Mar 012015

During the period of 2014-15

Jamie Balfour

President of the RGJRA

Was the High Sheriff of Hampshire.

What is a High Sheriff and their duties;

The Office of High Sheriff is an independent non-political Royal appointment for a single year. The origins of the Office date back to Saxon times, when the ‘Shire Reeve’ was responsible to the king for the maintenance of law and order within the shire, or county, and for the collection and return of taxes due to the Crown. Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving throughout the counties of England and Wales each year.

Whilst the duties of the role have evolved over time, supporting the Crown and the judiciary remain central elements of the role today. In addition, High Sheriffs actively lend support and encouragement to crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and to the voluntary sector. In recent years High Sheriffs in many parts of England and Wales have been particularly active in encouraging crime reduction initiatives, especially amongst young people. Many High Sheriffs also assist Community Foundations and local charities working with vulnerable and other people both in endorsing and helping to raise the profile of their valuable work. The High Sheriff Association adopted DebtCred and Crimebeat in recent years in response to specific areas of need.

High Sheriffs receive no remuneration and no part of the expense of a High Sheriff’s year falls on the public purse.


The Young Jamie with 9 Platoon 1973

Jamie Balfour is the Director General of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) based in London. Established in 1965 It is Sir Winston’s national memorial and living legacy, and sends British citizens from all walks of live to travel overseas, to bring back knowledge and best practice for the benefit of others in their UK professions and communities. Its current main area of activities focuses on Arts for Older People (Creative Ageing), Communities that Work, Prison and Penal Reform, Education, and Patient Care, and from 2015 will include Early Age Intervention.

Jamie also runs a mixed beef and arable farm in Hampshire, which is in the HLS environmental scheme, including SSSI water meadows and a Roman Road ! He is a Deputy Lieutenant for Hampshire and has been Chairman of the ABF The Soldiers Charity in Hampshire since 2008. He has also been Chairman of Youth Clubs Hampshire and Isle of Wight (now 4Youth), and the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust in Hampshire, a member of the Country Landowners Association Hampshire Committee and a Governor of Durley C of E Primary School.

He was born in Hampshire and joined the Army aged 19 in 1970, serving for 37 years in the Royal Green Jackets (now The RIFLES ) whose regimental headquarters is in Winchester, before retiring in 2007. Much of his Army career was spent on operations in Northern Ireland, in Bosnia, and with the UN in Cyprus and Kosovo, and he did four tours in the Ministry of Defence in London. He has also served in Berlin, Germany, Gibraltar, The Falkland Islands, India and Rwanda. For three years he was the Director of Infantry, the functional head for the 27,000 infantrymen then in the Army, and his last appointment was a President of the “Baha Musa” Iraq court martial, the first to have a High Court judge sitting as the Judge Advocate. He remains President of the Royal Green Jackets Regimental Association.

He is married to Carolyn with three grown up children, and lives in Durley

High Sheriff 2014-15: Focus and Interests

During my year as High Sheriff of Hampshire I have one clear priority which is to Support the Judicial System. The judicial system is going through a period of major change affecting the courts, the court service, lawyers, the Probation Service, magistrates and others. Appointed by the Queen to uphold all matters relating to the judiciary in Hampshire, I feel that as High Sheriff I must understand the issues, be seen to be supportive of all those involved, and help where I can.

In particular I would hope during my time as High Sheriff to:

Visit every legal court in Hampshire, and to meet as many of the supporting staff as possible.
Continue the work of Rupert Younger my predecessor, in supporting measures to reduce reoffending rates. I hope I will be assisted in this by an understanding of Prison and Penal Reform issues through my work with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) ( and our partnership with the Prison Reform Trust.
Work with Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable, to support the work of the police and Crimestoppers.
Underpinning this will be the continuation of the High Sheriff Community Awards to give special recognition to deserving individuals in the community who bring benefit to others in the communities in which they are based. The focus of the awards will be on individuals and groups working on law and order related projects, with a particular emphasis on those that enhance safety and cohesion in our communities. From 2014 these awards will be supported by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation (HIWCF), and further information on the awards will be found later this year on this and the HIWCF website

If time permits for personal interests, I would also like to support:

The use of the arts by local authorities and care homes to ensure creative ageing for older people, another area of interest of the WCMT.
Projects that assist the rehabilitation and resettlement of ex-servicemen and women, especially those with mental health issues.
Discussions over the move to increased agricultural environmental measures as part of the CAP Reform process, and the related issues of maintaining food production levels, increased UK consumption of home produced quality food and maintaining value for the producer.


9 Platoon being led by Jamie at the Double 1973

Jamie giving an interview during his army days

South Armagh Sniper (1990–1997)

The South Armagh Sniper is the generic name given to the members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) South Armagh Brigade who conducted a sniping campaign against British security forces from 1990 to 1997. The campaign is notable for the snipers’ use of .50 BMG calibre Barrett M82 and M90 long-range rifles in some of the shootings.


One of the first leaders of the Provisional IRA, Seán Mac Stíofáin, supported the use of snipers in his book Memories of a Revolutionary, attracted by the motto “one shot, one kill”. The majority of soldiers shot dead in 1972 (the bloodiest year of the conflict in Northern Ireland) fell victim to IRA snipers.

About 180 British soldiers, Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Her Majesty’s Prison Service prison staff members were killed in this way from 1971 to 1991.

The AR-18 Armalite rifle became the weapon of choice for IRA members at this time.

The British Army assessment of the conflict asserted that the IRA sniping skills often did not match those expected from a well trained sniper. The report identifies four different patterns of small arms attacks during the IRA campaign, the last being that developed by the South Armagh sniper units.

Sniper teams in South Armagh

The rifles
During the 1980s, the IRA relied mostly on weaponry smuggled from Libya. The regular shipments from the United States, once the main source of arms for the republicans through the gunrunning operations of George Harrison, were disrupted after he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1981. The smuggling scheme suffered a further blow when the Fenit-based trawler Marita Ann, with a huge arms cache from Boston, was captured by the Irish Naval Service in 1985.

However, between the mid-1980s and the 1990s there was some small-scale activity, leading to the purchase of US-made Barrett M82 and M90 rifles, which became common weapons for the South Armagh snipers. According to letters seized by US federal authorities from a Dundalk IRA member, Martin Quigley, who had travelled to USA to study computing at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the organisation managed to smuggle an M82 to the Republic of Ireland just before his arrest in 1989. He was part of a bigger plot to import electronic devices to defeat British Army countermeasures against IRA remote-controlled bombs.

In August 1986, another M82 had been sent in pieces from Chicago to Dublin, where the rifle was re-assembled. At least two of the M90 rifles were bought as recently as six months after the first IRA ceasefire. It was part of a batch of two sold to Michael Suárez, a Cuban resident of Cleveland on the 27th of January 1995 by a firearms dealer; Suárez later passed the weapons to an Irishman, who finally shipped the rifles, their ammunition and two telescopic sights to the Republic of Ireland. An unidentified leading figure inside the IRA sniper campaign, quoted by Toby Harnden, said that:

What’s special about the Barrett is the huge kinetic energy… The bullet can just walk through a flak jacket. South Armagh was the prime place to use such weapon because of the availability of Brits. They came to dread it and that was part of its effectiveness.

Three of the security forces members killed in this campaign were instead the victims of 7.62×51 mm rounds. Five missed shots belonged to the same kind of weapon. Harnden recalls a Belgian FN FAL rifle recovered by the Gardaí near Inniskeen in 1998 as the possible source of these bullets.


Contrary to the first British army assessment, or the speculations of the press, there was not just a single sniper involved. According to Harnden, there were two different teams, one responsible for the east part of South Armagh, around Dromintee, the other for the west, in the area surrounding Cullyhanna. The volunteer in charge of the Cullyhanna unit was Frank “One Shot” McCabe, a senior IRA member from Crossmaglen. Each team comprised at least four members, not counting those in charge of support activities, such as scouting for targets and driving vehicles. Military officials claim that the Dromintee-based squad deployed up to 20 volunteers in some of the sniping missions. The teams made good use of dead ground to conceal themselves from British observation posts.

Between 1990 and 1997, 24 shots were fired at British forces. The first eight operations (1990–1992), ended in misses. On the 16th of March 1990, the Barret M82 was used for first time by the IRA. The target was a checkpoint manned by soldiers of the Light Infantry regiment on Сastleblaney Road. A single .50 round pierced the helmet and skimmed the skull of Lance Corporal Hartsthorne, who survived with minor head injuries. In August 1992, one team mortally wounded a Light Infantry soldier. By April 1997 seven soldiers and two policemen had been killed. An RUC constable almost lost one of his legs in what became the last sniper attack during the Troubles.

Another six rounds achieved nothing, albeit two of them near-missed the patrol boat HMS Cygnet, in Carlingford Lough and another holed Borucki sangar, a British Army outpost at Crossmaglen square. On the 31st of July 1993 at 10:00 pm a British Army patrol which had set a mobile checkpoint on Newry Road, near Newtownhamilton, was fired at by an IRA sniper team. The British soldiers returned fire, but there were no injuries on either side. The marksman usually fired from a distance of less than 300 metres, despite the 1 km effective range of the rifles. Sixteen operations were carried out from the rear of a vehicle, with the sniper protected by an armour plate in case the patrols returned fire. At least in one incident, after the killing of a soldier in Forkhill on the 17th of March 1993, the British Army fired back at the sniper’s vehicle without effect. The IRA vehicles were escorted by scout cars, to alert about the presence of security checkpoints ahead.

Two different sources include in the campaign two incidents which happened outside South Armagh; one in Belcoo, County Fermanagh, where a constable was killed, the other in West Belfast, in June 1993. An RUC investigation following the latter shooting led to the discovery of one Barrett M82, hidden in a derelict house. It was later determined that this rifle was the weapon responsible for the first killing in South Armagh in 1992. Another Barrett is reported to have been in possession of the IRA team in the Occupation of Cullaville in South Armagh in April 1993.

A third unrelated sniper attack, which resulted in the death of a British soldier, was carried out by the IRA at New Lodge, North Belfast, on the 3rd of August 1992. Two other soldiers were wounded by snipers at New Lodge in November 1993 and January 1994. Two people were arrested and a loaded rifle recovered in the aftermath of the latter incident. On the 30th of December 1993 Guardsman Daniel Blinco became the last soldier killed by snipers in South Armagh before the first IRA ceasefire in 1994.

His killing, along with the reaction of the MP of his constituency, was covered by the BBC´s Inside Ulster, which also showed Blinco’s abandoned helmet and the hole made by the sniper’s bullet on the wall of a pub. The tabloid press of that time started calling the sniper ‘Goldfinger’ or ‘Terminator’, the nicknames current in Crossmaglen’s bars. The last serviceman killed by snipers at South Armagh, Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, was also the last British soldier to die during the Troubles, on the 12th of February 1997. Restorick’s killing resulted in a public outcry; Gerry Adams called his death “tragic” and wrote a letter of condolence to his mother.

British personnel killed

Private Paul Turner on the 28th of August 1992 in Crossmaglen with a .50 Rifle calibre.

Constable Jonathan Reid on the 25th of February 1993 in Crossmaglen with a 7.62mm Rifle calibre.

Lance Corporal Lawrence Dickson on the 17th of March 1993 in Forkhill with a 7.62 mm Rifle calibre.

Private John Randall on the 26th of June 1993 in Newtownhamilton with a 7.62 mm Rifle Calibre.

Lance Corporal Kevin Pullin on the 17th of July 1993 in Crossmaglen with a .50 Rifle calibre.

Reserve Constable Brian Woods on the 2nd of November 1993 in Newry with a .50 Rifle calibre.

Lance Bombardier Paul Garret on the 2nd of December in 1993 in Keady with a .50 Rifle calibre.

Guardsman Daniel Blinco on the 30th of December 1993 in Crossmaglen with a .50 Rifle calibre.

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick on the 12th of February 1997 in Bessbrook with a .50 Rifle calibre.

Caraher team captured

The IRA’s ceasefire from the 31st of August 1994 gave an opportunity to the British to collect intelligence from the local community to be used against the snipers. The truce was strongly resented by South Armagh IRA members. Even when the ceasefire was ongoing, an alleged member of the Drumintee squad, Kevin Donegan, was arrested by an RUC patrol in relation to the 1994 murder of a postal worker in the course of an armed robbery.

When the IRA ended the ceasefire with the bombing of the London Docklands in February 1996, some volunteers had already abandoned the organisation, while others had turned to criminal activities. The period after the ceasefire saw little IRA activity in South Armagh.

Following two successful attacks in 1997, on the 10th of April a Special Air Service unit captured four men from the sniper team based in the west of the region, responsible for several deaths. After a brief fist fight, James McArdle, Michael Caraher, Bernard McGinn and Martin Minnes were seized at a farm near Freeduff and handed over to the RUC. The British troops were under strict orders to avoid IRA casualties. A Barrett M90 rifle was seized, which forensic and intelligence reports linked only to the 1997 shootings. It was hinted that there was an informer, a suggestion dismissed by the Ombudsman report.

McGinn provided the RUC with a lot of information about IRA activities, and even betrayed Frank McCabe, the IRA commander behind the sniper campaign, but he eventually withdrew his statement. According to Toby Harnden, one of the key players in the British campaign against the South Armagh sniper was Welsh Guards’ Captain Rupert Thorneloe, who worked as an intelligence liaison officer between the 3rd Infantry Brigade and the RUC Special Branch. Thorneloe, who reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, was killed in July 2009 by an improvised explosive device, during the war in Afghanistan. Another senior figure involved in the British efforts against the sniper squads was SAS Staff Sergeant Gaz Hunter, whose experience in South Armagh dates back to 1975. Despite the sense of relief among British forces after the arrests, there was concern over the other two Barrett rifles still in possession of the South Armagh Brigade.

One of the IRA volunteers captured, Michael Caraher, was the brother of Fergal Caraher, a Sinn Féin member and IRA volunteer killed by Royal Marines at a checkpoint on 30 December 1990 near Cullyhanna. Michael, also shot and wounded in the same attack, had lost a lung in the aftermath. Despite some witnesses claiming that the shooting was unprovoked, the Marines involved were acquitted by Lord Chief Justice Hutton. The shooting of Guardsman Daniel Blinco in Crossmaglen took place on the second anniversary of the killing of Fergal Caraher. Michael Caraher was thought to be the shooter in several attacks, but he was only indicted for the case of the maimed constable. He was defended by solicitor Rosemary Nelson, later killed by the loyalist organisation Red Hand Defenders. The other three men of the sniper team were convicted in 1999 for six killings, two of them unrelated to the sniping operations (the deaths of two men when one of the team’s members, James McArdle, planted the bomb at Canary Wharf in 1996). While the capture of the sniper unit was the single major success for the security forces in South Armagh in more than a decade, the big picture showed that by then the IRA and Sinn Féin had achieved huge political gains towards their long-term goals. The men were set free 18 months later under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The Dromintee sniper party was never caught.


The IRA sniping activities further restricted the freedom of movement of the British Army in South Armagh by hindering their patrols. The MoD issued a new type of body armour, which was both expensive (£4,000) and too heavy (32 lbs) for use on patrol. The morale of the troops was so low that some servicemen had to be disciplined for remaining in shelter while under orders to check vehicles. A British major said that:

That meant that to some extent the IRA had succeeded in forcing troops off the ground and it made helicopters more vulnerable so we had to guard against using them too much.

The IRA strategy also diverted a large amount of British security resources from routine operations to tackle the threat. Until the 1994 ceasefire, even the SAS was unable to prevent the attacks. The IRA ceasefire between 1994 and 1996 made surveillance easier for the RUC and the British Army, leading to the success against the Caraher team. The security forces set the ground for an SAS ambush by deploying a decoy patrol, but this counter-sniper operation failed twice. At the end, the sniper squad was tracked to a farm complex and arrested there.

By the second IRA ceasefire, another team was still operational, and two Barrett rifles remained unaccounted for. The campaign is viewed as the most efficient overall IRA operation in Northern Ireland for this period.

A Highway Code-style sign saying “SNIPER AT WORK” was mounted by the IRA near Crossmaglen and became an icon of the republican cause.

Write up sourced from

You Tube / UKTV History


Pictures from Philip Pickford collection