Northern Ireland

After returning from Cyprus at the end of 1998, the battalion was getting ready to take on the role of PRB. During this build up we were subject to intensive NI training, this was because soldiering in Northern Ireland is vastly different to normal soldiering.

The training took place in Hythe and Lydd on the south coast of England, and lasted around six weeks. The training was made as realistic as possible in as much that we spent our time in a 'SF base' in a mock village with soldiers from different regiments playing the part of the local civpop (civilian population). We practiced patrolling in our 'brick' as part of a multiple and riot training. Once this was complete we were ready to go.

The first time I went out was when the Battalion was called over to assist in public order in Belfast. Nothing much happened and we were only there for two weeks; still, it was good to get 'blooded'. This period of getting called over for public order arose every summer and Easter during the so called 'marching season'. We would assist the RUC during the Drumcree standoff, potential riot situations in Portadown and Belfast.

My first six week tour of South Armagh was a totally different experience. In this part of Ireland it was deemed to dangerous to drive round in Landrovers, so we had to be helicoptered in to our patrol area; patrols were carried out daily. We learnt how to 'fast rope' (slide down a rope) out of a helicopter hovering at around 60ft. We would patrol the whole of South Armagh, areas like, Crossmaglen, Newtownhamilton, Forkhill and Newry. During this period I was promoted to Lance Corporal and took command of a four man team.

South Armagh is a nice part of the world, however, the locals do not take kindly to the British Army being there. On one stretch of road there is the infamous sign 'sniper at work'; South Armagh has seen some of the bloodiest fighting during the troubles. Fortunately for us, and the local civilians, there was relative peace during our time out there. Apart from the odd bomb threat or the finding of dead bodies, nothing much happened.