Veteran Irish journalist and author Ed Moloney and his colleague Bob Mitchell continue their investigations into the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a British Army death squad that operated in the north-east of Ireland during the early 1970s. Its notoriety and reckless nature (with carloads of heavily armed undercover soldiers carrying out random drive-by shootings of the civilian populace in the city of Belfast) eventually led to its replacement with a number of other covert groups including the infamous Force Research Unit or FRU. By examining the 1972 attempted assassination of Brendan Hughes, Officer Commanding D Company, 2nd Battalion, Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (and widely regarded as one of the most effective and thoughtful field commanders of his generation), Moloney and Mitchell have uncovered new evidence of the British Army’s modus operandi during the early years of the war in the North of Ireland. Evidence which corroborates Brendan Hughes own testimony of events from that time.
The military mastermind behind the introduction of the MRF and other covert units was the British death squad supremo, General Sir Frank Kitson GBE, KCB, MC & Bar, DL. On the basis of his “successes” in Ireland he rose to become Commander-in-Chief of the British Land Forces and Aide-de-Camp to the British head of state in the 1980s. In this BBC news-documentary from 1975 examining “war gaming” exercises Kitson can be viewed in action. The nature of the exercise, as described by the BBC Panorama programme, show that the concerns and ambitions of the British Army leadership in the 1970s ran far beyond the conflict in Ireland:
“Filmed at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, this programme offers a fascinating insight into officer training. Six years in Northern Ireland have given the British Army unique experience in counter insurgency and internal security techniques. Sandhurst recognises that the Army’s Ulster experience could – one day – have to be used in Britain, and there is a need to train officers for that possibility. So imagine a world where Scotland has left the United Kingdom, where some English cities are thinking of following suit and where law and order is breaking down in our towns. It may seem far fetched, but the recruits of Sandhurst are presented with just such a scenario.”
If you have difficulty viewing the documentary due to your location try installing Tor on your device (video guide here). The new investigation by Ed Moloney and Bob Mitchell, using redacted British military records, can be read in full here.
UPDATE: Here is the BBC 1975 Panorama documentary featuring Kitson, via YouTube (indirect link I’m afraid).
- “Northern Ireland” 48% Protestant, 47% British – So Why Is Ireland Still Partitioned? (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Counter-Gangs – The Origins Of British Terrorism In Ireland (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Fantasy Troubles Part 4 (ansionnachfionn.com)
- That Infamous Nolan Show (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Move Over Belfast – Welcome To Béal Feirste (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Six Degrees Of Paramilitary Separation (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Unionism Closes Ranks (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Ian Hurst, Derek Haslam And Hackgate (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Dolours Price (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Britain’s War In Ireland – Learning The Lessons (ansionnachfionn.com)