1969 - 1980
The ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland resulted in constant emergency tours for parachute battalions combating the IRA in internal security operations at home, coupled with the NATO UKJATFOR parachute commitment to reinforce threatened areas during the Cold War stand-off with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.
Northern Ireland (Operation Banner)
A brief honeymoon as peace keepers between two warring communities locked in civil unrest descended into a virtual civil war between Republican IRA and Protestant para-military groups during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ that were to last 37 years.
Troop reinforcements were sent in late 1969 to check demonstrations, marches, riots and inter-communal house burnings. A ‘Peace Line’ was set up between the Falls Road and Shankhill Road to keep the Catholic and ascendant Protestant communities apart.
The emergency deployment was authorised in order to provide the resident Gurkha battalion with some much-needed respite, and 1 PARA arrived at Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong on 3 February 1980 in bitter cold.
The Battalion soon established high-visibility daylight patrols and numerous Observation Posts(OPs) to survey the border regions, ranging from rugged, mountainous terrain rising over 1600 feet in the East, to low-lying paddy fields and farmland in Central and Western areas, along with natural border provided by the banks of the Sham Chun River in the Western border region.
Warrenpoint, 27 August 1979.
In July 1979, 2 PARA, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Colin Thomson, began a 20-month tour of duty in Northern Ireland. Based at Ballykinler Barracks, County Down, the battalion undertook the role of reserve for 39 Infantry Brigade.Read More
Disbandment of 16 Parachute Brigade
A Defence Review in 1975 reduced the Army’s parachute force to one parachute battalion group. This led to the disbandment of 16th Parachute Brigade on 31st March 1977. Brigades were for a period replaced by ‘Field Force’ formations and the 6th Field Force retained a parachute battalion group with a limited airborne role. This was an event observed with some sadness and nostalgia as many previously elite Airborne Corps and Supporting Arms units lost their parachute capability and the coveted red beret.Read More