Warrenpoint ambush remembered

 

FORMER SOLDIERS, public representatives, campaigners and relatives of victims have commemorated the IRA killings of 18 British soldiers at Narrow Water 30 years ago yesterday.

It remains the largest single loss of life suffered by the British army since the second World War.

Fewer than 100 people gathered at the scene of the double bomb attack in driving rain for a short memorial service led by Pastor Barrie Halliday of Bessbrook Pentecostalist Church and organised by victims’ campaigner William Frazer.

Pastor Halliday led the commemoration with a prayer and two hymns and a reading of the names of the 18 paratroopers who died that day.

They included Lieut Col David Blair, one of the highest-ranking soldiers to die in the Troubles.

Wreaths were laid at the scene of the second and more deadly of the bombs and a silence observed before the mourners sang God Save the Queen. Mr Frazer said he was not disappointed by the small scale of the commemoration. “If we wanted hundreds here we could bring hundreds here,” he said. “This is about marking the occasion, nothing else.” Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy and his Assembly colleague John McCallister were in attendance along with Lord Laird. Mr Kennedy said it was important that a memorial service was staged at the scene of the killings. “Many people in Northern Ireland and all across the United Kingdom will remember this day. They will have expected that people locally came [to Warrenpoint] to remember.”

The DUP was represented by Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey, a native of south Down, who said it was appropriate to recall “the sacrifice of 18 brave soldiers who were here to bring peace to Northern Ireland and to confront the terrorists who were trying to destroy our society”.

He said those soldiers had helped make the relative peace Northern Ireland has today.

The ceremony was also attended by former SDLP local councillor Jim McCart.

One former soldier told The Irish Times he had travelled from England to attend the service. Ray Fox, a member of C company of the Parachute Regiment, had been in Newry when the attack was mounted.

“It was A company that was hit here. I should have been on the initial reaction force but because of events I wasn’t on that vehicle. I could have been caught up in it. The lad who took my place was killed. So I’ve spent 30 years thinking it should have been me.”