Many at last night would service men have the Last dance to this classic.
Operation Banner, was the operational name for the British Armed Forces operation in Northern Ireland from August 1969 to July 2007. It was initially deployed at the request of the unionist Government of Northern Ireland to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). After the 1998 Belfast agreement, the operation was gradually scaled down. Its role was to assert the authority of the Government of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland.
The main opposition to the British military’s deployment came from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). It waged a guerrilla campaign against the British military from 1970 to 1997. An internal British Army document released in 2007 stated that, whilst the Army had failed to defeat the IRA, it had made it impossible for the IRA to win through violence, and had also reduced substantially the death toll in the last years of conflict
The support to the police forces was primarily from the British Army, with the Royal Air Force providing helicopter support as required. A maritime component was supplied under the codename of Operation Grenada, by the Royal Navy and Royal Marines in direct support of the Army commitment. This was tasked with interdicting the supply of weapons and munitions to both sides of the sectarian divide, acting as a visible deterrence by maintaining a conspicuous maritime presence on and around the coast of Northern Ireland and Lough Neagh
The role of the armed forces in their support role to the police was defined by the Army in the following terms:
Routine support — includes such tasks as providing protection to the police in carrying out normal policing duties in areas of terrorist threat; patrolling around military and police bases to deter terrorist attacks and supporting police-directed counter-terrorist operations
Additional support — Assistance where the police have insufficient assets of their own; this includes the provision of observation posts along the border and increased support during times of civil disorder. The military can provide soldiers to protect and, if necessary, supplement police lines and cordons. The military can provide heavy plant to remove barricades and construct barriers, and additional armoured vehicles and helicopters to help in the movement of police and soldiers
Specialist support — Includes bomb disposal, search and tracker dogs, and divers from the Royal Engineers
At the peak of the operation, the Army deployed some 21,000 soldiers. By 1980, the figure had dropped to 11,000, with a lower presence of 9,000 men in 1985. The total climbed to 10,500 after the intensification of the IRA use of mortars by the end of the 1980s. In 1992, there were 17,750 members of all military forces taking part of the operation.
The army build-up comprised three brigades under the command of a lieutenant general. There were six resident battalions deployed for a period of two-and-a-half years and four roulement battalions serving on six-month tours. Still in July 1997, in the course of fierce riots in Nationalist areas triggered by the Drumcree conflict, the total number of security forces in Northern Ireland increased to more than 30,000 including the RUC.
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