Review of Soldiers’ Stories – History channel documentary…

26 10 2009

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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.

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11 responses

28 10 2009
Simon

The programme was very memorable. I am an ex-serving member currently living in and coming from Northern Ireland.

I emailed the History Channel to ask if a DVD would be coming out and I got a very quick email back, basically saying that it`s something that might be considered in the future. It would be even better if proceeds went to our heros serving around the world for whom many would have served in NI.

I really must get Sky-plus, or wait until rememberance Day when its next on.

29 10 2009
deets

get out of my country

30 10 2009
Anonymous

get out of my country

2 11 2009
In the programme

I agree with boballs, I was part of that programme and proud of it to as it shows the type of mindless morons like you who tried to ruin a beautiful place and destroyed so many lives…… so do us all a favour and you leave the country….. you bigoted, ignorant fool

30 10 2009
bobballs

I was going to trash this Deets but I think I’ll leave your comment up as a monument to stupidity.

This article makes the connection between certain republicans and the BNP. http://openunionism.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/the-treatment-of-the-bnp-a-macrocosm-of-ni/

And so does your comment. You’d prefer an ethnically pure Ireland, eh? Repatriation of non-indigenous races? Oh dear. Oh deary me.

3 11 2009
phil

I took part in the programme and from what i have read from idiots like Deets
I feel more sorrow for ireland than anger

14 11 2009
Bangkok National Museum – House of Thai Royal History

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13 01 2010
Butch Gilbart

I found the documentary Brilliant, we had a lot to put up with over there as soldiers, and young lads, I thaught the people that took part in the riots were animals, they all acted like uneducated morons As for Deets, we did’nt want to be there in the first place, and if the people acted with any respect for one and other we would not have needed to be there . End Of

21 03 2010
Finn Mc Cool

Ahh right Butch so if people were nice to each other Britain would give Ireland back to the Irish?

16 04 2010
Joseph

I grew up in Northern Ireland during the worst of the troubles, it was not a happy time. I watched your programme with a great deal of interest and commend it as a valuable commentary on the troubles there.

I have never been in favour of violence as a solution and it was harrowing to hear the soldiers accounts of their experience and to relive some of the moments I remember from my childhood.

I appreciate that the point of the documentary was to give the ‘soldiers story’ – hence the name of the programme – and the commentary by the narrator was also insightful.

Unfortunately there did not seem to be an effort to explain why there was a problem with having British Soldiers in Northern Ireland. Also the emphasis in the division between the peoples was placed in religious rather than political terms. The result of this was to give the impression that the people of Northern Ireland, or at least one side of them, were vicious.

There is no denying that the troubles themselves were vicious but for a fair account to be given it would have been useful to have the soldiers stories contextualised by the commentator. For example the soldiers referred mostly to being in ‘Ireland’ – for many people in Northern Ireland foreigners were policing them on behalf of a foreign government. 25 years earlier Britain was in a war to prevent the Germans from doing the same thing in Europe. This does not make sense of the suffering but it does help to explain why it happened – one nation did not want another controlling it – a reference point I felt missing from the programme completely.

However, as one side of the story it did make for a great record of terrible times – one we are all glad to be finished with. I left NI when I was 17, I visit very often since most of my family still lives there – there are to this day scars and wounds but thankfully, mostly, a desire to move on.

If a soldier reading this remembers a 5 or 6 year old giving him the nickname ‘Smiler’ then I would like to thank him for a kindness. This soldier, who had been very polite, chased me and told me to never again come back to say hello to him on patrol – because it was too dangerous. It took me years to understand that he was concerned for my life; the times had changed – he might be shot at, and I could get hit.
In contrast there were others who antagonized and picked on us, especially as teenagers – but they were often teenagers themselves.

Let it be over and never happen again that there would be strife between the peoples of Ireland and Britain.

18 04 2010
Joseph

PS

I came to this site via the history channel and believed I was leaving the message there – so please excuse the tone of the message which probably suggest I was writing for people who did not know Northern Ireland.

As it happens most of the people reading this probably know more about it than myself.

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