British Army Service: 1-WFR, Northern Ireland 1989/91
I joined my Battalion, The 1st Battalion Worcestershire & Sherwood Foresters Regiment (1 WFR), in April 1989 in Omagh, Northern Ireland at the age of 17 years, like many others. I had asked to go to 1 WFR as I wanted to serve in Northern Ireland (NI), the only operational posting the British Army had at the time. 1 WFR was on a residential 24 month posting to NI of which I served 22 months with 4 Platoon, B Company.
Life in Battalion was split between operations and camp duties, luckily I preferred operations to being in camp and that was where we spent most of our time. I think on one 4 month duties cycle I only spent 2 weeks in Omagh, the rest of the time on operations in West Tyrone and the borders of Fermanagh. Operations consisted of endless patrols, vehicle check points, lurks, soft target protection, incident cordons, all year around and in all weathers. Rural operation meant patrols lasted 3 to 5 days with constant tasking. Urban operations meant constant patrols lasting hours not days and QRF duties meant short mortar base plate patrols and incident responses, unless it was safer to stay on the ground and then we only returned to the patrol base to clean the place.
When in camp the guard duties and bullshit was endless, when in a rifle company the REMF’s (Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers) tended to keep to their scaly selves but still tried to fuck you around when they could get away with it. The guard duties meant mindlessly standing on posts and in grotty sangers trying to stay alert, warm and hopefully finding a fresh porn mag to remind you what teenager of your age should have been doing! Even though op’s meant little straight sleep, being wet most the time, hot in the summer and literally freezing in the winter it also meant little bullshit. I think at 18 to 19 years of age I was more use to sleeping outside than I was inside and had no complaints.
What little down time we had usually spent trying to get as drunk as possible, the British Army is a man’s army and even on op’s we were allowed our two cans of beer a day. Constant discipline, operations and mind numbing duties leads to boredom, especially in young men, well teenagers. Pranks of an extreme nature were routine as was violence but such was life in a residential infantry battalion in Northern Ireland. Idiots and the incompetent were generally educated with fists and boots and generally shaped up as shipping out was not really an option.
Northern Ireland sorted the competent field soldiers from the barrack room soldiers quickly as weakness were quickly identified. It always amazed me and still does how many supposed soldiers and tactical operators can’t handle being cold, wet, hungry, without sleep or without their teddy bears for more than a few hours. On the whole we all suffered and hated the shit conditions we were living in, but we sucked it up and did our job. Teenagers and those in their early twenties should be out getting laid and enjoying themselves not being constantly exhausted, wet, cold and pissed off, but I didn’t join the British Army because I wanted to be an average teenager. I wish we could have been pushed harder and the powers at be had let us teach the terrorist scum the lessons they deserve, as I am sure most of those that served in the rifle companies in the infantry battalion in NI would agree with me!
On the whole, looking back within the company and platoons people had differences but things were sorted out and the job got done, slacking was not tolerated. But, I must call out someone who was a fucking liability and thinking of him pisses me off till today, let’s call him “Pam”. Pam came to 4 Plt as section/multiple commander about two thirds of the way through the tour, he was just posted back to battalion from being a recruit instructor a Depot Litchfield. In my opinion his pre-operations anxiety attack in the guard room should have got him a medical discharge but I was not so fortunate and ended up in his team for a 4 to 6 week op’s tour. As I remember, tasking were done when he had no other option and everything possible was done to avoid sleeping outside of a barn or a structure. All I can say was that Pam a coward and scared shitless and should not have been there. Due, I expect to barrack room ass kissing and time served Pam got promoted to Sargent and was tasked to run Clady PVCP for a subsequent op’s tour. As, I remember during that op’s tour my team commander “Mac” can be thanked for the Company Commander and Company Sergeant Major turning up at Clady, which prevented the good guys getting into a lot of trouble for doing the right thing. Not the only time “Mac” had my back… Cheers bro! Sadly, Pam stayed in the Battalion where he existed with others of his ilk, which in the long run added ammo to my disillusionment with staying in the British Army.
Now, as for the terrorist who were greatly romanticized by their admirers in Hollywood and the U.S. in general, they were murdering scum! I live at this time in America and it astounds me how Americans are in denial that they supported, funded and armed terrorism in Northern Ireland that targeted British soldiers, police, their families and innocent civilians. Yanks, it’s a fact!! Up until President George W. Bush terrorist scum like Jerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were treated as celebrities by American politicians and Presidents, remember than the next time you need The British Military to help you fight another war!! In their defense having lived in the U.S. for too long I can say Americans don’t really know much of what happens outside of the U.S. let alone being able to find places like NI on a map…
I don’t know how from an operation point of view the Irish Terrorists can be glorified for murdering off duty police, UDR, regular army personnel and their families. And let’s not forget the innocent civilians, including children they murdered in NI and mainland UK. Blowing up routine overt police and military patrols or sniping them from across the Southern Ireland border was not a difficult task, pretty simple really. Whenever the terrorists went up against the British security forces face-to-face they died, then like the cowards they were and still are their political mouthpieces went crying human rights violations to their friends in the U.S. and E.U.
It’s unbelievable that recently British soldiers have been arrested for deaths that happened on operations during the troubles in NI while terrorists convicted of killing British security forces and civilians walk free due to the British government’s bullshit peace process, which to me was a betrayal of the British Military personnel who served in NI. Soldiers forget that they are the tools of governments and what do those people in government have in common with the average infantryman? Nothing, they despise them! So, how can you expect their support when you are no longer serving their needs, you can’t, so don’t expect it!
I am sure the terrorist issue in NI could have been solved in a night or two if the powers at be had the balls to give the order, but they didn’t. Looking back NI was a very positive experience, I learnt a lot. I was still innocent and patriotic in a lot of ways and this experience helped me to start to see the reality in things. So, total respect to 99.9% of those I served with, we busted our balls and I am sure would have done more if allowed to!! These short and very politically correct paragraphs and photos do nothing to really illustrate the life of a teenager for 22 months in Northern Ireland with a British Infantry Battalion in 89/91. Hopefully it gives you a taste and maybe one day I can write about some of the more colorful stories but I expect the reality would be a bit to disturbing for most, unless of course you are part of our culture!!
Many thanks to Matt Trott and Dicky Ardron for giving me access to their photos!
Orlando – Risks Inc. – www.risks-incorporated.com
“Stay Low & Keep Moving”
- Formal Education: So, I am really not stupid…?
- British Army Service: A Misspent Youth Or Was it!!
- Video: For Queen & Country, featuring B-Coy, 1 WFR in Northern Ireland
- Photos: B-Coy & Recce Plt, 1-WFR 1989/91