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|Part of The Troubles/Operation Banner|
A British Army lorry destroyed in the ambush
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
| 18 killed|
The Warrenpoint ambushor Narrow Water ambush, also called the Warrenpoint massacre or Narrow Water massacre, was a guerrilla attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 27 August 1979. The IRA's South Armagh Brigade ambushed the British Army with two large roadside bombs at Narrow Water Castle (near Warrenpoint) in Northern Ireland. The first bomb was aimed at a British Army convoy and the second targeted the reinforcements sent to deal with the incident. IRA volunteers hidden in nearby woodland also allegedly fired on the troops. The castle is on the banks of the Newry River, which marks the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.
The Irish Republican Army, also known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, was an Irish republican paramilitary organisation that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland, facilitate the reunification of Ireland and bring about an independent republic encompassing all of Ireland. It was the biggest and most active republican paramilitary group during the Troubles. It saw itself as the successor to the original IRA and called itself simply the Irish Republican Army (IRA), or Óglaigh na hÉireann in Irish, and was broadly referred to as such by others. The IRA was designated an unlawful terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom and an unlawful organisation in the Republic of Ireland.
The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.
Eighteen British soldiers were killed and six were seriously injured, making it the deadliest attack on the British Army during the Troubles. An English civilian was also killed and another injured when British soldiers fired across the border after the first blast. The attack happened on the same day that the IRA assassinated The 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
The Troubles was an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes described as an "irregular war" or "low-level war". The conflict began in the late 1960s and is usually deemed to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Although the Troubles primarily took place in Northern Ireland, at times the violence spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England, and mainland Europe.
Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was a British Royal Navy officer and statesman, an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II. During the Second World War, he was Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (1943–1946). He was the last Viceroy of India (1947) and the first Governor-General of independent India (1947–1948).
At 16:40, a British Army convoy consisting of one Land Rover and two four-ton lorries was driving past Narrow Water Castle on the A2 road. As it passed, a 500-pound (227 kg) fertiliser bomb, hidden in a lorry loaded with strawbales and parked near the castle, was detonated by remote control. The explosion caught the last lorry in the convoy, hurling it on its side and instantly killing six members of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, whose bodies were scattered across the road. There were only two survivors amongst the soldiers travelling in the lorry; they both received serious injuries. Anthony Wood, nineteen years old, the lorry's driver, was one of those killed. All that remained of Wood's body was his pelvis, which had been welded to the seat by the fierce heat of the blast.
Land Rover is a luxury car brand that specialises in four-wheel-drive vehicles, owned by British multinational car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, which has been owned by India's Tata Motors since 2008. The Land Rover is regarded as a British icon, and was granted a Royal Warrant by King George VI in 1951.
Narrow Water Castle is a famous 16th-century tower house and bawn near Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland. It is beside the A2 road and on the County Down bank of the Clanrye River, which enters Carlingford Lough a mile to the south. Narrow Water Castle was given into state care in 1956. It is a state care historic monument in the townland of Narrow Water, in Newry and Mourne District Council district, at grid ref: J1256 1939.
The A2 is a major road in Northern Ireland, a considerable length of which is often referred to the Antrim Coast Road because much of it follows the scenic coastline of County Antrim; other parts of the road follow the coasts in Counties Down and Londonderry.
Immediately after the blast, the soldiers said they were targeted by sniper fire, coming from woods on the other side of the border.Two uninvolved civilians—William Hudson, a 29-year-old from London, and his cousin Barry Hudson, from Dingle—went to the shore on the Republic's side of the border to see what was happening. The pair were partners in Hudson Amusements and had been running their funfair in Omeath at the time. Soldiers fired across the water at them, killing William and wounding Barry. According to Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) researchers, the soldiers may have mistaken the sound of ammunition cooking off for enemy gunfire. However, two IRA members arrested by the Gardaí and suspected of being behind the ambush, Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan, had traces of gunsmoke residue on their hands and the motorbike they were riding on.
London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.
Dingle is a town in County Kerry, Ireland. The only town on the Dingle Peninsula, it sits on the Atlantic coast, about 50 kilometres (30 mi) southwest of Tralee and 71 kilometres (40 mi) northwest of Killarney.
A traveling carnival, usually simply called a carnival, or travelling funfair is an amusement show that may be made up of amusement rides, food vendors, merchandise vendors, games of chance and skill, thrill acts, and animal acts. A traveling carnival is not set up at a permanent location, like an amusement park or funfair, but is moved from place to place. Its roots are similar to the 19th century circus with both being set up in open fields near or in town and moving to a new location after a period of time. Unlike traditional carnival celebrations, the North American traveling carnival is not tied to a religious observance.
On hearing the first explosion a Royal Marine unit alerted the British Army and reinforcements from other units of the Parachute Regiment were dispatched to the scene by road. A rapid reaction unit, consisting of medical staff and senior commander Lieutenant-Colonel David Blair (the commanding officer of the Queen's Own Highlanders), together with his signaller Lance Corporal Victor MacLeod, were sent by Gazelle helicopter; another helicopter, a Wessex, landed to pick up the wounded. Colonel Blair assumed command once at the site.
A rapid reaction force is a military or police unit designed to respond in very short time frames to emergencies. When used in reference to police forces such as SWAT teams, the time frame is minutes, while in military applications, such as with the use of paratroops or other commandos, the time frame is hours to days.
The Aérospatiale Gazelle is a French five-seat helicopter, commonly used for light transport, scouting and light attack duties. It is powered by a single Turbomeca Astazou turbine engine and was the first helicopter to feature a fenestron tail instead of a conventional tail rotor. It was designed by Sud Aviation, later Aérospatiale, and manufactured in France and the United Kingdom through a joint production agreement with Westland Aircraft. Further manufacturing under license was performed by SOKO in Yugoslavia and the Arab British Helicopter Company (ABHCO) in Egypt.
The Westland Wessex was a British-built turbine-powered development of the Sikorsky H-34. It was developed and produced under licence by Westland Aircraft. One of the main changes from Sikorsky's H-34 was the replacement of the piston-engine powerplant with a turboshaft engine; the Wessex was the first large mass-produced helicopter designed around use of a gas turbine engine. Early models were powered by a single Napier Gazelle engine, while later builds used a pair of de Havilland Gnome engines.
The IRA had been studying how the British Army behaved after a bombing and correctly predicted that they would set up an incident command point (ICP) in the gatehouse on the opposite side of the road. At 17:12, thirty-two minutes after the first explosion, an 800-pound (363 kg) bomb hidden in milk pails exploded against the gatehouse, destroying it and hurling lumps of granite through the air. It detonated as the Wessex helicopter was taking off carrying wounded soldiers. The helicopter was damaged by the blast but did not crash.
The second explosion killed twelve soldiers: ten from the Parachute Regiment and the two from the Queen's Own Highlanders.Mike Jackson, then a major in the Parachute Regiment, was at the scene soon after the second explosion and later described seeing body parts scattered over the road, in the water and hanging from the trees. He was asked to identify the face of his friend, Major Peter Fursman, still recognisable after it had been completely ripped from his head by the explosion and recovered from the water by divers from the Royal Engineers. Only one of Colonel Blair's epaulettes remained to identify him as his body had been vaporised in the blast. The epaulette was taken from the scene by Brigadier David Thorne to a security briefing with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to "illustrate the human factor" of the attack.
Press photographer Peter Molloy, who arrived at the scene after the first explosion, came close to being shot by an angry paratrooper who saw him taking photographs of the dead and dying instead of offering to help the wounded. The soldier was tackled by his comrades. Molloy said, "I was shouted at and called all sorts of things but I understood why. I had trespassed on the worst day of these fellas' lives and taken pictures of it."
The Warrenpoint ambush was a propaganda victory for the IRA. It was the deadliest attack on the British Army during the Troubles and the Parachute Regiment's biggest loss since World War II, with sixteen paratroopers killed. The 1st battalion of the Parachute Regiment was responsible for Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972 where 14 unarmed protesters were shot dead. The IRA made clear it was targeting British paratroopers because of Bloody Sunday. General Sir James Glover, Commander of British forces in Northern Ireland, said it was "arguably the most successful and certainly one of the best planned IRA attacks of the whole campaign".
The ambush happened on the same day that Lord Louis Mountbatten, a prominent member of the British Royal Family, was killed by an IRA bomb aboard his boat at Mullaghmore, along with three others.
Shortly after the Warrenpoint ambush, IRA volunteers Brendan Burns and Joe Brennan were arrested by Gardaí (the Irish police). They were stopped while riding a motorbike on a road opposite Narrow Water Castle. They were later released on bail due to lack of evidence.
Immediately after the Mountbatten and Warrenpoint attacks, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) retaliated by shooting dead a Catholic man, John Patrick Hardy (43), at his home in Belfast's New Lodge estate. Hardy was targeted in the mistaken belief that he was an IRA member.
According to Toby Harnden, the attack "drove a wedge" between the Army and the RUC. Lieutenant-General Sir Timothy Creasey, General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland, suggested to Margaret Thatcher that internment should be brought back and that liaison with the Gardaí should be left in the hands of the military.Sir Kenneth Newman, the RUC Chief Constable, claimed instead that the British Army practice, already in place since 1975, of supplying their garrisons in South County Armagh by helicopter, gave too much freedom of movement to the IRA. One tangible security outcome was the appointment of Sir Maurice Oldfield to a new position of Co-ordinator of Security Intelligence in Northern Ireland. His role was to co-ordinate intelligence between the military, MI5 and the RUC. The other was the expansion of the RUC by 1,000 members. Tim Pat Coogan asserts that ultimately, the death of these 18 soldiers hastened the move to Ulsterisation.
Lieutenant-Colonel Blair is remembered on a memorial at Radley School.
Burns was killed in 1988 when a bomb he was transporting exploded prematurely.Brennan was jailed in 1996 on explosives charges not related to Warrenpoint. He was released under the Good Friday Agreement.
The East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), also known as the Tyrone/Monaghan Brigade was one of the most active republican paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland during "the Troubles". It is believed to have drawn its membership from across the eastern side of County Tyrone as well as north County Monaghan and south County Londonderry.
This is a chronology of activities by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from 1970 to 1979. For actions after this period see Chronology of Provisional Irish Republican Army actions.
The South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) operated during the Troubles in south County Armagh. It was organised into two battalions, one around Jonesborough and another around Crossmaglen. By the 1990s, the South Armagh Brigade was thought to consist of about 40 members, roughly half of them living south of the border. It has allegedly been commanded since the 1970s by Thomas 'Slab' Murphy who is also alleged to be a member of the IRA's Army Council. Compared to other brigades, the South Armagh IRA was seen as an 'independent republic' within the republican movement, retaining a battalion organizational structure and not adopting the cell structure the rest of the IRA was forced to adopt after repeated intelligence failures.
From 1969 until 1997, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) conducted an armed paramilitary campaign primarily in Northern Ireland and England, aimed at ending British rule in Northern Ireland in order to create a united Ireland.
The Drummuckavall Ambush was an attack by the South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on a British Army observation post in Drummuckavall, southeast of Crossmaglen, County Armagh, on 22 November 1975. The attack, which occurred along the border with the Republic of Ireland, resulted in the deaths of three British soldiers and triggered the official deployment of the Special Air Service (SAS) in Northern Ireland.
The attack on Cloghoge checkpoint was an unconventional bomb attack carried out on 1 May 1992 by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) against a British Army permanent vehicle checkpoint. The IRA's South Armagh Brigade fitted a van with wheels that allowed it to move along a railway line. A large bomb was placed inside the van, which was then driven along the railway line to the target. The explosion killed one British soldier and injured 23 others. The compound, just north of the village of Cloghoge in County Armagh, on the southern outskirts of Newry, was wrecked.
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. They were also nicknamed One Shot Paddy by the Republicans.
The Ballygawley bus bombing was a roadside bomb attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on a bus carrying British soldiers in Northern Ireland. It occurred in the early hours of 20 August 1988 in the townland of Curr near Ballygawley, County Tyrone. The attack killed eight soldiers and wounded another 28. In the wake of the bombing the British Army began ferrying its troops in and out of County Tyrone by helicopter.
This is a chronology of activities by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) from 1980 to 1989. For actions before and after this period see Chronology of Provisional Irish Republican Army actions.
This is a chronology of activities by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), from 1990 to 1999. For actions before and after this period see Chronology of Provisional Irish Republican Army actions.
The Clonoe Ambush was a military action between the British Army and the Provisional Irish Republican Army that occurred during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 16 February 1992, an IRA unit attacked the Royal Ulster Constabulary security base in the village of Coalisland in County Tyrone, and was ambushed shortly afterwards by the Special Air Service in the grounds of a church in the village of Clonoe whilst attempting to make its escape, resulting in several IRA fatalities.
On the evening of 26 March 1997, the Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade launched an improvised grenade attack on the fortified Royal Ulster Constabulary/British Army base in Coalisland, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The blast sparked an immediate reaction by an undercover Special Air Service unit, who shot and wounded Gareth Doris, an Irish republican and alleged IRA volunteer. The SAS unit was then surrounded by a crowd of protesters who prevented them approaching Doris or leaving. RUC officers arrived and fired plastic bullets at the crowd, allowing the special forces to leave the area.
The Battle of Newry Road was a running gun battle between British helicopters and Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) armed trucks, fought along the lanes east of Crossmaglen, County Armagh, on 23 September 1993. The engagement began when an IRA team from the South Armagh Brigade attempted to ambush three helicopters lifting off from Crossmaglen barracks.
The Derry Brigade also known as the South Derry Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) operated in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, during the Troubles. The Derry Brigade along with the Belfast Brigade, East Tyrone Brigade and the South Armagh Brigade were the four most active IRA Brigade areas during the conflict between 1969 and 1998.
On 11 August 1970, two Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were killed by a booby-trap bomb planted under a car by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) near Crossmaglen, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. They were the first RUC officers to be killed by republicans during the Troubles and the first security forces to be killed in South Armagh, an IRA stronghold for much of the conflict.
The Bessbrook bombing took place on the 17 April 1979 when four Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers were killed when the Provisional IRA exploded an estimated 1,000 pound roadside van bomb at Bessbrook, County Armagh, believed to be the largest bomb used by the IRA up to that point.
The Bessbrook landmine attack happened on the 19 May 1981 during a period of heightened tension in Northern Ireland over the 1981 Irish hunger strike and the death of Bobby Sands MP on the 5 May.
On 21 December 1978, three British soldiers were shot dead when the Provisional IRA's South Armagh Brigade ambushed an eight-man British Army foot patrol in Crossmaglen, County Armagh, Northern Ireland.
The 1979 Brussels bombing was an attack carried out by volunteers belonging to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) against a British Army band on the Grand Place, the central square of Brussels in Belgium on 29 August 1979. The bombing injured seven bandsmen and eleven civilians, and caused extensive damage.
From the time of the Ulsterisation, normalisation and criminalisation policy formulations in the mid-seventies it had become obvious that, if the conflict was to be Vietnamised and the natives were to do the fighting, then the much-talked-about 'primacy of the police' would have to become a reality. The policy was officially instituted in 1976. But if one had to point to a watershed date as a result of which the police actually wrested real power from the army I would select 27 August 1979.