11 October, 1974INDEX

"WHERE ELSE do they clean the windows at night," said a sergeant as our open top Land-Rover slowed to roll over a "sleeping policeman."

I was going with a patrol to an orange area of the "tribal map" of Belfast. The orange on the army's map of the divided city denotes a Protestant stronghold. Catholic areas are marked in green.

This patrol was relatively safe; the Protestants are rarely openly hostile to the army. But all of us knew that a Land-Rover had been fired on in the same area just 24 hours ago.

And Belfast is still a war-torn city with "sleeping policemen" -- a ramp designed to slow speeding traffic-- bricked up derelict houses and bomb sties littering the roads which divide the two communities.

The first stop the patrol made was an "illegal" UDA drinking club.

A slender man in his mid-thirties greeted us as we entered the building. He seemed to be a UDA official whose job was to keep on good terms with the army. None of the other drinkers or the barman, a boy aged about 14, spoke to us.

Belfast has many clubs and shops which are not in any way regulated by law. The army allows them to operate but keeps a careful eye on them.

This helps maintain the uneasy peace. A peace won at some cost as the graffiti on a wall in the Catholic Rodney St James area testifies. The slogan: "Five green Jackets filled with lead"
refers to an incident which happened in 1972.

An army patrol of two Land-Rovers was ambushed by three IRA gunmen. Five soldiers were injured but none of them died.

The squaddies were members of the Royal Green Jacket's third battalion. During its four-month tour of duty in Ulster three men were killed and 27 injured.

Since then the third has visited the province twice and only one soldier has been injured. That happened just three days before I visited the battalion last week.

Local links

The third has special ties with this area and many of the lads come from Harlow. One such is 22-year-old Tony Fowler of Honey Hill.

Five tours

In the five years he has been in the Army he has been to Ulster five times. The first tour of duty was "an experience" but now he hates it.

In 1971 he was on patrol when a friend got shot in the leg.

He married two years ago and thinks the Army is a perfect job for a man who supports a wife-- even though she cannot join him in Ulster.

Lance Corporal Paul Ashford of Harlow has also been to Ireland five times, but he almost enjoys his tours in the province.

"We are doing a worth while job out here," he said, "and there is a certain amount of excitement. You also get a chance to use your army training."

In his seven years in the Army he has been to Germany, Libya, Malta, Cyprus and Singapore.
Harlow Gazette and Citizen October 11, 1974.INDEX

Jonathan Brind