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No Longer Required


Tony (Kid) Yarwood

Author of the Butchers Bill

Discarded No Longer Required

By Tony Yarwood

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 Tony Yarwood

License Notes: Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author Tony Yarwood and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favourite authorized retailer. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of contents



Chapter 1 Forgotten

Chapter 2 Pen pushers

Chapter 3 Operation banner

Chapter 4 Non-visible disabilities

Chapter 5 Breakdown the barrier

Chapter 6 Listen to your head & body

Chapter 7 A shock to the system

Chapter 8 Wake – up & smell the coffee

Chapter 9 When service ends

Chapter 10 A change of direction

Chapter 11 The military covenant

Chapter 12 Conclusion

Chapter 13 Other titles by tony (kid) yarwood

Chapter 14 About the author


To my dear mum and dad (RIP). My son Anthony; my daughters Natalie and Danielle. Not forgetting my sisters Susan and Michelle. My heroic brothers 'Face' and Lionel for being my brothers in arms and who served their country with pride. Sue my lovely and loyal wife, I love you X. To my grandchildren, Jessica, Tommy, Jack and Millie and not forgetting my little companion Lulu. To every veteran male or female who has served their country regular or reservist of all three services and all those who are suffering in silence today. My best mate (Steve) who sadly took his own life in December 2014 ex 1, 2 & 3 Para. He was let down by the MoD in his hours of need. Make sure you earmark me a decent bed space in Valhalla and we’ll enjoy a Guinness or two once more.


Soldier means all service personnel from all three services including females and reserves. For ease ‘he’ also covers all service personnel and does not in any way intend to cause harm or upset.


The Forces are being cut to the bone by MoD pen pushing fat cats since they have to fill a financial black hole created through years of mismanagement. They may reduce the Armed Forces from an already precariously low manning figure of one hundred and twenty thousand to below eighty thousand and won’t stop there. They don’t care how they do it or who it hurts or affects. So callous is the MoD that they informed soldiers of their redundancy whilst they were serving on treacherous operations like Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan putting their lives on the line every day for their country. Some service personnel were informed by a text message or email! Yes you read it correct text or email. Just to rub salt into the wounds of service personnel that were made redundant the MoD then advertised for more recruits’ either full time or reserves, including from abroad. In many cases the MoD made huge mistakes during the redundancies leaving some services with a shortfall of manning so they decided to offer those they released more money to join back up! Those still serving in some services were offered golden payments to remain in! It simply did not make sense. They want to strengthen the reserves by 2020 to fill in for those unfortunate service personnel who they made redundant which they won’t find easy at all. Why you may ask? How are employers going to be able to let employees go on operations for up to six months at a time? Many employers will certainly not allow this which will undoubtedly have a severe impact on this silly idea. Also if the reserve forces are monitoring how the regulars are being treated presently, they will surely see sense and keep well clear.

A certain nail in the coffin for any future recruitment drive has to be the disgraceful historical criminal allegations made against veterans who proudly fought for their country often putting their lives on the line for the Government. Notably the Northern Ireland Police Service who are bringing charges against veterans who fought in Northern Ireland decades ago. More shocking are the corrupt Iraq historic allegations team (IHAT) set up by the MoD again at the taxpayers’ expense who battle to prosecute serving and ex-serving service personnel illegally. These are money grabbing solicitors who would not understand the word integrity if it was to jump up and slap them in the face. This brings me nicely on to why statistic’s don’t lie and the Armed Forces continuous attitude survey for 2016 highlights a decline in morale, feeling valued, being fairly treated, service accommodation, personal careers, pension & allowances, pride and job satisfaction. Say no more.

Unfortunately I have firsthand experience with cost cutting pen pushers in the MoD who drive dedicated servicemen out of the army because they unceremoniously dispatched my older brother and my best mate without a care in the world and tried to do the same with me. Sadly my best mate took his own life in December 2014 having boxed with the system for various kinds of help only to be knocked down in his hours of need. He was switched on and an extremely fit bloke whose heart was ripped out by a Government cull pressed by fat cat yes men who only see numbers and not individuals who have families and children to support. What the public don’t see is that these heartless moves save the MoD from paying deserved servicemen and women either a half pension for twelve years’ service or a full pension of twenty-two years or more! Callous but true.

I have tried to delicately balanced life in the army by expressing my own experiences coupled with nearly fifty years military experience that my best mate, brother and I gave to the MoD with a close look at the post army after care of our brave servicemen and women. You will be shocked at the tricks some agencies get up to so that they don’t have to pay warranted service or war pensions out to well-deserved veterans. Does the MoD stealfully usher our brave injured servicemen and women out of their present units to outside posts or even mentor them out of their units if they are still serving? On a lighter note there are agencies and individuals that do a fantastic job helping veterans in need who I will justifiably highlight.

The suicide and incarceration rate of veterans are slowly increasing due to the lack of compassion, management and common sense by some agencies. This coupled with the ever increasing invisible illness of soldier stress or PTSD accounts for tens of thousands of veterans, serving servicemen and women.

Do some politicians and MoD fat cats discuss aftercare and the military covenant in the best restaurants over posh dinners with CEOs? Do they slope shoulders and push veteran’s aftercare towards charities and large companies whilst patting themselves on the back? It’s another case of it looks good on paper, but in reality this Teflon attitude is not enough?



When service personnel enlist into HM Forces today they understand that they may well be deployed to a war zone or conflict anywhere in the world including home soil before they signed on the dotted line. It is only right that HM Government should look after such servicemen and women after service. This should be embedded in the military covenant as a matter of law. When I left the army after over 24 years’ service I received a printed certificate from the Chief of General Staff that said:

On the occasion of your retirement from the army, I wish to thank you most sincerely for the loyal service you have given. I recognize that, in carrying out your duties as a soldier, you will have had to make sacrifices, putting the interests of your country and the army before your own. This is very much appreciated and I wish, formally, to express my gratitude for the service you have given and for the excellent contribution you have made. I wish you all the very best for the future and every happiness in the years to come. Good luck and thank you.’

This was ten lines on a certificate for over 24 years loyal service and quite frankly I have written hundreds of reports for soldiers under me, and the first paragraph covered more than ten lines! This highlights that once a service person leaves the institution of the HM Forces that often they are on their own.

In 2016 a study claimed that many of our veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are forgotten. It states that half are out of work and seventy per cent are suffering with physical and mental health problems. This is shameful and a slap in the face by the MoD and Government towards veterans and not only recent veterans but those from past conflicts too. Some veterans must feel invisible to the state as they suffer silently without the required support and care. Yes pride may have a big part to play with those who don’t proactively ask for help, but then again there should be a system available to the MoD of all veterans that served who they can check on from time to time! Let’s be brutally honest the MoD soon knows where a veteran is when they want to decline or reduce a disability pension don’t they? They certainly find a veteran when it’s time to look at their service pension, just in case they have passed. They will soon find someone if they were overpaid – wouldn’t they? Callous but true. So why is it so hard to find those who are vulnerable and need support? The military bond or institution is unbreakable during service and is as strong as ever between veterans after service if they wish to keep in contact. However once the bond is broken the protection and comfort of the military institution disappears leaving some veterans alone as far as the Government and MoD are concerned. Those in power try to justify how well veterans are being looked after when the fact is they are actually short changing those who are still serving. The reality is many veterans are homeless or suffering in silence. Thousands of veterans are neglected when they need help and succumb to alcohol or drugs to survive the torment they have endured often ending up in prison. It is estimated that one in ten prisoners are veterans in HM prisons at the moment and many won’t highlight the fact that they may have issues relating to soldier stress or PTSD. That said I must say there are excellent organisations that do look after veterans. Unit Associations are good at looking after those veterans who served with them utilizing their families and Regimental Welfare Officers. Service personnel and veterans may phone or write to the Royal British Legion or SSAFA Forces Help for assistance and they in turn will write to the soldiers unit or association if required. Other veteran’s associations do their best to pass on information and help veterans in need. The relevant association may then help financially beit to obtain basics like household goods or clothing. This assistance may extend to extensive financial help for items such as electrically powered wheelchairs, stair lifts, and respite holidays, budgets permitting. Although the Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help are the larger and well known charities that spring to mind for most ex service personnel there are others that have emerged quickly. Help for Heroes being one and Combat Stress is another that helps those soldiers suffering from all injuries due to military service including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans-UK is part of the MoD and a much appreciated organization looking after around six hundred thousand individuals serving and former service personnel and their dependents. They provide essential support services to the Armed Forces and veterans, either by a gratuity or monthly payments. Their welfare officers, some who work unpaid as volunteers are very helpful. The only problem I find with Veterans-UK formally the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) is that although they do help veterans with gratuities their protocol as regards to veterans with physical and mental injuries requires fine tuning with care, understanding and compassion first and foremost. If organizations don’t treat veterans with respect when they first contact them, then it’s like a red rag to a bull. It doesn’t hurt to be polite and listen does it? They won’t pay for private treatment so how can veterans get the best support and treatment? I have had dealings with an organization contracted by the MoD called ATOS Healthcare to carry out disability assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). All’s I can say is Google this organization and listen to the horror stories that are said about them. It will shock veterans to the core! The media stated some time back that hopefully this dreadful organization paid for by the MoD will cease to exist due to its failings. This has now been done; the sad thing is; will the system be the same, only under a different name? Time will tell. The Parachute Regiment Associations (PRA) does look after their veterans and I can certainly vouch for that.

Many welfare charities and organizations dont get all their funds from the Government. The bulk of their funds are obtained from the special bond the general public have for their veterans through donations and legacies. The Help for Heroes (H4H) appeal have raised millions of pounds in a very short period for our injured servicemen and women towards rehabilitation and lots more. I was slightly skeptical about them initially thinking that they would have an adverse effect on the smaller organizations that helps veterans. It was only since I became a Band of Brother (BOB) for short with them that I realized just how important H4H are towards serving service personnel and veterans alike – they are a breath of thresh air and long may it continue. There are many more that I have not mentioned, but are well appreciated by those they help. There are many online help groups one being psychologytools.org for those suffering in silence. What we must never forget are those ex service personnel who fought courageously in campaigns such as WW2, Borneo, Palestine, Greece, Egypt, Korea, Malaya, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Suez, Oman & Dhofar, Yangtze River, Aden, Cyprus and other conflicts kept secret. Hearing stories about young injured veterans languishing in old people’s homes with the elderly and getting depressed is not the way forward. A young Gurkha of 21 was in a care home where the average age was 82 and whose residents were playing bingo! This is upsetting for the individual and for the families and should not be happening today. When we have scenarios like this as regards to our veterans it’s no surprise that they feel that they are forgotten.



The Government is stripping our Armed Forces down to the bone and wants to rely on our brave reservists instead of regulars. I am not saying that they cannot do a sufficient job; however the end result will be as it is today; no money to improve and more cuts. If you compare our military capability of today to that of the Falklands War you will be shocked at the changes that have affected HM Forces as a whole. British Forces are getting smaller and the US who we bow down too on so many occasions are concerned that as their strongest ally our defence cuts are worrying. Fat cat MoD pen pushers don’t care how they do it or who it hurts or affects and it’s not just vital equipment and assets that are being slashed. Proud regiments and corps are being banished with the stroke of the pen! Personnel who remain serving on the long service list - these are soldiers who have completed twenty-two years or more and then decide to stay in the army on a long service contract showing loyalty and dedication beyond what is expected are also targeted. These dedicated soldiers get a preference to where they want to serve after their contract runs out with the unit they are serving with. The fat cats in the MoD who simply look at figures and not bodies on the ground or personalities within the services will callously email the service personnel telling them that they cannot have their choice of location or unit. They then post the service person hundreds of miles away from family and friends in the hope that the service person tells them to stuff the job. I.e. if a service person who lives in Colchester wanted to spend his last two years near Colchester the MoD would post him to Glasgow! This is callous and strategically planned by the MoD stealfully culling the long service list and personnel, including officers.

The nation has and always will support their service personnel but those in power should do more. It makes my stomach churn when small minorities of MPs are more concerned about what percentage pay rise they are going to get. Some abuse the expense system in place spending thousands each year on inappropriate or unnecessary items. This is disgraceful when we have veterans walking the streets with no homes to go to or inadequate medical equipment and care. Some MPs employ their wives or relatives to be their personal assistants or other key office jobs ensuring that they are paid over the odds for working with them and certainly not for the minimum wage. Talk about keeping it in the family! Others abuse their housing or accommodation policies swindling the tax payers by renting their homes out whilst getting freebie homes with their jobs; it’s a disgrace. Some local council fat cats also get in on the act as regards to expenses going above and beyond what is necessary. `Their paid over the top outrageous salaries that we the public pay for - it’s bordering criminal. The MoD and Government ensure that they receive their standard huge pay increases, including expenses whilst they put a freeze on veterans’ pensions! The Government hit the public sector workers with the 1% pay cap which has a knock on effect on serving service personnel. Service personnel should be a separate issue on pay issues as they don’t decide when they want to work or benefits from overtime do they? Is that a compassionate and understanding way of looking out for those heroes who keep our country and MPs safe? I think not.

The National Memorial in Stafford is a lovely place to go and honour our heroes past and present. What does surprise me is that it does not recognize the many military suicides of all the British forces since World War Two. Sources say that unless a coroner states on his report that the suicide was due to military service there is nothing they can do to recognize suicides of our war heroes! We veterans and many loved ones and family and friends of servicemen and women know of people, friends, relatives, wives, husbands, sons and daughters who have committed suicide through military service or whilst serving, but unless the coroner states it happened that way, nothing will materialize. Let’s face it the fat cats in power will ensure this remains as it is! The National Memorial should have a dedicated plot for suicides of all veterans so that family and friends can pay their respects in private and peace. May the reason be that the MoD tells their coroners to state that a suicide was not related to conflict or service? Let’s face it the Government would be hit with massive financial claims if coroners stated that a veteran committed suicide due to service! It is said that more ex service personnel from the UK Forces have committed suicide since the wars in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan put together than those who lost their lives fighting for their country. This only highlights that mental health problems are going to be rampant in the Armed Forces in the future making the continual mental health issues or struggles that many service personnel and veterans are suffering with today harder to cope with. In a nutshell the MoD may encounter a mass problem with PTSD in the future affecting thousands of brave young servicemen and women who have served their country so valiantly. Will the MoD be able to handle it? They haven’t really progressed the way veterans want them to since the Great War, so we will have to wait and see.

The MoDs transparent pretense only fuels the anger from veterans who have been neglected once that military bond has been broken. They are quick to take part in photo shoots to try and boost their ratings but slow to recognize stress related illnesses within the military. Casualty rates of war were stealfully managed by the MoD with almost no details in the press. The casualties from Afghanistan alone are very high with catastrophic injuries to our brave service personnel. Although the MoD appears to look after injured servicemen and women whilst they are still serving I feel this is because there would be a public outcry if they didn’t. How many injured service personnel are quietly ushered to jobs that are out of the public eye when they were promised that they could still work with their units? The Government wont take prisoners when it comes to loyalty; once service personnel are broken. Do they really care? The answer is whilst service personnel are still serving they may still provide care and assistance, but once they leave the service the NHS picks up the pieces when the NHS is clearly struggling themselves at present. Although these are very harsh words they wont be far from the truth. Lets not forget that the MoD sent service personnel who have been serving their country emails or texts informing them that their services are no longer required in the ‘interest of the service’. Thats their magical word for we dont want you any more. The fact remains that these brave servicemen and women deserve better and those injured will require the best medical treatment and care available for the rest of their lives. My advice for those brave and dedicated servicemen and women who have been injured; stay in and ensure you are looked after because you deserve it. The Government has made thousands of service personnel redundant once more and I can tell you that they may be asking for volunteers but the majority are basically kicked out and have no say in the matter! Those service personnel who don’t have a choice will be hand-picked to leave by carefully picked strategists, employed by the MoD to avoid paying out deserved pensions or other financial reasons. To throw a person out of the services who is married with children and planning to earn a pension for their future security is heartless. Some will have mortgages, cars and loans to think about and their lives will be turned upside down. But do those who make these decisions actually care in the MoD? Saving money and cutting costs is their priority and numbers, i.e. service personnel are simply that - numbers.

The Government has said that our veterans can receive priority treatment from NHS hospitals. This looks great on paper and it is covered in the military covenant; however when I have asked for this priority treatment the doctor or nurse in some cases didn’t know anything about it! As a matter of fact they looked at me as if to say, ‘who does he think he is?’ It got to the point where I actually felt embarrassed to mention it any more. The MoD is supposed to work closely with the NHS to ensure a smooth transition into NHS care for veterans. In reality you are on your own once that unique link with the MoD has been broken. My voluntary work for SSAFA Forces Help as a caseworker helped those veterans and families in need. I did this because I have empathy towards them and feel a sense of great achievement once I completed a case. It has been said that some reservists receive far less support than full time service personnel. This is disgusting considering they volunteered to fight for their country and work alongside regulars doing a great job. Many reservists have been decorated for bravery for their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Royal Marine reservist dived onto a grenade in Helmand Province Afghanistan to save his comrades and was awarded the George Cross. A brave young dog handler was killed on duty in Afghanistan, Helmand Province. Four soldiers including a female soldier (the first to be killed in Helmand Province) died during an ambush, say no more. How does the Government repay these brave people? Before they decided to strengthen the reserves they wanted to slash their training budget by millions. Then in the next breath they want to increase the reserves. Does the left hand in the MoD know what the right hand is doing?

Veterans would like the military covenant to actually mean something and not to be used as a political tool when the Government feels like it. The short extract below is from concerned personnel of the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA) of which I am a member highlighting how many servicemen and women were injured during the Falklands War and most are still suffering beit mentally or physically over thirty years after the War. Should we still have service personnel suffering today after serving their country so bravely? The answer is simple, not one of those serving at that time should be suffering. SAMA wanted the Government to act on this via a petition that read:

‘With the growing numbers of wounded personnel repatriated to the UK and with continued growth in medically discharged personnel since the Falklands War to current conflicts and operations, our service men & women and veterans of previous operational service are owed the best medical care possible. The existing facilities are falling short and the NHS is not meeting the needs of veterans who still need treatment for their service related conditions. A dedicated Military & Veterans Hospital will greatly help resolve this National scandal since the complete closure of our military hospitals that has proved to be total folly’. The response highlighted just how the Government fails to take veterans issues seriously. They cynically gave the person who originated the petition one-month to obtain over five thousand signatures before they even looked at the matter! After quickly gathering five thousand signatures with ease the reply read: ‘In terms of providing a dedicated hospital for veterans, it is worth noting that since 1948 it has been the policy of successive Governments that the NHS should be the main provider of health care for veterans. The range of general medical treatment required by veterans is in most cases ‘no different from other civilians’! It would be wrong to expect them to travel large distances to receive treatment at a single hospital, especially when excellent care is already provided closer to their home and families. So while we fully appreciate why your concern for the welfare of our armed forces has led you to sign this petition, we hope you appreciate the reasons why we believe the current provision of hospital facilities for injured personnel is the right one’.

How can the Government compare what a veteran of various campaigns pre and post war, especially Iraq and Afghanistan and Northern Ireland to that of other civilians? That’s an insult to all those who have served. As you can clearly see the veterans aftercare issue appears to have progressed little since 1948 and possibly beyond.

How can anyone trust a Government who sent troops to Afghanistan for ten years after the disaster of Iraq and who’s then Defence Secretary quoted that ‘not a shot would be fired in Helmand!’ Over four hundred and fifty brave British service personnel lost their lives with over two thousand wounded in action! The coalition forces lost more than three thousand, four hundred with the Americans sustaining the most fatalities and injuries! Whose opium production that destroys lives worldwide are still thriving and whose territory gained by our brave service personnel through fierce fighting is being slowly re-taken by the Taliban. Britain’s ballooning foreign aid budget gets worse whereby the Government continuously slashes the defence budget but hands over millions to Pakistan whose security forces assist the Taliban. How can we trust a Government who stands by whilst a body called the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) set up by the MoD again at the taxpayers’ expense battle to prosecute serving and ex-serving service personnel which is unbelievable to say the least. These are money grabbing bent solicitors who would not understand the word integrity if it was to jump up and slap them in the face. The pressure on serving servicemen and women including veterans having British organizations that are trying to stitch them up must be immense. Commanders on the ground from Corporals to Generals may hesitate when the time comes to fight their way out of a battle through fear of prosecution and a possible custodial sentence. These are just some of the concerns that service personnel will have to worry about when they are putting their lives on the line for their country. This is seen as a betrayal and preposterous but can it get any worse? Yes it can. The Government is allowing alleged historical allegations from Operation Banner - Northern Irelands to go ahead even though British soldiers and innocent civilians were murdered in uniform or off duty by the IRA. These are allegations that go as far back as the early seventies. The government pen pushers were also paying suspects from Op Banner substantial compensation claims because of how many times they were allegedly stopped and searched or for alleged damage to land or property paid for by the Government’s never ending slush fund.


Operation Banner

We must never forget that Operation Banner was the longest continuous deployment in British military history (37 - years) and over three hundred thousand troops were deployed between 1969 and 2007. Over three thousand brave service personnel lost their lives including suicides and other causes with over thirty thousand including civilians wounded. These figures alone deserve respect from the Government who should fully support all those who put their life on the line serving on operations in Northern Ireland (NI) during the troubles. They decide instead to sit back whilst veterans, some retired go through a nightmare of alleged allegations made against them pushed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland for charges of either manslaughter or murder. These are allegations that go back as far as when the troubles began in the early seventies. I have a job remembering what happened last week so how these poor individuals are coping now is unthinkable. The lack of Government support in these dire situations is incomprehensible and will adversely have an effect on recruiting in every service. It’s taking dedicated veterans with a passion for justice to fight yet another battle for our veterans who are being targeted by some. In this particular case veterans are looking after veterans when it should be those in power in this country fighting for veterans who fought for them.

The troubles in Northern Ireland unfortunately did not remain on Irish soil with attacks extending to mainland Britain and continental Europe. North and West Belfast claimed the most casualties. There were no go zones in Roman Catholic areas of Belfast and Londonderry where it was not safe for the army or police to venture. The protestants also had their own ‘no go’ areas some separated by high walls that would not have looked out of place in Berlin.

I like many other soldiers before me was worried about serving in NI because at that time it was a dangerous and unforgiving place to operate. 2 Para began a two-year residential tour of Ballykinler stationed in Abercorn Barracks situated on the south eastern side of Northern Ireland in County Down. A beach was literally at the rear of the barracks with a backdrop of the magnificent Mourne Mountains. Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and Newcastle were reasonably close with the nearest city twenty-five miles away in Lisburn. This rural, coastal and picturesque scenery appeared tranquil yet hidden around every corner or behind every tree line or bush lurked imminent danger. Terrorists waited stealthily to pounce when the time was right and at a moment’s notice. The problem was we did not know who was good or who was bad. Who was a terrorist and who wasn’t? Why? Terrorists were dressed as locals and mingled in with them on the streets. The battalion rotated all activities by ensuring one company was training or on duty whilst another was deployed around the province. Getting from A to B in this dangerous environment was nerve racking to say the least. If helicopters were not available which was normally the case then either green skinned vehicles or covert vehicles (which the locals knew belonged to the military) were used! It was a well-known fact that some of the locals were the eyes and ears for the terrorists informing them of the everyday movement of troops entering or leaving military bases. They would log registration numbers down and even attempt snapshots with cameras to gain information. It didn’t take much to work out that a box vehicle with no visible markings displayed leaving a military base may have troops onboard. My heart was in my mouth when this occurred because we certainly knew that the locals were aware of this routine. The stress on some soldier’s faces said it all whilst moving from one location to the other in this precarious way. Risk assessments or health and safety went out of the window in those days. It simply pushed some soldier’s stressors to another level. We patrolled the countryside (cuds) for anything up to fourteen days in all types of weather conditions, living out of our bergen’s. As a private soldier I did not know whether helicopters were available rather than transporting troops in civilian vans or by army green skinned vehicles and I did not ask. We did not question this and simply did as we were told.

On one occasion in bandit country our platoon lay up for the night in atrocious weather conditions so the platoon commander positioned a few sentries out to protect the platoon from any form of attack whilst the remainder set up ponchos (basic tent). This was a simple upper body waterproof garment that had a slit for the head to go through. It was an ancient bit of kit that should have been phased out years before. To use the poncho as a tent we had to tie the slit where the head went through to stop it leaking. We then used either bungees or string to tie the poncho corners to trees, fences, rocks or onto pegs that could be secured into the ground, basic, but effective. This duel garment remained in use before the MoD issued the military with cheap and nasty water proofs made from plastic that were about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Our doss bags (sleeping bags) were very good but not waterproof and without waterproof covers at that time. We set up the ponchos and got our heads down for a few precious hours in the torrential rain and freezing cold. Getting up for stag (sentry duty) in the middle of the night was a nightmare. One of the ongoing sentries would make his way carefully back to the area we were located without light and awaken the next group for sentry duty. The lads going on stag next would be shaken and told that they are on stag so they would quietly get themselves ready in the dark without light and normally whilst it was pissing down with rain, blowing a gale and freezing cold. Getting out of a basher in these conditions was not pleasant after a deep sleep and most soldiers dreaded the words ‘you’re on stag.’ A poncho doesn’t always completely protect a soldier from the elements therefore if part of the doss bag is outside the poncho then it simply gets wet. Some lads bought their own waterproof clothing because the issued waterproofs were inadequate for purpose. I had completed my stag and went back to get some shut eye for an hour or two. The rain was getter worse so I took my waterproofs off and jumped into my doss bag to dry off and get warm with my weapon placed as comfortable as possible between my legs with its magazine still attached and safety catch on. My boots were wet but my socks were only slightly damp and although I was wearing both, they would soon dry off in my sleeping bag. When the platoon woke in the morning some lads had drifted outside their ponchos still sleeping in their sodden doss bags. The rain was so severe it completely flooded the resting area. It took a long time for the doss bags to dry out and we still had another five days patrolling. It was hard, but we were used to this routine and the weather.

After a few months of the tour my hidden anxieties began to settle as we had now been in Northern Ireland without any major incidents, but things were about to take an un-expected turn for the worst.

The egg banjo as we named it was everyones favourite. It was a basic white bread roll with a greasy egg planted in the middle with plenty of red or brown sauce, delicious nevertheless. I was enjoying eating mine with some of the lads from my platoon and the company about to go out on operations. They were due a tour in bandit country and were preparing to leave camp that afternoon on four-ton trucks known as green skinned vehicles. As they left camp the hair on the back of my neck stood to attention watching the trucks driving out of the front gates as if on exercise back in England, only this was no exercise. Some hours later I was relaxing in the accommodation block when there was a news flash on the TV. Everyone in the room immediately stopped what they were doing as the newsreader reported that a military convoy had been blown up and a number of soldiers had been injured, some fatally, but the initial report was sketchy to begin with. We thought that the news reader was referring to the Royal Marines who were also operating in Northern Ireland and although there is a strong rivalry between the Marines and Paras any military casualty is appalling. We continued to listen in a state of shock and were none the wiser to who had been blown up or injured. Then we were called to the cookhouse by our hierarchy for a briefing and given the shocking news that the soldiers involved in the ambush were from our A and Support Company 2 Para. Names were read out from a list of those who were injured, missing or presumed dead. In the immediate confusion some of the information given was incorrect therefore unnecessary heartache was unintentionally placed on some individuals. Grown men were openly crying at the news and needless to say wanted to go out of camp and wreak havoc; this is what operational stress and war can do to individuals. Needless to say the battalion was confined to camp to calm down. The terrorists planned the operation with pinpoint accuracy using radio-controlled devices from across the border knowing they were safe. They also guessed that the military would send out a quick reaction force to assist their fallen comrades so they callously planted a secondary device that resulted in many more casualties. The explosions were so severe that some bodies were totally vaporised and those who were injured had life changing wounds.

The injured were taken to hospital and had to be protected so the battalion placed a twenty-four hour armed guard on the wards to protect them from any further attack in case the terrorists decided to try and finish them off - shocking, but true. For those who survived this inhuman attack and those who were involved in the clearing up process life would never be the same again. They will have seen incomprehensible sights beyond any descriptive power and these horrors they witnessed will be etched in their memories for ever. This attack was one of the worst casualty rates sustained by one unit serving in Northern Ireland throughout the thirty-seven year conflict and before the end of that particular tour the battalion had lost a further five soldiers totaling twenty-one killed from one unit.

Roll of Honour for the Warrenpoint Heroes

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

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

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

BLAIR – Lieutenant Colonel David – 27th August 1979 – Aged 40 – (Queen’s own Highlanders)

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

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

ENGLAND – Private Robert N. – 27th August 1979 – Aged 23 (2 Para)

FURSMAN – Major Peter – 27th August 1979 – Aged 35 (Para)

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

IRELAND – Lance Corporal Chris G. – 27th August 1979 – Aged 25 (2 Para)

JONES – Corporal Leonard – 27th August 1979 – Aged 26 (2 Para)

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

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

MacLEOD – Lance Corporal Victor – 27th August 1979 – Aged 24 – (Queen’s own Highlanders)

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

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

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

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


As the tour progressed we did have the opportunity to even the score during one of our own ambushes, but unfortunately things did not go according to plan. My platoon was on patrol in South Armagh and decided to do an ambush on a well-known railway bridge that the terrorists regularly tried to blow up. The officer in charge was a decent enough bloke but was a bit green to say the least and did not have the experience required to lead from the front. It didn’t help that the platoon sergeant was on leave at the time. This gave the senior corporal the opportunity to shine as acting platoon sergeant. After resting up for a while we approached the bridge in total darkness that caught the locals by surprise whereby they could not report our movements to the terrorists because they could not see or hear us. However instead of setting up a conventional ambush that is lethal when planned in the right way; the officer decided to take a major short cut with shocking consequences. He was the officer in charge and what unfolded next is down to his ill judgement and discipline and no one else. His first major mistake was not placing any cut off groups. The cut off group did exactly what it said on the tin. They would cut off any armed and dangerous terrorists (literally) if they managed to escape through the killing area or zone. His second mistake was telling the majority of the platoon to get their heads down. He then placed one lad with a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) on the ambush position with himself for company. I can only assume that the senior corporal was out ranked and was told to wind his neck in and the inexperienced officer may have pulled rank in the absence of the very experienced platoon sergeant. In the early hours and with only the two on the ambush the lad on the GPMG noticed something through his night sight under the bridge that was the killing area. His GPMG was fully loaded with a belt of ammunition containing two hundred rounds including armour-piercing rounds. Quietly releasing his safety catch and delicately running his finger along the trigger guard in readiness to obliterate those under the bridge he gently got the platoon commanders attention. He whispered that he could see movement under the bridge and that he could see weapons. He could not open fire because he had rules to obey (the yellow card). He was so certain of what he saw that he asked the platoon commander if he could open fire, but was swiftly told to place his safety catch on. The lad was infuriated but could do nothing more than he was told, as he could not raise his voice in an ambush position. Quite un-expectantly and without warning the platoon commander decided to jump over a small hedgerow (like he was bullet proof) and shouted: ‘stop army or I will fire. Those were the rules. He obviously assumed that the terrorists would stop what they were doing and give themselves up without a fight because our rules stated so. He was wrong and could have got someone including himself killed. All hell broke loose whereby the terrorists under the bridge cleverly dropped their weapons instantly (to avoid being shot) and scarpered. After all our rules stated that we could not fire unless our lives were at risk or we were being fired upon. Not one shot was fired by the terrorists or by our platoon – our hands were now tied. Some of the terrorists jumped into their vehicles, others simply ran off in different directions away from where the platoon commander shouted. At this time the remainder of the platoon including myself woke up to complete chaos. I observed one vehicle driving quickly towards what would have been the cut off positions; but there was no one manning them! That vehicle and all its occupants would have been mince meat if there was. Eventually light was dispatched into the dark night sky, but all in vain as the terrorists were well and truly gone. The platoon simply watched as the terrorists in their vehicles drove off with their rear tail lights visible until they faded out of sight. All the necessary agencies were called out which meant that we now had to cordon off the area until they had completed what they had to do. It came to light later that the people at the bridge were an active terrorist unit planting devices to harm service personnel or the RUC. Rather than listen to his experienced gunner the inexperienced platoon commander thought he was invincible and ignored his claims. That said he was acting correctly in that he was restricted to opening fire because of the rules, and he had to give a warning because that was in the rules. The aftermath was that the terrorists had managed to barricade the road with large boulders either side of the bridge to stop anyone approaching and plant two explosive devices. They planted one device on top of the bridge along the rail track to destroy the track or train and the other in a culvert that ran under the road below the bridge. They were hoping to blow the bridge then hit the police or military with the secondary device under the culvert. The bomb disposal squad dealt with the devices and detonated the bomb under the culvert. We were all warned that it was going to happen so prepared ourselves for the explosion. When the device was detonated the thunderous bang ripped the culvert to pieces and the majority of the road sending fragments of rock and dirt hurtling into the air. Unfortunately some cattle that chose to be nosy at the wrong time were vaporised too. The nearby cottages also suffered as the debris made its way back down to earth smashing through their roofs to ruin their day. We had to have our wits about us as the dirt and rocks began falling everywhere. Although we were glad no one was hurt we were devastated knowing that we had wasted a perfect opportunity to ambush an active service unit. If only we had set the ambush up as we had on so many occasions before. If only the platoon sergeant was there. If only.

This is a rare photo of the bridge in question curtesy of Rich Colquhoun

The rules of engagement in Northern Ireland i.e. dont shoot unless your life is in danger or you’re being shot at, were ridiculous. In a nutshell it meant wait to be shot at before returning fire and by then it may be too late, because someone may be dead. Terrorists had to be challenged before we opened fire, i.e. shouting: ‘stop army or I will fire,’ which simply forewarned the terrorists who would either run or fight back and certainly gave them the upper hand. The yellow card was a safety mechanism for those who were involved in prosecuting UK service personnel, just for doing their jobs. They were certainly not designed to protect the military. It did the opposite and instilled fear into young servicemen putting their lives on the line in fear of being prosecuted for doing their job in a hostile environment. Have these rules of engagement changed much today when service personnel are fighting for their country? We lost eighteen brave men at Warrenpoint including two soldiers from the Queens Own Highlanders. We also lost five more brave heroes before that particular tour was over totaling twenty one from 2 Para. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.

I served another long tour of the province having transferred over to 3 Para in Belfast only this time my family accompanied me. My wife was very supportive and was a rock throughout my long career. As for the kids they didn’t comprehend what was going on in Northern Ireland and I decided that it should remain that way at that time because it would only frighten them unnecessarily. The spouses who accompanied and supported their husbands throughout their careers deserve the utmost praise and will have certainly shared the anxiety felt by their loved ones. If there were medals awarded for support then every spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend of every service person would have a gold one for their total commitment.

My wife and I traveled by car to Scotland boarding the ferry across to Larne in Northern Ireland. When we disembarked in the dark of night we drove off the ferry and headed for the first roundabout to get directions. The kids were fast asleep exhausted from the long journey. Once at the first roundabout I looked for a sign that would direct me towards Belfast but the signposts were missing. As a matter of fact all the road signs were missing in the vicinity; removed to disorientate unwanted visitors like me. When those supporting the IRA observed a car with English number plates continuously circling a round -a- bout like a merry-go-round, it doesn’t take long to guess that it’s a lost squaddie. Within minutes an active service unit could pounce. My wife was worried and so was I, but I kept my anxiety to myself. It wasn’t long before we were entering areas that had murals painted on the side of houses and although it was great artistry it was clearly supporting the terrorists so I instantly knew we were in the wrong place. In those days I had no mobile phone so quickly about turned and headed in the opposite direction in the pitch darkness and without a clue where I was going. Every signpost or street name was missing so I had no option other than to ask someone for directions. It’s easier said than done as I searched the streets looking for someone who didn’t look dodgy. A bloke was walking down the road with his dog and he appeared ordinary if that makes sense, he didn’t look suspect. My way of thinking was that he doesn’t know who I am and I was extra cautious of him. He said that I was lucky it was him that I asked directions from and not somebody else stating that I was in the middle of a catholic estate and needed to get away from it immediately. He nervously gave me directions so I quickly headed off into the distance and reasonable safety. I had flashbacks of the recent horror on television as regards to the attack on the two young soldiers who were brutally murdered by an anti British crowd after being stranded in the wrong place at the wrong time in their vehicle. It was broadcast live and my wife and I were watching it unfold on TV at home months before we were due to be posted to Belfast. We arrived safely with guidance from my younger brother who was already in Ireland and slept at his house in camp for the night until we were issued with the keys to the married quarter that was going to be our home for the next two years.

I was out on the ground in the heart of bandit country most of the time during this particular tour doing a completely different job than the last time I was in Ireland with 2 Para in 79. Instead of walking the streets like a sitting duck I had a more covert role. My wife had the responsibility of sorting out schools for the kids. She also had to orientate herself to the layout of the camp and the difficult task of finding her way around the local shops and further afield in Belfast City Center. Simply walking to school was nerve-racking for me so I dont know how my wife felt. I felt unsettled not knowing who was clocking us or if the next vehicle passing was going to shoot my family and me. She was understandably very nervous but realised the danger of living in Northern Ireland at the time.

The wives were given a security brief explaining all the risks they may face to ensure that they were safe. During visits to Belfast my wife heard shootings and explosions that certainly unsettled her nerves whilst shopping. Whenever we visited Belfast, as a family the kids often slipped up and innocently mentioned things that would have been better kept quiet. One day whilst we were walking through Belfast shopping my son who was only six years old shouted loudly Look dad a soldier like you, as some green skinned vehicles vigilantly drove on the street. On other occasions he looked under the car copying what I did when I checked to ensure that there were no explosive devices (IED) attached to the underneath of my vehicle. My wife and I were particularly shocked when visiting certain shops. Some staff treated us with disgust once they heard we had an English ascent that was very frightening for my wife and confusing for the kids. Others would try to get my wife to write her address on the back of a cheque to confirm we were in the military. This is where the security brief came in handy for families so that they were warned in advance. Not everyone was like this and it must be stressed that the majority of people were very friendly.

Although my married quarter was in a secure camp my back garden was directly opposite the local houses, about fifteen meters away. There was a fence separating my house from the locals. What concerned me was that every time I went into my back garden to cut the grass I had visions of someone sniping at me. I kept the curtains closed at all times so the locals could not observe my every move. It may sound silly however it would only take a switched on terrorist a minute to take one of the houses over after holding the occupants hostage. They could quite easily go to the bedroom and set up a sniping position and be out before their victim hit the ground.

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