Op BANNER Northern Ireland, 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers.

Fri, 06/01/1990 - Sat, 12/01/1990
2 R IRISH Op BANNER 1990, on patrol in Newry
On patrol in Newry

The 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers (2 R IRISH), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel F J Allen OBE, deployed to County Fermanagh and County Armagh for 6 months on the battalion's first Operation BANNER tour in Northern Ireland. The main area of operations was along the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland (ROI) border.

A (Operations) Company deployed in Chinooks from RAF Aldergrove on 11 June 1990. The company had been reinforced to four platoons for its specialist operations role by Headquarters and Support Company and also from neighbouring units in 20 Armoured Brigade in the Detmold/Lemgo area of Germany. Company Headquarters and three platoons were based at St Angelo with D Company, and a fourth platoon, along with elements of Company Headquarters, was based in Clogher. A (Ops) Company had three main tasks; to conduct counter terrorist operations, to assist other companies with patrolling and to mount any brigade or battalion contingency plans.

On average, multiples (a sub-unit of a platoon) spent over 1,000 hours on foot patrol covering a distance of over 700 kms. There were also many days and nights spent in ambush and observation positions. Operations varied with boat patrols on Lough Erne, patrols over peat and bogs, search operations of forest and farmland and combined operations on the border.

Initially, B Company were detached from 2 R IRISH and deployed to Newry on 10 June 1990. The company was responsible for urban Newry and the surrounding rural areas as far south as the border with the ROI. The company was also responsible for Romeo 15, the PVCP (Permanent Vehicle Checkpoint) on the A1 south of Newry at Cloghoge Mountain.

At 0409 hours on 24 October, while 4 Platoon were manning R15, it was attacked by a proxy bomb delivered by a ’hostage’ van driver. The incident resulted in the murder of Ranger Cyril Smith and he was posthumously awarded the QGM (Queen’s Gallantry Medal). B Company later reverted to 2 R IRISH’s command and moved to Clogher in South Tyrone. The company’s main task there was overwatching and controlling BCPs (Border Crossing Points).

C Company was deployed to Lisnaskea on 10 Jun 1990 and within four hours of their arrival an explosion reverberated around the town. The booby-trap device had maimed a part-time UDR soldier. Unfortunately there were two more such incidents during the tour; however, all of the victims survived the terrorist attacks. The company was supported for the first four and a half months by a platoon from 1 WFR (Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters). With 8 Platoon they were responsible for the PVCPs at Kilturk and Wattlebridge and the border post at Clonaty Bridge. For the final six weeks of the tour the WFR platoon was replaced by 5 Platoon from B Company. The company also deployed patrols from RUC stations at Rosslea and Newtownbutler, as well as from the company location at Lisnaskea.

Keeping the terrorists off balance resulted in either failed or foiled attacks and follow on clearance operations included a large van bomb at Wattlebridge, a small blast incendiary in Newtownbutler and a Mark 12 Mortar recovered intact near Lisnaskea. An Improvised Anti Armour Grenade was recovered in Lisnaskea as were radios and equipment in Donagh. The largest proxy bomb ever in Northern Ireland was delivered to Annaghmore PVCP during the tour; fortunately there was only a partial detonation of the 3,800 lb device.

D Company deployed to Fermanagh after only six months since coming together as a company. Based on Support Company it consisted of the Mortar Platoon (10 Platoon), the Milan Anti Tank platoon (11 Platoon) and the Bugles, Pipes and Drums (12 Platoon). There were no major incidents in the company’s area during the tour and the platoons manned PVCPs at Gortmullan, Mullan Bridge, Rosscor Bridge and Boa Island. The traffic flow through these PVCPs was some 2,000 vehicles per day. The company also manned the most westerly security force base in Northern Ireland; RUC Belleek. Other company tasks included patrolling the 700 square kilometre area of responsibility deploying on foot, by vehicle and by Puma support helicopter.

Summary of Major Incidents:

10 Jun: Under Vehicle Booby Trap, Lisnaskea
21 Jun: Improvised Explosive Device, Newtownbutler Customs Post
23 Jun: Command Wire Improvised Explosive Device, Newry
23 Jun: Attempted Under Vehicle Booby Trap, Brookeborough
25 Jun: Abandoned Improvised Vehicle Explosive Device, Wattlebridge
28 Jun: Clearance of railway Improvised Explosive Device, Newry
02 Jul: Major Find, Newry
03 Jul: Weapon find (machine gun), Newry
21Jul: Minor disturbance/aggravation with one minor casualty, Newry
09 Aug: Petrol Bombing, Newry
14 Aug: Two bursts of automatic fire during BCP operation, Clogher
07 Sep: Attempted hijacking and hoax Improvised Explosive Device, Clogher
13 Sep: Punishment Shooting, Newry
15 Sep: RUC constable abducted and shot, Newry
20 Oct: Find of Mk12 Mortar Command Wire Improvised explosive Device, Lisnaskea
24 Oct: Proxy 1,500 lb bomb delivered to PVCP R15, Newry
25 Oct: Find of a Mk1 Improvised Anti Armour Grenade, Lisnaskea
30 Oct: Find of Hide, Donagh
13 Nov: Find of an ‘Off Route Mine’, Kinawley
23 Nov: Proxy 3,500 lb bomb delivered to Annaghmartin PVCP, Rosslea
24 Nov: Find of 5 Kg bomb at BCP near Annaghmartin, Rosslea
01 Dec: 100 rounds fired at Killyvilly PVCP with 155 rounds returned, Rosslea