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This year is the 40th anniversary of the start of Operation Banner – the deployment of British troops to Northern Ireland. During this 40-year period up to 300,000 soldiers served here – from this number1,300 would be killed and 6,000 injured.
To mark this, the History Channel has put together an hour and a half long documentary ‘Soldiers’ Stories – Northern Ireland’, which screens tonight at 9pm. Some excerpts of the interviews with ex-army can be seen here.
It’s a pretty accomplished piece of work that gives the squaddie’s perspective. The accounts are harrowing – descriptions of bomb blasts and their aftermath; the riots; firefights, snipers etc. It also captures the fear involved in the everyday, unspectacular stuff which didn’t make the news or the history books.
The accounts are engaging and highly personal – the mix of types of interviewee offers good insight (ie. bomb disposal, RAMC, squaddies, NI regiments). Presenter Ken Hames (not someone I’ve come across before) is an ex-army officer who served eight tours here and his script is very much in sympathy with those who also shared that experience. His narration is another element to the soldiers’ story.
All in all, it’s insightful stuff and a valuable contribution to oral history and accounts of what happened here over four decades.
There’s an awful lot of material circulating on the Troubles but the quality and honesty of the interviews adds new perspective. Tonight at 9pm on History.