. Carry on', just like it was in the Falklands and is in Afghanistan.
    Then 'Big Scouse' was caught in a booby-trap.
    But you won't read about this anywhere.

    I've even got most of the non-military books - Dillon, Moloney, Urban, Peter Taylor, and a host of others. Even those written by the 'opposition'. Well over a hundred now.

    As I see it, the myths and lies churned out by Adams and SF's excellent PR machine, and the Loyalist equivalent, is becoming historical fact (Blair believes it !!), while the truth hides in a corner, to scared to come out.

    I've got most of the AfG stuff, and everything written about the Falklands. With regard to the latter, I think Thomson wrote 'No Picnic' as a response to the Pongo 'It was us wot did it' stuff.
    Ewan S-T did a good job with his books. He showed exactly who was to blame for Fitzroy, and why. Why WERE the 'tourist attraction' troops sent anyway ? The more I read, the more I realise that Guards top brass wanted to play, and the Old Boys Mafia came into play. Incidentally, how many people realise that when they read 'the WG's did this. The WG did that', they really mean 'two companies of 40 Cdo did this ......' ?

    I don't know if any of you have read De-Bils '5 Infantry Brigade', but it's a doozie. He does make a few good points though (although I can't think of any at the moment). Worth a review methinks.

    There's another one here somewhere (sorry. Got over 3,000 books. They're everywhere) but I can't remember the author. He says things like 'the Guards were just as fit as anyone else in the Falklands', and quotes one officer as saying 'We trained hard every day, running a mile around the deck. Then we started wearing boots', and 'We knew it was for real when we stopped changing for dinner and the waitress service stopped'.
    Hard times indeed.

    But getting back to Banner (I do go on a bit, but I'm housebound and live alone. And I hate most telly), up to '96 the Marines had completed 35 tours, the Paras 28, the LI 34, Fusiliers 39. As 41 were disbanded in '81, having completed 4 tours, we're still at number three without them (sorry guys of 41). Leaving out 41 gives Marines the same available manpower as the others (1, 2, and 3 Para, etc).
    Now, the 'Guards' completed 52 tours, but that's ALL the Guards - Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Welsh, and Irish. 9 Battalions in total. So divide that figure by 3 (I'll make a coffee).
    Finished ?
    It's 17, or less than half the number of tours completed by the top 4. So why has there never been any suggestion of getting rid of the Guards ? They weren't good enough to risk in NI. They couldn't hack it in the Falklands (with the exception of Tumbledown - but they had an easy time getting there). The Warsaw Pact is no longer a threat, so travelling to the fight in APC's won't happen.
    So on a purely 'get rid of those who don't/can't do the job today', I'd get rid of the Guards except for a small number in very expensive uniforms (costs a lot more than today's front-line battle gear) who wear dead animals on their heads to perform for the tourists. They could even have plastic rifles. They don't need real ones anyway.
    But I'm havering.
    I live alone and don't get out much ............

    W-B. If you think Croucher was 'me me me', try John Geddes 'Spearhead Assault' or 'How Me and My Super-Para Mates Won the Falklands' aka 'Marines ? What Marines ? Were They There ?'
  13. Rigsby,

    I used to think that. Until I realised that most folk, including politicians, have no idea what the Marines are or what they can do. That's why it was us that was threatened with the chop. We were saved then by the Falklands. Now it's Afghanistan. But even there we see 'the Army this' and 'the Army that', while we're watching footage of Royal doing stuff.
    I'm fairly sure that if we looked at how much time Marines spend there, we'd be over-represented.
    We need recruits, and young guys need to know where to join the best, and why.
    I wonder how many youngsters walk into an Army recruiting Office and ask to join the Marines ?

    It could be worse.
    Remember how Marines became sailors when some became Iranian guests a few years back? Now THAT was embarrassing.

    I complained to the Beeb and the others about it (and I know I wasn't the only one), and they listened because we started to hear/see 'Sailors and Marines'.
    Except for that dumb BBC woman in Iran who kept calling them sailors. I'm sure she fancied Hamfordinnerdad too.
  14. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer


    I feel your pain mate, but if Booties can't or won't write about themselves or contribute to an author wishing to get their story down on paper, then you can hardly expect much sympathy from those who did write about their experiences.

    I much prefer to read about Ops written by the guys who actually did the deed, otherwise history will be written by some smarmy historian who claims to see the 'big picture' and ignores what has happened at the coal face. People have slated some books, you mention several in your posts, but even if they are badly written, they are contemporary accounts which in 100 years will be invaluable.

    Well, I suppose you are now putting up a challenge Delrick - can anyone out there come up with some stories by and about Booties on Op Banner?

  15. Don't think anyone's looking for sympathy A_G (how the hell do you age gracefully ? Every time I try I just look ridiculous. Wrong make-up perhaps ?).
    I just think we should fight our corner for a change, and not allow ourselves to be written out of history.

    Wharton's certainly done right by the Army, and It's about time we had our say.
    Can't remember which book it was but there was a very good account of 45 being stuck in the middle of thousand-a-side riot on the Shankill in '71 or 72. The PO medic was treating the injured in the back of a 4 tonner and sending them back out. He was peeing blood himself at the time. What I do remember is that the book title had 'Army' in it !
    I think I've already said that the RMA should look into, I'm sure the museum would get involved. Mind, they don't even reply to emails. Don't know if 'Pen and Sword' would be interested, but they publish Van der Bil's dishonest nonsense (he was Intelligence Corps, and complained that the Booties were sending 'poor quality' prisoners back for him to chat to during the Falklands).

    Like you, I don't care if a books been 'badly written'. I've mentioned 'Spearhead Assault' somewhere, and the author was a Para 'lifer'. But it was a first-hand account and he wrote about what he saw, the way he saw it (H Jones was his CO, and according to him, a total upper class glory-hunting plonker and complete liability), and that makes his account more credible in my book. Quite scary the way he admits that his SNCO's promoted violence all the time, even if there was no-one fight ! No wonder they can't do 'peace keeping' duties. You'll probably get a copy for pennies at Amazon. Think mine was 50p plus P&P.

    Don't think anyone has written a book about the Paras in NI either, but who would publish it ?

    Have you read Kevin Myer's 'Watching the Door' ?

    I take it you're a reader ?
  16. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer


    I totally agree with you and would love to be able to put up a review of a book written by or about Booties on Op Banner. If you come across any then please let me know and I will try to chase up.
  17. Afternoon A_G,

    The book with the 45 story in it is Dewars 'The British ARMY in Northern Ireland'. I've got the 1996 edition. He does refer to the Marines more than any other book I've read, but that's not saying much.
    He also gets some things wrong, which isn't surprising - many authors get their information from other authors - and if the mistake originates with the latter, it's replicated by others. His info was first published in Barzilay's trilogy (1978 and hard to find).
    For example, Dewar has 42 being deployed in Ligoneil during Motorman, while 40 'went' to the New Lodge. But I was with 42 ('K' Coy), and we were sent to the Lodge. 40 had been there since mid June !
    Elswhere he has 42 operating at the Shankill/Falls interface. Perhaps some were, but no-one I know !
    He also has 42 arriving in the Province on the 27th July. Wrong again. 'K' Coy were there long BEFORE 'Bloody Friday' (21st July), and we'd already been there for a few days, sardined on the Maidstone. Then we went to Flax Street Mill where we shared the place with rats ..... and the Paras (I still have nightmares about the Paras. What a bunch of psychos). Ken has it the other way round - Flax St then Maidstone - he could be right. Either way, they didn't know what to do with us.
    Finally, we arrived at Drummond Camp where we got cozy with 40 and familiarized ourselves with the New Lodge. Such fun. That was the 27th.
    Mind you, when we got off Sir Galahad it became obvious that weren't expected. Hence the Maidstone and Flax Street.

    If you're not already familiar with it, check out 'Britains Small Wars' and Ken Lake's essays in 'The Troubles'/NI section. I remember Ken. We were both 'K' Coy for the '72 tour, section 2 i/c's in 'K' Coy in '73 and ended up together (not as a couple, you understand) in Brown Square in '74.

    What many people don't know is that the casualty/death rate for British troops in N/I during those few years was higher that it is for Afghanistan - over 200 in 30 months - and that doesn't include RTA's and other accidents (the Afghan figures include them).

    And it was bad. The Corps won a total of 5 Military Medals (now changed to MC I believe) in NI over 35 years, and two of them were won by Section Commanders in 'K' Coy, on the '73 tour. Yes, they were Ken and Del's section commanders.

    I'm going to try and contact Ken. He obviously wants people to know, and so do I. If we can track down other ex Booties who have stories to tell (and have better memories than me), who knows ..... how difficult can it be ?
    Mind you, I still don't know exactly why Scouse * got his MM, and I was there when he won it. No disrespect to Scouse, it's just that I've never read the citation (London Gazette didn't publish them for 'Banner'), and the incident was so chaotic and my memory's hazy.

    All I remember is dragging Belfast's 'Most Wanted' (OC Belfast Brigade PIRA. He'd been pinged by a Recce guy in a covert OP) out of a car in the middle of the New Lodge, and 4 of us (the other half-section had a duff radio and were in the parallel street, oblivious) fighting our way through a few hundred screaming banshees armed with hurley sticks, broom handles, and bin-lids. We were all well aware that just a few weeks earlier a young Army guy had become separated from his section in similar circumstances in the Falls (Private Gary Barlow, QLR, 5th March). The women dragged him away and a PIRA 'Freedom Fighter shot him through the head. So it was 'stick together, keep tight, but hang on to that Provo b*****d.

    The rioting and shooting started almost as soon as we got him out of the Lodge, and went on for hours. The Provos always assumed that arrested PIRA guys would talk, so they moved all their weapons and explosives asap, under the cover of the violence.

    Do you have a copy of 'Lost Lives' ?
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2011

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