This name has dogged The Royal Green Jackets from the Early 1970`s.
The term falling plates is used within the military as a target but also it is widely known as a derogatory name for an easy target or loss of life.
It was first used in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” in the early 70`s when the Green Howards Regiment suffered a significant number of loss of good men.
This name was also passed onto The Royal Green Jackets in the early 70`s as they too suffered loss of men, the RGJ have made numerous tours of the province throughout the troubles, and this name as dogged the regiment from there on.
Many fights would break out within the army if ever you used the term “Falling Plates” within earshot of the RGJ, on one occasion the term “Falling Plates” made national press, after the RGJ lost a soldier in Balleek, Armagh, when the RGJ came back to Drummadd Barracks, in Armagh City, they found paper plates hanging in the cookhouse with the words another “Falling Plates” put there by the Royal Marines, and also, other despicable things to upsetting mention, this caused fights inside and outside the Barracks, we are told that a marine was hospitalised during the events that took place after the cookhouse issue.
A former Rifleman alerted the men and the Winchester press to the situation, where upon a Facebook Group was formed, this became a worldwide issue, a total insult to every Rifleman. This one officer calling the cafe “Falling Plates” had brought the whole regiment into disrepute, letters of protest where sent and untold emails by former Riflemen to the Regimental HQ in Peninsula Barracks, where one senior officer, John Poole-Warren, replied in the local news paper, that he did not see a problem with the name.
The biggest shock to this fine regiment was for a high ranking officer to call a cafe in the old guard room of the Royal Green Jackets ancestral home, Peninsula Barracks, “Falling Plates,” this was an insult to the men, it seems no respect or consideration was given to the men or the regiment when naming it. I wonder if Sir John Moore would have allowed this to happen, after all the Royal Green Jackets are taught mutual respect between Officers and Men, as passed down by Sir John Moore.
The local MP Steve Brine was also alerted to the situation by a fellow Rifleman, the protests went on for over a year until the RGJRA and the cafe owner changed the name of the cafe to “Cafe Peninsula” ( The owner of the cafe who was in no way to blame for this as she would not have known the background history to the term ” Falling Plates“) but the Officer and others who gave it the go ahead would have.
An acclaimed Rifleman, who had been awarded the Military Medal, for his contribution to anti terrorism measures in a hearts and minds offensive whilst serving in the Northern Ireland province, had also stood firm with the Officer, whose statement had compounded the issue, (some would say an act of mutiny, in that the Officer had jumped ship, putting money before his men and that of the respect of his men, his Regiment and the Army, flying in the face of everything the ethos that had been bestowed by the great man himself, none other than Sir John Moore) he too could see no problem with the name. He had been awarded the The Military Medal for shooting Jim Bryson and Patrick Mulvenna, Bryson being a key player in the freedom Army, the IRA. He was Gazetted for his bravery award on the 18th of June 1974. Supplement page 46328 to The London Gazette page 7126.
This whole episode had made us as a Regiment re-evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, some would say a very fine weeding, it made a them and us scenario, and bought into the arena, a situation of, “One Mans’ Army is another Man’s’ freedom fighter… the question that now arises is and as controversial as it might seem, “What’s it all about, is it correct in the light of the signing of the peace treaty to award the Soldier who was gazetted, for the killing of Bryson, when it is ok for an Officer to see no problem in calling an ex Military guardroom and jail, by a derogatory term which was used to belittle those serving the Sovereign, when used as a cafe. The ironic thing, was this Officer able to see in to the future, a fortune teller, after all some years down the line the very person that these chaps was serving was inviting into her Palace a terrorist activist of a freedom Army, inviting by the shake of a hand and sitting down to tea… the rest is in the making the brewing we will have to see it unfold.
The Cafe was renamed to Cafe Peninsula, the cafe has since been taken over and is now called
(Gorgeous handmade food for all occasions)
This is the link and story run by the Hampshire Chronicle news story about, “Falling Plates”
14th June 2010
Café name is a slur on regiment, say veterans
ARMED Forces veterans have slammed a new Winchester café saying its name is an insult to their fallen comrades.
They are angry the Falling Plates Café has opened its doors at their historic regimental home, calling it a “slap in the face” and “an insult to the memory of the dead”.
The former Royal Green Jackets (RGJ) soldiers say Falling Plates is a derogatory nickname for heavy casualties suffered in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The ex-soldiers say the term — which refers to the stationary targets at a shooting range — is disrespectful to those who have given their lives for their country.
A 221-strong Facebook group is demanding the café, at Peninsula Barracks, changes its name before up to 3,000 ex-Green Jackets flood into the city for a reunion on July 10.
Winchester-based Sean Wheeler, who served with RGJ, now The Rifles, from 1989-95, said: “They [RGJ veterans] are very angry about it, the nickname has caused a lot of fights in the past.
“I don’t think we’re being oversensitive — it’s disrespectful to the Green Jackets.”
The 38-year-old, of Romsey Road, added: “They lost men and it’s disrespectful to their families.
“She’s a German lady (the owner) and she put the café’s name through the museum.
“I’d have thought the people in the museum would have a bit more sense than to okay this.”
Tony Cotton, 47, who served with RGJ from 1983-89, said: “I don’t know whether it’s a big mistake or a provocation.”
Steve Barrett, who toured Northern Ireland with the regiment in the 1970s, said: “I’ve seen so many fights about this nickname.
To have this put on our old barracks is like a slap in the face.”
But Lt Col John Poole-Warren, chairman of the Royal Green Jackets Association, denied it was a derogatory term and said it was named after a military shooting competition.
“The name was chosen by an ex regimental sergeant-major who works in the RGJ museum in Winchester,”
“I don’t think there’s any reason for the name to be changed.”
Annette Bergen, café owner, said: “I did not mean to cause any offence, I chose the name in good faith and I chose it after running it past people at the museum.
“If I had known it was controversial I would not have chosen it.
“In the foreseeable future I have no intention of changing the name, we have had many positive comments and only two that have been negative.”
Miss Bergen, originally from Germany, opened the café in April.
It came less than a year after she co-founded Leaf & Bean in Fulflood with Daniel Mills.
But she struck out on her own after deciding that business was not big enough for two.
People of Winchester please read this, the Officer and RSM would have known about this one incident years ago and this made National press at the time.We are not about shutting the cafe just a name change. If you go onto our site you can read more comments and new names for Annette this was post on the site for a ex RGJ. I can remember clearly one incident where the use of the slagging term ” falling plates” was clearly directed to 1rgj in fermanagh in 1987, when on the first day of his arrival l/cpl tom hewitt on patrol in advanced party taking over from marines was shot in the head from across the border in beleek by an ira sniper.Later that evening when 1rgj visited the naafi,the marines had placed a figure 11 target up and written on it ,green jackets take it in the head,falling plates.There was lots of fighting between these units and serious injuries inflicted upon some,the trouble lasted days and progressed as the rest of the company arrived,this incident made the national newspapers and was the reason why helmets then become worn as compulsory,this still lingers and is hurtful in my memory ,other comrades memories who remember,this alone to me justify s enough reason why the cafe called by this name should be renamed,. i cannot believe there is such a cafe with this name in such a place,what a travesty to the memories of the fallen heroes,i am totally disgusted and can only say ,something should be done to rectify this ,any genuine ex green jacket knows his history and would have some knowledge of this term being used in memory,so if a comrade in arms of the same rgj has no knowledge of this,i can only assume he has been locked away in the cupboard under the stairs for many years. To a green jacket it would be like calling the sky green,now lets rally around this boys and have our voices heard in memory of those who are now unable to speak.
Hi Steve, As you know the origin of falling plates, you could explain it to the press, as far as the stigma that has been placed not only on us, the Royal Green jackets, but Green Howards, in the early 70s in Northern Ireland the Gre…en Howards lost a few good soldiers trying to keep the peace out there, it was a diffi…cult job to do at the best of times, but other members of the Armed Forces thought it was funny thus giving them the name, ” Falling Plates “, which to me is an insult to the memory of those who lost their lives out there. regards John
This is from Tony cotton shown on our site. Annette, i hope you read this,we no you didn’t mean to upset anyone,it was a mistake,the powers that be are more to blame for telling you it was ok.
change the name and u’ll make a whole regiment of friends and i am sure we’ll invite you to our reunion.you can see how the blokes are upset.you can make the guys happy,you hold… the key.we do understand its hassel for you but it’ll be worth it .its not just a storm in a teacup.
Dear Annette, can I ask you please to rethink the name of the cafe, it’s only a name but the one you have chosen is making so many people unhappy. I’m sure you can find a compromise that will suit everyone.
I have had a long hard think about this one not only is it disrespectful to name anything military this. (regardless weather their green jackets or Green Howards they are all fallen hero brothers) it just goes to show what the bureaucratic people really think of the soldiers past and present. (DEAD OR ALIVE).
From Gary Best …. They obviously have no respect for those who are brave enough to step up to the mark and lay their lives on the line for their country.
Thought I’d heard the last of that saying in the 70’s. Tony Mayers.
Philp Morrison on our group pages…. The comment was also used in s amagh in 1981 where 1 rgj lost 5 in a bombing and deano in a shooting rip guys !!!!!!!!.
This Comment was left on our group site by NoHandsignals….. It goes back a long way, it was a bad nick name given to the all the RGJ for the amount of fellow rifleman killed in NI. The regiments that called us this name where the ones that had only one battalion and did NI tours once every couple of years. We had Battalions serving in NI from 1969 to 92. When we became The Rifles,:Please support our cause!!!!!.
This Comment was left on our Face Book site by Bob Ross…. I have just read Lt.Col.John Poole-Warrens comment in the Hampshire Chronicle saying he did not think that ‘Falling plates’ was derogatory.It just shows how out of touch he is with the feelings of Riflemen,and he is meant to be the Chairman of our association.Wake up man!.
This Comment by Len Readle left on our Face Book Site; Typical Diplomatic ****
If he or the other turds there can’t see it, then they aint true Black n Greens
This was the standard attempted insult thrown at us so many times back in the day, caused many a punch up.
I think in this day and age a visit will not work, a letter referring her to the posts here, but better, a letter explaining the support against this name, then the news paper, if not.. well then early July it is.
2 RGJ Recce
I can’t believe that this has got to go as far as it has, the Regimental Museum should know better, anyone who says that they believed it as not being a derogatory term are either lying or completely out of touch with The Royal Green Jackets, EVERY ex Green Jacket I know sees this name as an insult, it’s time something was done before the reunion in July because quite frankly I can see trouble coming.
The cafe would have been a natural magnet to all ex members of the regiment revisiting Winchester myself included and it will still be but for all the wrong reasons now.
A little commonsense should have been applied and a more suitable name chosen given the buildings history, a name such as “The old Guardroom Cafe” “The Green Jacket Cafe” “The Peninsula Cafe” or even a little more obscure “The Imber Clump” any of these would have been better than “The Falling Plates”.
I originally trained in Winchester in 1972 and returned there in 1980 where I spent another 6 very happy years, I still think of Winchester as my second home and it saddens me to see that commonsense has not been applied when naming this cafe, as Green Jackets we are normally much better than this.
Kevin Stevens Oxford.
This Comment from Paul Axtell …..Most Ruperts tend to live in a bubble so that they forget the feelings of others. Its when it explodes in there faces that they wonder what all the fuss is about. I echo Bob “Wake up that man” listen to the those Sjt’s who use to wisper in your ear “no sir not like that,like this”–” look after your men and they will look after you
Call it the ‘Guard room’ after all thats what it was!!!!!!!!!!!!
Swift & Bold.
This Comment by Martin Wyness on our Group Site ……. well on the 71-73 2RGJ tour in Derry I first heard this nickname but then it was the Anglians or the Green Howards who lost a couple of lads in the little diamond.Heard it again in the 90s when an ex-engineer said it to me about the RGJ needless to say he didnt get the chance to say anything else!.
This Comment by Michael Allan Elliott ……This rupert is too busy drinking pimms to give a **** about the blokes !!!!!.
This Comment by sean Wheeler……Gents this ex officer has said that this is not directed towards the men and regiments of the ROYAL GREEN JACKETS but toward china plates.THEN WHY and i REPEAT WHY does it also say on the advertising boards SWIFT service and BOLD flavours AND a drawing of A BAKER RIFLE i rest my case !!!!!!!!!!
Sourced from the Hampshire Chronicle.
Sourced from Google
The Bryson Report DVD
This is an historical event in The Royal Green Jackets History
This DVD has now been seen by many and a film production company has made an approach to us maybe a film in the future.
A narrated version of The Bryson Incident that was written by Ed Maloney and James Kinchin-White about a disputed incident that took place in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast on 31st August 1973 involving The Royal Green Jackets and IRA gunmen.
This Narrated DVD was made by Memorial At Peninsula Ltd
An Original Article By Ed Maloney and James Kinchin-White
Pictures are from Getty Images, Google and Facebook
Snipers Voice from The BBC Families at War Program
Narrated by Natural Reader
Assembled by Memorial At Peninsula Ltd©
The Bryson Report
Events of 31st of August in 1973.
The former anti tanks Rifleman of 1 RGJ, who then moved to 3 RGJ.
This incident made him very famous throughout the Regiment, he was Gazetted for his bravery award on the 18th of June 1974.
Supplement page 46328 to The London Gazette page 7126.
sourced from www.thegazette.co.uk
Under his own admission in a TV Documentary he did not give any warning to the 2 men
The documentary is at the base of this page sourced from You-tube.
The Bryson Report
James Bryson 25 years, an IRA activist, he was shot and fatally wounded by undercover British soldiers in the Ballymurphy Area on the 31st of August in 1973.
(The shot-up car, a Vauxhall Viva and not a Hillman Hunter as the RGJ Chronicle mistakenly described it, used by Jim Bryson, Patrick Mulvenna, ʻBimboʼ OʼRawe and Frank Duffy)
Jim Bryson and Patrick Mulvenna were IRA volunteers shot during a gun battle from a concealed British Army observation post of The Royal Green Jackets on the Ballymurphy Road, He later died in hospital on the 22nd of September 1973. Patrick Mulvenna (19), also an IRA activist was shot dead in the same incident. Both men were getting out of a car when they were shot.
Historians’ understanding of the development of the Provisional IRA in the 1970‘s and its transition into a smaller, leaner but more politically attuned group – the precursor of the body that endorsed the Republicans’ journey into the peace process – may have to be revised in the light of a recently acquired British military account of a crucial phase in the war between the IRA and the British Army.
This Poem was written by Sheila at the Belfast Primary School in the April of 1972
SOLDIERS IN ULSTER
Out in the wind and the rain
Taunted and ridiculed time again
Vainly endeavoring peace to maintain
Who are you
A BRITISH SOLDIER.
What are your thoughts as you stand erect?
Buildings and citizens you try to protect
Every newcomer you must suspect
Courageous and valiant
Your chosen career took you over the sea
Far from your friends and country free
And way out sight of your family
Gallant and brave
Hundreds of people you`ve helped save
Thanks to your speedy actions brave
Alas, those of your comrades their lives they gave
We thank you oh
Yours is a debt we can never repay
Nobody knows how long you must stay
From the morning to the evening, from day to day
We thank you oh
(The original poem is at the base of this page)
The Bryson Report By Ed Moloney and James Kinchin-White
“The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ) Chronicle of 1973”, a privately circulated journal which includes an account of a tour of West Belfast by the regiment’s 3rd Battalion during the summer and autumn of 1973, challenges a central pillar of the Provisional leadership’s narrative of their own rise to power.
It reveals that the IRA’s re-organization into cells – credited with rescuing the organization from defeat in the late 1970’s – was forced upon the group not because of a destructive ceasefire called by the IRA’s national leadership in Dublin in 1974-75, as the conventional account claims, but because of critical setbacks in Belfast more than a year earlier when Gerry Adams was the city’s commander.
The RGJ account reveals that after a series of security force successes against the IRA in the August of 1973, the then Belfast commander, Ivor Bell planned a massive re-organization in the city: scrapping the IRA’s battalion and company structure and replacing it with thirty-two cells or Active Service Units (ASU’s). The new cells would be under his direct control. By contrast the accepted account, which has underpinned the rise of the current Sinn Fein leadership, says that the cell system was not introduced until 1977 in response to the setbacks caused by the 1974-75 ceasefire.
This revelation comes alongside a graphic description in the RGJ Chronicle of an undercover ambush by soldiers from the regiment which resulted in the deaths of two prominent IRA members from Ballymurphy in West Belfast. One was Jim Bryson, a notorious and fearsome gunman and the other was Patrick Mulvenna, who was Gerry Adams’ brother-in-law.
The two men had been chosen by Bell to be members of the new Ballymurphy cell and their deaths were hailed by the Green Jackets as evidence that the British were “inexorably winning a kind of military victory in Belfast”. Their killing was characterized publicly then and ever since as a chance event but this previously undisclosed background raises the possibility that the ambush may have been intelligence-led.
The Royal Green Jackets account challenges the hitherto prevailing version of history by showing that long before the 1974-75 ceasefire the IRA was in such danger of defeat in Belfast, its most important arena, that the leadership in the city was obliged to contemplate a radical re-structuring to survive. This new account suggests that attempts by the Adams’ leadership to put the blame on the Dublin leaders for the IRA’s woes in the mid-1970‘s, at least in Belfast, may at least be misplaced or overstated.
While Ivor Bell planned a large scale re-organization of the Belfast Brigade in the late summer of 1973, a series of security force successes against the IRA at that time, including the killing of Bryson and Mulvenna, forced him to scale his plans back and instead, according to the Chronicle, just twelve cells were created, each with five members. Nonetheless this was a radical break with IRA organizational tradition and a pointer to the pressure then facing the IRA in Belfast.
The established version of IRA history dates the genesis of the cell structure to a conspiracy against the IRA leadership led by Gerry Adams, Ivor Bell and Brendan Hughes from the cages of the Long Kesh internment camp from 1974 onwards. That conspiracy was inspired, according to this rendering, by an open-ended ceasefire called by the older, mostly Southern leadership.
The Adams’ critique of the 1974-75 ceasefire claimed that the IRA’s then leaders – represented in the Northerners’ demonology by Ruairi O Bradaigh and Daithi O Conaill – were suckered into the cessation with false promises of withdrawal by the British who used the time to reconfigure security policy.
Special category status was withdrawn from IRA inmates in the jails, internment was phased out, the RUC was given primacy in security matters and soon police interrogation centers were producing a conveyor belt of confessions to be processed by new no-jury, single judge courts and the jails began filling up with IRA prisoners who were now treated as common criminals.
THE IRA IN RETREAT
The IRA’s Dublin leadership was blamed for bringing the organisation to the verge of defeat, a charge that both justified the Adams-led conspiracy and produced the plan to re-organize the IRA.
While there is no doubt that the Adams’ critique had considerable validity and that the 1974-75 ceasefire did enable the British to revamp security and seriously intensify pressure on the IRA, it is also evident, if the Royal Green Jackets’ version is correct, that the IRA in Gerry Adams’ own backyard in Belfast was in such deep trouble that cellular re-organization was forced upon its leaders long before all this.
According to the conventional narrative of this period the cellular structure was not introduced into the IRA until 1977, four years later, when Adams and Bell were released from jail and other changes were introduced, including the concept of the “long war”, the creation of a Northern Command and Republican involvement in agitational politics, a transformation in the Provisionals’ character that led to the growth and ascendancy of Sinn Fein and ultimately to the peace process.
When Ivor Bell implemented his cellular plan, Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes were already in jail. They had been arrested in July 1973 as they attended a Belfast Brigade meeting in the Iveagh district of West Belfast, apparently betrayed by another brigade member whose work for the British was a major factor in the organization’s degradation. The fact that Bell began the cellular re-organization so soon after Adams’ arrest suggests that the plans were in the pipeline for some time before. Bell replaced Adams as Belfast commander and stayed in that post until his arrest in the Spring of 1974. Brendan Hughes escaped from Long Kesh and replaced Bell as IRA commander in the city until he too was re-arrested in the early summer of 1974.
Although the RGJ Chronicle does not deal with events in the IRA subsequent to the arrest of Ivor Bell and Brendan Hughes, it is safe to assume that their successors, who were loyal to the pro-ceasefire leadership in Dublin, reverted back to the brigade structure and scrapped Bell’s cells. This is implicit in Brigadier James Glover’s famously leaked assessment of the IRA in 1978, ‘Northern Ireland: Future Terrorist Trends’ which dates 1977 as the year in which the cell structure was brought in. Glover also describes Gerry Adams as “the prime architect” of the change.
THE AMBUSH IN THE BULLRING
There were very few things that the Provisional IRA in Belfast and the British Army would agree about in August 1973 but on one issue they had no argument: James Emerson Bryson was a very dangerous character indeed. “A controlled psychopath”, is how an IRA colleague described Bryson to one of the authors in 2001. “A cunning ruthless killer”, was the judgement of the Battalion Intelligence Officer with the Royal Green Jackets regiment in his five-page account of the ambush by his soldiers that led to Jim Bryson’s death and the closing of one of West Belfast’s most violent chapters in the early years of the Troubles.
Bryson was only twenty-six when bullets fired by a soldier hidden in a covert observation post slammed into the back of his neck and mortally wounded him. But the Ballymurphy IRA activist had long before achieved legendary status in the Republican community and helped make his neighborhood in West Belfast one of the toughest and most uncompromising Provisional strongholds in Northern Ireland.
The ambush that was to claim his life also took that of Patrick Mulvenna whose wife, Frances was a sister of Ballymurphy’s most famous son, Gerry Adams. A cousin was Gerry Kelly, another Ballymurphy stalwart and currently a junior minister in the power sharing government in Belfast, who took part in the first IRA bombing of London in March 1973. At the time of the Bullring ambush, Mulvenna was commander of the Ballymurphy IRA ASU, arguably the cream of Ivor Bell’s new Belfast cell structure.
Although these days he disavows any connection to the IRA, Gerry Adams became ‘B’ Company’s very first commander when the local unit decided in early 1970 to break with the mainstream IRA, soon known as the Official IRA, and align with the newly formed breakaway group that, thanks to lazy journalism, would be dubbed the Provisionals. Formed in angry protest at the Officials’ failure to defend Catholic areas from Loyalist and police attacks the previous summer and committed to the gun as the only solution to political problems, the Provisionals were a natural home for the likes of Jim Bryson.
That Ballymurphy’s IRA activists became so feared and fearsome in the years following the birth of the Provisionals was due in no small part to the presence in the ranks of ‘B’ Coy of remorseless gunmen like Jim Bryson. There was, consequently, one other thing the IRA and the British Army could agree on that late summer day in 1973. Bryson’s death was a huge blow to the IRA; that of Patrick Mulvenna and the wounding and capture of a third member of the ASU completed a miserable day for the Provo command in Belfast. As the RGJ Chronicle account of the deadly ambush put it: “(The attack) destroyed arguably the best Provisional ASU in Belfast disposed of two of the most wanted and dangerous men in Northern Ireland.”
Gerry Adams’ relations with Jim Bryson were, by some accounts, complex. He has described Bryson as “a dear friend” and wrote in the first part of his autobiography, ‘Before the Dawn’ how, not long before the Bullring ambush, he had counsealed Bryson to keep a low profile: “…I had argued with him very earnestly….that he needed to keep his head down; things, after all, had changed from the time he could wander around the Murph at will.” as the British would be keen to remove him from the scene. But the late Brendan Hughes, quoted anonymously in ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, had a different view. “Bryson didn’t trust Adams, because he had never fired a shot,” he told one of the authors in 2001. “He was such a hard bastard, and I think Adams was basically frightened of him.” When Adams needed to curb Bryson, he added, he would send someone else to do the job, usually “a fellow operator” for whom Bryson had respect.
Bryson’s reputation was well earned. He had escaped from British custody three times. The first was from the back of a Saracen armoured car where he fought soldiers with his fists to get free. The second time was when he and six other IRA internees swam to freedom through the icy waters of Belfast Lough from the prison ship Maidstone. The third time was from the underground passage that linked Crumlin Road jail to the Crown courthouse. Using a smuggled pistol Bryson and another prisoner, who were facing arms charges, overpowered warders, changed into their uniforms and made their way out of the courthouse. Bryson made it to the street and then to safety, his collaborator was caught.
In the early years of the Troubles, Bryson’s favourite weapon was a vintage Lewis machine gun, a relic from the First World War which was standard issue for British forces up to the Second World War. He used the weapon to break the IRA’s 1972 ceasefire when he, Brendan Hughes and a fellow Maidstone escaper, Tommy Tolan opened fire on British troops during a confrontation in Lenadoon, in West Belfast. After his death, Ballymurphy Republicans created a wall mural to commemorate Bryson and Mulvenna. In the mural, Bryson is depicted carrying the Lewis gun, his IRA trademark. Bryson was also a feared sniper and used an Armalite rifle fitted with a telescopic sight. The British believed he killed a number of soldiers and policemen with this weapon.
THE ROYAL GREEN JACKETS
In the British Army they have a nickname for the Royal Green Jackets. They call them “the Black Mafia”, black after the colour of the buttons worn on the shirts of their dress uniforms and mafia because of the number of senior, influential officers produced by the regiment since it was formed in 1966 from the amalgamation of elite infantry regiments that date back to the early days of the British Empire.
The RGJ Association approvingly quotes a rival complaining that “the Green Jackets run the (British) Army”, and it is hard to quarrel with that. A snapshot of senior officers in 1984 produced by the association showed that in that year there were no less than twelve RGJ officers above the rank of Major-General, including two Field Marshalls, one of them Sir Edwin Bramall, Chief of the Defence Staff.
The Green Jackets also had a name for producing some thoughtful and liberal-minded officers. A former battalion commander was Sir David Ramsbotham who went on to become Britain’s Inspector of Prisons, in which capacity he quarrelled with both Conservative and Labour governments over his insistence that prison should be about reform not punishment. He was eventually sacked by Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw – a badge of honour by itself in some quarters – when he complained that his reports were being ignored, including one that protested about a woman who gave birth in chains.
The CO of the 3rd battalion in the summer of 1973 was Robin Evelegh, who later wrote a book about his experience in Northern Ireland in which he questioned the usefulness of many military operations. He also had an intriguing take on informers, noting that while they were the “most effective weapon for destroying terrorists”, “the rank of the informer in the subversive organization is of less significance than might be supposed. A relatively junior member…can do enormous damage…in achieving the operational destruction of the organization.”
There is however one former RGJ officer whose name invariably evokes darker images. Sir Frank Kitson, a former commander of the 1st Battalion of the RGJ will always be associated with the murky side of the British military during the dying days of empire. In the early 1950’s he headed military intelligence operations in the bloody campaign against the Mau Mau, organising terrorist-type counter gangs to oppose them. He then served in Malaya during the war against communist guerrillas and in Cyprus during the Eoka uprising.
In 1969 he spent a year at Oxford refining ideas on counter intelligence developed in these outposts of a vanishing imperium which were published in book form in 1971, with the title Low Intensity Operations. The previous year he was given command of the British Army in Belfast. 1970 was the year the IRA’s campaign began and Kitson was able, at the very start of the Troubles, to put into practice some of his counter intelligence ideas.
(General Sir Frank Kitson – a former commander of the Royal Green Jackets)
One was the use of covert observation posts, both to collect intelligence and to ambush terrorist activists (Kitson’s emphasis on intelligence-led operations to produce contact with the enemy, by 1973 universally accepted by the British Army in its war with the IRA, suggests that the Bullring ambush may not have been just as unplanned as it looked).
The other was the creation of an Irish counter gang, called the Military Reaction Force (MRF). Specialist plain-clothes soldiers formed the core of the MRF but agents were also recruited from the ranks of both branches of the IRA, some of whom served in the MRF and the IRA at the same time. The MRF both collected intelligence on the IRA and roamed the streets of Belfast in civilian vehicles ready to shoot or assassinate IRA targets,
One initial goal of the MRF was to capitalize on the intense and sometimes violent rivalry that existed in the early years of the Troubles between the Official and Provisional wings of the IRA in Belfast. The two groups regarded each other as threats to their existence and rivals for popular support in the Catholic ghettoes while some of their leaders harbored personal grudges against each other dating from the acrimonious split of 1970. It was fertile ground for trouble making.
Frank Kitson would have two reasons then to heartily approve of the ambush in the Bullring. The IRA’s plan to create a network of secret cells in Belfast had been disrupted through the use of a covert observation post ambush – known in military jargon as Observation Post/Reactive – while one consequence, albeit unintended, was that afterwards the Provisionals blamed the Officials for killing their two men and the two groups were at each other’s throats.
The truth as revealed by the RGJ Chronicle was more prosaic and even pathetic – the Official IRA, led in Ballymurphy by Ronnie Bunting, had indeed set out to kill Jim Bryson that day but the lone gunman who volunteered for the task developed a bad case of fright when he encountered Bryson and his team and fled home.
(Ronnie Bunting – Official IRA commander in Ballymurphy in August 1973)
Nonetheless, the fallout was intense as Provo supporters in Ballymurphy pointed the finger at the Officials. Fights between Provisional and Official remand prisoners broke out in Crumlin Road jail, there were numerous assassination bids and it took a fortnight of diplomacy between the two groups before peace was restored. The RGJ Chronicle (p.104) recorded the violence and tension that followed the Bryson/Mulvenna killings, but revealing in the process considerable naivete about the potential of the Officials:
The shooting of Bryson and his compatriots highlighted the increasing friction between the Official and Provisional wings of the I.R.A. The feud intensified dramatically in the Ballymurphy with a large number of shooting incidents which did not involve Security Forces. Both sides seemed to have designated members of the opposing I.R.A. wing for execution. The Provisionals were firmly convinced that the Officials had been responsible for the shooting of Bryson, Mulvenna and O’Rawe. In the Clonard and Beechmount there was increasing evidence of dissension between the two factions. The Official I.R.A. had slowly spread their insidious influence as the decimated Provisionals lost more men. The Officials had become highly motivated and politically aware. Their leaders are educated and probably sincere in their wish for a Socialist State gained by political means. Equally they are prepared to terrorise and “hood” when expedient to do so. Tough, arrogant men well versed in the handling of weapons and their use. They repudiate the R.U.C. and angle strongly for a locally raised police force, namely themselves. They are a real danger, now and in the long term, to the R.U.C. and politically to the still shaky S.D.L.P.
ASSESSMENT sourced from the www.
In its summary of the 3rd Battalion RGJ’s four month tour of West Belfast, from the end of July until the end of November, the Chronicle devotes two fascinating paragraphs to the Bryson Incident, in which the shooting of the Ballymurphy ASU is placed in the context of Ivor Bell’s cellular re-organization of the Belfast IRA. They read:
On the last day in August the Bryson incident occurred which was of such importance that it is the subject of a separate article. Undoubtedly the shooting dead of Patrick Mulvenna, the wounding and subsequent death of Jim Bryson and the capture of James O’Rawe was was not only the most significant single event of our tour but brought to a close one more chapter of the I.R.A. campaign. History may show that the 31st August was an important landmark in the fight for peace in Northern Ireland.
The weapons recovered in this remarkable incident and the follow up amounted to thirteen rifles and pistols including ammunition and explosives. After this event and other steady success it was hard to resist the conclusion that the Security Forces were inexorably winning a kind of military victory in Belfast, if not Ulster.
Six gunmen were killed in August bringing the approximate number of terrorists put out of action, one way and another, to one thousand two hundred and sixty-five, including one hundred and ninety five Protestants. In Belfast the three Provisional battalions, which were sited in the Andersonstown, Ardoyne and our own district virtually ceased to exist. In their place the I.R.A. tried to create small Active Service Units, A.S.U.’s whose members would be known only to others in the same unit and which would be directly responsible to the Belfast Commander, Ivor Bell.
The original I.R.A. plan for eight A.S.U.’s each of five men in each of the three battalion areas, had to be revised because of the shortage of dependable men. The compromise of four A.S.U.’s in each district had to be modified as a result of the level of attrition achieved by the Army and R.U.C. The Ballymurphy A.S.U., which had included the gunman Jim Bryson, had been eliminated.
The author of ‘The Bryson Incident’, Captain Robert G K Williamson was the Intelligence Officer for 3rd Battalion The Royal Green Jackets. When he retired from the British Army he teamed up with his commanding officer, Col Robin Evelegh and another former RGJ officer to set up a company specialising in the international transit of explosives. He declined to be interviewed for this article. Evelegh died in 2010.
The Lance-Corporal who killed Bryson and Mulvenna was promoted to corporal and awarded the Military Medal, he also shot to fame within The Royal Green Jackets, and is now active collecting for C4C in and around Winchester.
James ‘Bimbo’ O’Rawe recovered from his wounds, and was convicted for his role on the 31st of August , 1973 but less than ten years later was free. He was briefly an IRA ‘supergrass’.
He broke during RUC interrogation and agreed to implicate six colleagues in IRA activity, but he retracted before the case came to court. Ivor Bell went on to become IRA Chief of Staff but also fell foul of a supergrass and lost his seniority in the IRA. He later broke with Gerry Adams, accusing his former ally of moving the IRA away from armed struggle, was court martialed and left the IRA for good. He has refused all media invitations to talk about his life in the IRA. At the time of writing, General Sir Frank Kitson is still alive and is 86 years old.
The Royal Green Jackets
Account of the event
Published in a RGJ Chronicle
RGJ Chronicle Page 1
RGJ Chronicle Page 2
RGJ Chronicle Page 1
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Memorial At Peninsula Ltd
“ONCE A RIFLEMAN – ALWAYS A RIFLEMAN”
Don’t envy a man his medals, all those ribbons on his chest,
He did not try to get them, they’re not there at his request,
They were earned in stinking hell holes, where no man would like to go,
Or in cold and wintry places, where there’s only ice and snow.
He did not know he earned them, till they were awarded at parade,
They were bright when he first got them, but in time the colours fade,
He was told he had to wear them, and to wear them all with pride,
But when the memories come to haunt him, those same medals make him hide.
Cause those medals will not bring back, all those guys he left behind,
And he would trade them all forever, for a little peace of mind.
So don’t envy a man his medals, you don’t want to take his place,
Thinking back to long gone battles, and meeting dead friends face to face.
There is discipline in a Soldier, you can see it when he walks,
There is honour in a Soldier, you hear it when he talks,
There is courage in a Soldier you can see it in his eyes,
There is loyalty in a Soldier that he will not compromise.
There is something in a Soldier that makes him stand apart,
There is strength in a Soldier that beats from his heart,
A Soldier isn’t a title, any man can be hired to do,
A Soldier is the soul of that man, buried deep inside of you.
A Soldier’s job isn’t finished, after an 8 hour day or a 40 hour week,
A Soldier is always a Soldier even while he sleeps.
A Soldier serves his country first, and his life is left behind,
A Soldier has to sacrifice, what comes first in a civilian’s mind.
If you are civilian, I am saying this to you,
Next time you see a Soldier remember what we do,
A Soldier is the one that is brave, protecting you and me,
And If you know A Soldier, I am saying this to you.
Peninsula Barracks was formerly called the Rifle depot from 1858 to 1964,Then the name Peninsula was given to the upper part of the barracks due to the illustrious history of the Regiments antecedents and their involvement in the Napoleonic campaign. Previously the barracks had housed the Rifle Brigade from 1855 and had formerly been the recognised training depot from 1858. The barracks has been home to soldiers of the realm since 1741 until its closure in 1986. Peninsula Barracks has been known by the following names The Rifle Depot, Peninsula Barracks and also home of The Light Division. It was the Ancestral home to the Regiment’s forefathers, who have all amalgamated and renamed to form the Green Jackets and finally The Royal Green Jackets, the Green Jackets where given Royal accent thus being called The Royal Green Jackets. The long association between the City of Winchester and the Green Jackets has helped weave a rich tapestry of Military involvement and standing, one of which the community has held in high esteem. In 2007, the Regiment became a casualty of the Government’s restructuring of our Military forces and sadly the announcement came that The Royal Green Jackets where to be disbanded, thus bringing sadness to the City of Winchester, the family of the Regiment and the Colonel in Chief Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Barracks houses a Museum which is a showcase for historians young and old, however it is the aim and objective of the family of the Green Jackets, the Veterans who proudly remember their brothers, who did not return, to erect a Memorial. The Memorial will be a quiet place of reflection, to enable young and old and the future generations to honour all the men of green and those that have served and are members of the Green Jacket Family.
The Memorial has been a collaboration of designs between the Curators, who administrate the venture, and are members of the family of the Royal Green Jackets. Both have worked voluntarily and their design has now gone out to a commissioned Artist. The design is in keeping with the surroundings and will recapture the history of all who have amalgamated to form the Green Jackets and finally the Royal Green Jackets. It will be a step back and a march forward into history, carrying forward the men who stood shoulder to shoulder as brothers in arms, men of green in service to their Queen and Country.
This memorial in the form of a lasting tribute will remember, honour and salute those that are now resting High on a Hill at the Final RV, having lost their lives whilst serving with the Regiment during the years 1958 until 2007. The Barracks have been home to the men of green from 1856 until 1986 some 130 years. It is equitable to bring to the attention of our visitor, that during this time a short break of residency was taken whilst the barracks had modernisation. The Regiment did not relinquish ties at this time, hence they moved back in after modernisation, during that time the troops were housed in another camp two miles on the outskirts of Winchester.
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