Soldier

Joins Up – Soldier

“I was born in Stratford. I was a bit of a wayward lad at the time, very young. I was against the world shall we say and I decided enough’s enough and went in to the army where I could sort myself out and it did.”

To Belfast

“I was over there in 1972, it was a place called Divas Road bus station and after there what they called the ‘no go’ areas which was all knocked down, erm we were then moved to Rodger Casement Park which was a Northern Ireland football place, just outside Belfast Anderson Town.
As soon as we landed and got in there you could see that there was trouble, at the very beginning we were there to keep the Catholics away, protect the Roman Catholics from the Protestants and then it went full circle round the opposite way, why I really don’t know, I really don’t know.”


Battle Scars

“We used to do two or three patrols a day and we were always being abused but that came part and parcel with the territory obviously and but we were talking to kids and things like that they would come up to you and start talking to you but you knew you could not keep speaking to them because they would get slapped or whatever or a lot of the girls were tarred and feathered out there at that particular time for talking to the British soldiers so they were intimidated as well as much as very one else.
We was having getting fired out once or twice a day, we had riots and had these shields. My shield broke and I caught a brick in the side of the head and went down, was in hospital for a few days with concussion and come back out and was out there again.
In Anderstown, I was driving a six wheel vehicle personnel carrier round ‘snipers corner’. Overhead there is a motorway they used to sit on the motorway and as the army went round they used to fire at them and one particular we got fired, I found in my seat a bullet stuck in the back, so I was quite lucky.”


Emotions

“Oh hated, hated the British with a passion with a passion, and I never meet squaddie who hated the Irish at all or never expressed it to myself. I suppose there was some obviously, bound to be, but ones that I meet never, never ever heard them say ‘we got to do them’ or anything like that, it was a job to us, most of us it was a job, some of us didn’t like doing it but we was paid to do it. it really did annoy me that they come over and start bombing over here and when they did the nail bombs, nail bombs are terrible things. We never were actually bombing Ireland, we were taking people in for questioning and that sort of thing but we never actually bombing anywhere or blowing anything up.rdquo;

Aftercare

“there was no counselling, back from Ireland nothing at all, I know a couple of guys that went do lally after they came back from Ireland and they are still a bit like that now. I used to laugh things off erm I’m that sort of a person, its like water off a duck’s back with me; other people keep it inside them and one guy I speak to every now and again and he’s well gone, he can speak to me all day long but he can’t speak to anybody who was not there and that how a lot of people felt like that.”

Leaves

“I made full screw, Two stripes corporal. I had stayed in again I would have gone out again, they wanted me with them and I said “my time’s up, third time unlucky”. If there had not been any conflict I probably would have stayed in but I did not want to go back out to Ireland again, it was very scary very scary.”

Protester

Origins

“I was born in Bloxwich, Staffordshire. My granny was Irish and we were reared as Catholics because of that. I wouldn’t say that my dad identified as Irish but as having a side of him, there was always the Irish culture around and most of my dad’s friends were Irish and were always in and out of the house. My mum used to sit us down and say ‘You’re not Irish, you’re English, your father was born over here’.”

Joins Up

“By the time of Bloody Sunday, I was living in Birmingham, it came on the television you saw the raw reality, and then by the time, the evening news came up, it was sanitised. There were gunmen, and there were bombers. I remember being so angry. Obviously, I was upset about the deaths. The thing that really motivated me to say ‘I’m going to do something about this’ was the total distortion in the media. It was really personalised – how dare they do that in my name! I was crying with anger. The blame was all put on people who had been shot and I couldn’t believe it, I was really in shock and angry. And that’s what made me become involved in Ireland.”


The Birmingham Bombs, 1974

“Twenty–one people were killed. I was actually working in a Catholic school at the time, it was awful because five of the kids in the school had been up in the town for somebody’s birthday when the bombs went off. No–one was injured, but they’d seen a lot. It was a Catholic school, a lot of Irish teachers and some of them were crying saying they were ashamed to be Irish, which made me very angry.

The pub bombings totally squashed politics in Birmingham, not just the Irish politics. The Troops Out movement had been founded today and there were people who joined who were mad – they wanted us to go door–to–door canvassing after the pub bombings. I like my teeth – so I just said I’ll take the papers and sell them but I’m not going to do that.

In 1977, three years after the bombing, there were fisticuffs at the Trades Council. Do you know Mike Walsh? his branch put forward to put Britain out of Ireland. There was uproar. There was ex–soldiers there and everything. It had literally come to blows, it was only the chairs that weren’t flying, the steward had to put people out and everything, it was that bad in Birmingham.”


Hunger Strike

“The hunger strike made a heck of a difference because partly I think it was Bobby Sand’ s election because Margaret Thatcher was saying ‘A crime is a crime is a crime’ and these are terrorists, and then a prisoner on hunger strike gets elected. British people are funny, I think – speaking as one of them. They really do believe in this parliamentary system, and if people were voting – if people voted for him, how can they do that to him? People who were quite right–wing in the trade unions was saying things like that, and I think that were the difference, and we stopped getting abuse.”


< < < Previous | Next > > >
Download the Exhibition PDF