Thursday, August 27, 2009

Warrenpoint: Remember these names

(source: Palace Barracks Memorial Garden here.)

Parachute Regiment Badge

Roll of Honour

MacLEOD - Lance Corporal Victor - 27th August 1979 - Aged 24 - Queen's own Highlanders

BLAIR - Lieutenant Colonel David - 27th August 1979 - Aged 40 - Queen's own Highlanders - Married with two children

ANDREWS - Corporal Nicholas J. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 24 (2 Para) Married

BARNES - Private Gary I. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (2 Para) Single

DUNN - Private Raymond - 27th August 1979 - Aged 20 (2 Para) Single

WOOD - Private Anthony G. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 19 (2 Para) Single

WOODS - Private Michael - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (2 Para) Single

GILES - Corporal John C. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 22 (2 Para) Married

ROGERS - Sergeant Ian A. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 31 (2 Para) Married

BEARD - Warrant Officer Walter - 27th August 1979 - Aged 31 (2 Para)

VANCE - Private Thomas R. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 23 (2 Para)

ENGLAND - Private Robert N. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 23 (2 Para) Married with one child

JONES - Private Jeffrey A. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (2 Para)

JONES - Corporal Leonard - 27th August 1979 - Aged 26 (2 Para) Married with one child 18 month old daughter

JONES - Private Robert D.V. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 18 (Para) Single

IRELAND - Lance Corporal Chris G. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 25 (2 Para) Married with one child

FURSMAN - Officer Peter - 27th August 1979 - Aged 35 (Para)

BLAIR - Private Donald F. - 27th August 1979 - Aged 23 (2 Para)

A picture showing the Warrenpoint Narrow Water Castle

Narrow Water Castle, a medieval tower

The Collect of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces

May the defence of the Most High be above
and beneath, around and within us, in our
going out and in our coming in, in our rising
up and in our going down, through all our
days and all our nights, until the dawn when
the Sun of righteousness shall arise with
healing in his wings
for the peoples of the world.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord

A scenic view of Carlingford Lough  from where the bombs where detonated by the IRA


The day after the bombs went-off, Officers and men from 2 Para paraded at the scene of the blast to pay their respect to their fellow soldiers

This plaque is on the Warrenpoint bench in Aldershot Military cemetery.

"The scene was truly something from a nightmare. Severed limbs, decapitations, human remains everywhere. Most of these were very close friends and associates. Taff Jones, the medic, did a sterling job in very difficult circumstances. ..."

In August, 2007, I wrote a column on Tanker Bros, about Warrenpoint. That column was written to mark the withdrawal from Northern Ireland of most of the British troops after 38 years.

I began that column with one of the pictures I have begun today's column with, and I wrote:

A few days ago, I shared with a friend here in North America how an article on the BBC site really brought back a whole myriad of emotions for me. I am happy, and yet I am so sad because I am really aware of the high, high price paid to bring peace to Northern Ireland. That first picture above is of the brave men - paras - who were killed by the IRA terrorists in Narrow Waters, Warrenpoint on August 27, 1979. Of twenty men there, only two survived to tell the tale, to relive the nightmare over and over. That day saw the largest number of British troops murdered in a single incident. ('Incident' is the official word still used in news items.) And my intimate connection to that first picture? Regular readers here may remember a dedication I did on the Rolling Victory Fast a while back. Of the two men that survived Warrenpoint, I have been blessed to have one as a dear friend. I call him "my Yorkshire pud," (an inside joke that a Brit would readily understand!) This veteran of the British paras is the most amazing man....

You can read that whole original column here at Tanker Bros.

From the BBC that day:

At least 18 soldiers have been killed in two booby-trap bomb attacks at Warrenpoint, South Down, close to the border with the Irish Republic.

It is the highest death toll suffered by the British Army in a single incident since it arrived in Northern Ireland to restore order a decade ago.

The IRA are believed to be behind the attack.

It came only hours after the Queen's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was killed in an IRA bomb attack in Donegal Bay in the Irish Republic.

The dead at Warrenpoint included the most senior Army officer killed in Northern Ireland to date, the commanding Officer of the Queen's Own Highlanders, Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair.


The ambush had been carefully planned. The first bomb, weighing half-a-ton, was planted under some hay on a flat-bed lorry beside a dual carriageway 44 miles (71km) from Belfast on the Irish border.

It exploded killing six soldiers of the Second Battalion Parachute Regiment as they travelled past in a four-ton lorry at the back of a three-vehicle army convoy.

The surviving troops in the other two vehicles were immediately deployed to cordon off the area and call for reinforcements.

Members of the Queen's Own Highlanders, who flew to the scene by helicopter, arrived from Bessbrook base in County Armagh.

Twenty minutes after the first explosion, as the helicopter took off carrying some of the injured, the second device was detonated.

Twelve more soldiers - two Highlanders and ten Paras - who had been taking cover in a nearby gate house were killed as the second device exploded close to them.

At least one witness reported hearing heavy automatic fire from across the narrow canal, which formed part of the border, after the second explosion. The soldiers returned the fire. A civilian was later found dead nearby....

and then this:

The IRA admitted carrying out the attacks the following day. They had also admitted carrying out the bomb attack in which Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed.

The Parachute Regiment went straight back out on patrol. Any suggestion their 18-month tour of duty would be curtailed was swiftly rejected.

A memorial service was held for the dead at the Royal Garrison Church in Aldershot on 26 September.

Among the dead was a civilian, the 28-year-old son of one of the Queen's coachmen. Michael Hudson was caught in the crossfire.

The deaths of Lord Mountbatten and the 18 British soldiers were followed by a series of killings of Catholic civilians by Loyalist paramilitaries. (you can find both of these pieces here.)

Peter Stubbs

Plain bloody murder

The former para (far left) left the army after 22 years and is now working in Iraq, providing security to the companies helping to rebuild the country. But Warrenpoint is still a vivid memory: "I can still see it, smell it and taste it, even after all these years. Plain bloody murder."

Today, as I was researching more info on the Warrenpoint murders, I came across a site called IRA Atrocities. An article there talks about the desecration of a memorial to mark the 25th anniversary of that day. Just as in America, some lowlife cowards can't stand to see the honour paid to our fallen heroes so, too, in Britain, it seems cowards do their 'work' in darkness:

"The Massacre at Warrenpoint"
27th August 1979 - 18 people dead
also known as the 'Narrow Water Bombing'

Republicans attack and destroy the 25th Anniversary Memorial less than too days after the anniversary

The destruction of the Narrow Water memorial and a nearby Orange Hall in Co Down has left unionists "sickened and appalled". The 25th anniversary of the Narrow Water atrocity was marked at the site, near Warren-point, by wreath-laying ceremonies on Friday. But less than two days later, the wreaths and crosses were scattered early yesterday morning and the nearby Commons Orange Hall was all but destroyedRepublicans defaced and destroy a memorial to the soldiers murder in mass bombs by the IRA by an arson attack discovered at Sam on Saturday. Newry and Mourne UUP councillor Danny Kennedy MLA said the attacks left the unionist community "sickened and appalled". "Even after 10 years of ceasefire it seems there are still those in the republican community who are not prepared to give unionists any space in this area," he said. "People are almost at a state of despair learning of this disgraceful attack coming straight after the destruction of Commons Orange Hall" Willie Frazer of Markethill based victims' group FAIR said: "This attack shows the mindset of these people - they can't leave the dead alone and they want us to believe that they are going to leave the living alone. "Each time this memorial is attacked, we'll be putting up another," he added.
Narrow Water was the largest Single loss of life for the Army since World War Two, with 18 soldiers and one civilian killed by two IRA bombs. News Letter 30th August 2004

Soldier returns to honour comrades on the 25th anniversary of the atrocity

A Paratrooper who survived the Narrow Water Massacre said he 'felt compelled' to attend yesterday's remembrance service. The Englishman made the lone journey back to the bomb scene near Warrenpoint on the 25th Anniversary of the atrocity. 'I had come, I was only ever going to do this once,' he said. 'The reason I am here is to remember my friends and colleagues. I had to do it.' He also took time to spell out how much the swift response of the ambulance drivers, firemen and RUC officers to the bombings meant to all those caught up in the two IRA bombs at Narrow Water Castle. The explosions were so violent they were heard across the Mourne Mountains over ten miles away in Kilkeel. Sixteen members of the Parachute Regiment and two members of the Queen's Own Highlanders were killed in what is thought to be the Army's single biggest peacetime loss of life since World War Two. The former member of the Second Battalion of the Parachute Regiment said he was still in touch with many survivors of the atrocity and that they On the 25th Anniversary old comrades pay their respects to colleagues murder in the Warrenpoint Massacrewere grateful to those that helped them. 'The one thing that survivors of the atrocity would like to say is a special thank you to all the emergency services and the local people who also came out to help us right after the bombing.' He said he and many of the other survivors have quite a professional and stoic outlook on the massacre. 'Twenty five years ago you expected attacks, you were trained and prepared for those things, but nobody expected losses on that day,' he added. 'As we get older, we just want to remember our friends, we are not interested in anything political. 'The average age of the survivors is 48 or 50, they are all married now with families and we all have our own memories.' Several other surviving Paras attended the morning remembrance ceremony and one of them gave the roll call of the deceased....(please go read the rest of this column here.)

There has been so much written about Warrenpoint, that I could write a book length post here today. I will not - choosing instead to list - and honour - the names of those lost on that day. Yes, Lord Mountbatten was also murdered along with members of his family, in a separate incident that same day. Look that up. Today, and every day, my focus is always on the young men serving their country.

I found the following, written in 2004 by the son of one of these heroes.

The day my dad was killed by the Provos

By Alexandra Blair

Saturday August 28 2004

"David's dead." The words were barely audible, but moments later I heard my mother sobbing in the next room. Numb with shock and disbelief, I carried on watching 'The Great Escape' with Andrew, my eight-year-old brother. Then my grandfather came to us. He, too, was in tears.

That was exactly 25 years ago, the evening of August 27, 1979, and I was 10 years old. My father, Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, The Queen's Own Highlanders, had been killed by the IRA at Warrenpoint, along with Lance Corporal Victor Macleod and 16 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.

It was the British Army's worst single peacetime loss since the Second World War.

Nobody has been arrested or prosecuted for the killings...

My father had been my hero. Dark-haired, 6ft tall, with green eyes, he was fit, strong and handsome, and always with a ready smile. My father treated me as an adult, encouraged me to explore and learn. The last words I remember him telling me before he left our home in Redford barracks in Edinburgh, where we lived with the rest of the regiment, were: "Look after Mummy and Andrew."...

Truly, this is a must read, as much for this son's memories of his hero father, as well as a firefighter's actions that day. It is gut-wrenching in its details, here.

My friend sent me an email earlier this week. It said, in part:

... for the young men who were murdered and for others who to this day still carrying the mental and physical scars of that day, that haunts us. please! when the news is marking the 30th anniversary of poor lord louis mountbatten's murder on sligo bay, say a prayer or just think for the 16 paratroopers, some were my platoon and the others muckers! and the 2 jocks who were murdered!! it means a lot!

I wrote him back, reminding him that he, and they, are always in my thoughts and prayers. And yes, to my American and other international readers, these heroes are yet another major reason I do what I do. Just as our American (and Canadian et al) wounded heroes live with the physical and psychological wounds forever, so too does my friend live with the aftermath of Warrenpoint every single day, thirty years on, for the rest of his life. For him, please take the time to read the list of names, look at those pictures, and honour them, as I do.

I read that there will be a service at Aldershot tomorrow:

The 27th August marks the 30th Anniversary of the bombings at Warrenpoint in which 16 soldiers from 2 PARA and 2 from Queens Own Highlanders were Murdered. A number of survivors and close friends will be meeting in the Aldershot Military Cemetery at 1600 hrs to pay their respects to fallen friends and comrades. If anyone wishes to join us then please feel free to do so. (Found that here, and this is a great site to spend some time and read more about these heroes.)

I cannot be there physically, but I WILL be there in spirit.

To my "pud" friend: I made a promise, and I will ALWAYS keep it. For you.

Always remembered and honoured.

"Utrinque paratus"


Unknown said...

A very moving post.....

Anonymous said...

Alexandra Blair was David's daughter and his son as you describe. I'll be thinking of them tomorrow. RIP you brave men.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Alexandra was his daughter and not his son. Forgive me for my typo.