The Two Corporals…Guest Post

This is a guest post by Sammy McNally. It deals with the killing of two British Army corporals, who had accidently stumbled into an IRA funeral (British version) or been carrying out surveillance on the funeral (IRA version). Either way, they were spotted, surrounded, disarmed, dragged from their car, beaten and shot and their bodies dumped….all within about ten minutes.

Writing in the Newsletter earlier this year about the Unionist response to  the Corporal Killings Alex Kane said this “I met people – just ordinary middle-of-the-road unionists who spoke – albeit in hushed voices – of the need for loyalist paramilitaries to take the war to the IRA’s front door. There was an anger abroad in the land, a level of anger that I had only sensed once or twice before.”

In his excellent article Alex is lifting  the lid on a number  of things – not least just  how close many of those ‘ordinary’ Unionists were to going out and shooting ‘ordinary’ Catholics,  given that, with the exception  of a SF office –  the IRA didn’t have a front door.

There was undoubtedly a deep sense of shame and guilt in the Nationalist community tempered by the  demand that the actions of the ‘lynch mob’ be seen in the context of the circumstances of the day – the man being buried Caoimhín Mac Brádaigh, was in fact a victim of an armed assault on the previous high profile funeral on the Falls Road just 3 days earlier and the Corporals were armed and believed to be about to launch an attack on the funeral goers – and of course they were British soldiers. 

For Nationalists, perspective is required and there is  – mitigation. For Unionists there was simply barbarism. Mitigation and perspective being  commodities that are of course generally reserved for the actions of one’s own tribe.

It seemed inconceivable to many in Britain and Ireland North and South (irrespective of ideology) and no doubt around the world – that the army who were filming it and the RUC who were monitoring it, did not act quicker to save the men’s lives and the fact that the Corporals themselves didn’t fire on their attackers.  

For most people, including SF as evidenced in the statement by Jim McVeigh(Belfast City Council) that irrespective of the reason they arrived there that day – the Corporals were very brave men.  (The RUC men who did arrest two of those responsible apparently acted against orders in intervening).

It also seemed inconceivable that the Corporals blundered into the funeral cortege – a view shared  by Derek Wood(senior) who is not satisfied by the account given by the army.

And perhaps of all the horrors of the troubles this event was captured the most graphically – and like Alex’s words when speaking about the reaction of Unionists – this event publically  lifted the lid on the seething distrust and potential for naked hatred that exists within Nationalism. 

As a Nationalist myself,  my reflex is for mitigation – but surely there can be absolutely no mitigation for mob rule?We are then just a small step from turning a blind eye  – and then just a further smaller step to justification of the lynch mob.

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91 Responses to The Two Corporals…Guest Post

  1. Political Tourist says:

    If i had ploughed a car into the recent UVF commemoration, proceeded to fire shots and attempted to reverse the car out of the crowd, wonder what the marchers reaction would have been.

    Btw, Alex Kane is wrong.
    You are not brave because you join the Army. Most i knew were unemployed.

  2. bangordub says:

    I suggest viewing this:

    for a context of these events. Particularly the testimony of Fr Alex Reid.
    As for Alex “the Union is safe” Kane, he tailors his message to his audience without fail. Nothing wrong in that.
    I seriously doubt that the two “Corporals” were merely just that. See the above link as to why. It is a well known fact that special forces soldiers are seconded from other units of the British Army.
    It is instructive also to remember that just days earlier a Republican funeral had come under lethal attack from a plainclothes loyalist gunman.

  3. Fear Feirsteach says:

    ‘As a nationalist myself…’ I thought you were an Uncle Tom, Sammy. Your hierarchy of victims tends to suggest that at any rate.

  4. sammymcnally says:


    I am aware of the ‘mitigation’ that is why I outlined it. I dont think it extends to public lynchings. You seem to be suggesting it does?

    If as Nationalists we want to suggest a – hierarchy of community behaviour – as in the subject matter of the earlier thread (referenced above) about loyalist killings – then we should be honest enough to identify the behaviour within Nationalism that is not acceptable – irrespective of ‘mitigation’ – otherwise it just looks like hypocrisy.

    Political Tourist,

    “If i had ploughed a car into the recent UVF commemoration, proceeded to fire shots and attempted to reverse the car out of the crowd, wonder what the marchers reaction would have been.”

    Good point. The reaction would be the same – you would have been lynched. (When I asked our pal BD about such a comparison on the earlier thread he cried whataboutery and exited the discussion). The differnece as I pointed out to BD, is that there would be little talk of ‘mitigation’ by Nationalists in that scenario – just talk about loyalist barbarism.

  5. bangordub says:

    I mention the mitigation and am attempting to add something to the discussion. Yes. You refer to the mitigation and I have fleshed it out a bit. Thats all. I did not attempt to compare it to a loyalist reaction in similar circumstances or a “hierarchy of community behaviour” .
    The key point here for me is actually not the identification, apprehending and disarming of these two men. It is what happened afterwards. The stripping and execution of them, that is the key point.
    Was that a point at which things tipped over into the unnacceptable?
    In my view it was.

  6. sammymcnally says:


    According to WIKI “Corporal Wood was shot six times, twice in the head and four times in the chest. He was also stabbed four times in the back of the neck and had multiple injuries to other parts of his body.”

    That is not consistent with just

    ” identification, apprehending and disarming” or “stripping and execution”

    It is also consistent with a frenzied mob attack on 2 men that were defenceless.

    When we explore the horrors of loyalist violence and suggest a – hierarchy of community behaviour – which was the theme on FJHs earlier blog then I think we need to examine the horrors of our own side – without caveating it in mitigation.

    I think we all know the answer to the question regarding how we would view similar treatment being meted out to defenceless (disarmed) Nationalists – which is presumably the reason you didnt answer that question (re-posed by Political Tourist).

    • Sammy,
      There IS a context.
      1…Gibraltar. And uncomfortable for me because I knew Mairead Farrell in the care-free 1960s. She is one of the ten people I chose as “people I knew” for the Texas talks. She and two other volunteers were shot dead. no real chance at surrender.
      2…the Milltown funerals were attacked by Michael Stone with at least the possibility of collusion. And frankly had the RUC not intervened, Stone would have died the same way.
      People attacked that day were largely noncombatants.

      Mairead Farrell was a combatant.

      3 Kevin Brady who was killed at Milltown was a volunteer. His funeral…people were understandably on edge.
      4 The Corporals were in a car watching that funeral and armed. Frankly the “lost” scenario doesnt stack up.
      They would have been perceived as Brits on surveillance or loyalists on an attack.
      Either way they were dead men.

      The scenes are of course horrific and youre right Sammy, there was a feeling of shame in nationalist areas and even among those who were maybe caught up in it.
      And it was inglorious.
      But it WAS a departure from the norm. This was not how the IRA fought the war.
      There were of course other exceptions. Informers or those innocents accused of informing and I think there was evidence that an abducted RUC man in South Armagh (Elliott ?) had been ill treated.
      and you could argue that Nairac was the same….although that seems more like “battlefield justice” (an awful term) than torture.
      but Combatant on Combatant killing was generally speaking what the IRA and British did.
      There was no need to fear them other than being very unlucky.
      The point is that this HIGHLY PERSONALISED HATRED was the hallmark of Loyalist murder gangs.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        I believe Nothing Personal was the name of a film about such sectarian killers – and it was apt because these murderers had become conditioned to believe that their victims were sub-human. Obviously there are a number of factors of play in the process (some of them ideological or theological) but read any account of such murders and the killers invaraiably use language and labels to dehumanise their victims / potential victims. The Butchers’ favourite label was ‘taig’.

  7. Fear Feirsteach says:

    Sammy, did it annoy you that much that FJH mentioned the Shankill Butchers that you demanded the right to engage in guest-poster whataboutery? We just had the 25th anniversary and there was more than enough in the media about the corporals and their sorry fate. Alex Kane’s comments about supposedly ‘decent’ unionists wanting to murder Catholics in revenge say more about so-called ‘decent’ unionism than they do about the nationalist community, the vast majority of whom did not lynch anyone at a funeral – but I guess that passed you by. Of course there were many ‘decent’ unionists and ‘law and order’ unionist politicians at Lenny Murphy’s funeral, though only a few weeks had passed since he’d battered Joe Donegan to death with a shovel. Uncomfortable, eh!?

    • bangordub says:

      Fear Feirsteach,
      I think there is more that a hint of good old fashioned guilt in this

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        I think what we are dealing with is the spurious notion of ‘balance’ for balance’s sake. It tends to arise when British / unionist atrocities against Irish people are discussed – but not when IRA violence is in question.

        FJH is perfectly entitled to air his personal recollections and views of conflict his own blog. Quite why Sammy felt the need to subject us to yet more drivel about the deceased corporals I do not know. The guilt lies with those who pulled the trigger.

      • Well in fairness, Sammy ran this piece past me.
        I like the occasional guest post…as its always an alternative nationalist voice.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        Sammy protests too much that he’s a nationalist. Why is he guilt-tripping us about the death of two armed British soldiers on active service – when we have hundreds of our own dead to mourn? And all because you had the audacity to mention some of those dead, who you knew personally. Did Sammy know the two corporals? Did he feck! They’ve been the victims of enough third-rate hackery in recent times.

        Sammy is fond of throwing about the phrase Uncle Tom – but really, he’s talking about himself. Let him wear his poppy with a mixture of pride and shame.

  8. hoboroad says:

    I wonder if the two soldiers names are engraved on the bottom of a clock tower at a Hereford church? I remember reading a book The SAS in Ireland by Father Raymond Murray the SAS never claim soldiers as members of the Regiment. 18 SAS soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during the Falklands War. All those killed were buried as members of their parent regiments not the SAS.

  9. sammymcnally says:


    re. “The scenes are of course horrific and youre right Sammy, there was a feeling of shame in nationalist areas and even among those who were maybe caught up in it.
    And it was inglorious. But it WAS a departure from the norm.”

    I largely agree with that but I think we are often too soft on our own and when we are considering the horrors that went on witihin loyalism it seems hypocritical not to keep that in mind.


    re. “I think there is more that a hint of good old fashioned guilt in this”

    Can’t argue with that.

  10. hoboroad says:

    Undercover soldiers serving in the Six Counties are allowed to grow their hair long and grow moustaches. But they are not allowed to grow beards. According to a former SAS soldier interviewed in a documentary about the storming of the Iranian Embassy in 1980.

  11. hoboroad says:

    Didn’t Maggie Thatcher go and see the coffins being brought back home to England? The same Maggie Thatcher who took a personal interest in the SAS who she called my boys.

  12. submariner62 says:

    I watched the footage of corporals Wood and Howes being hauled from their car and beaten.

    I remember screaming at the television, wanting to know why Army helicopters (one of which was filming the events) weren’t swooping down with gas, gunfire and reinforcements.

    This sentence from Alex Kane caught my eye.I also watched the first news reports as they came in and if i remember rightly it was believed that this was another loyalist attack. I reckon Alex may be sexing up his article somewhat. Watching the initial reports no one could have known the two were undercover squaddies .As for them being brave for simply putting on a uniform and i speak as an ex serviceman it is nothing more than a career choice no act of bravery is required.

    • sammymcnally says:


      Good point re. Alex’s observations watching on the telly.

      re. “As for them being brave for simply putting on a uniform and i speak as an ex serviceman it is nothing more than a career choice no act of bravery is required.”

      I dont know if you served/signed up in Northern Ieland but I think it can be a somewhat different situation here for 2 reasons – firstly if (then) deployed in Northern Ireland as for e.g. the UDR (or RUC) then mortality rate was very high – thereby indicating more ‘bravery’ and secondly the politics may have meant that it was more than a career choice.

    • Thanks for this.
      In one way, explaining the context undermines the brutality of this particular incident.
      Gibraltar…was looked upon by IRA as a major set back. And the British unpleasantly triumphant about it. They LOVED it…as did the unionist population here.
      The attack by Michael Stone…again loyalists and unionists LOVED that And the British somewhat “confused” because it was obviously law breaking but hey these were IRA sympathisers.
      From an IRA perspective this was a double blow.
      Certainly in my colleagues at work…my Protestant colleagues, I detected a certain unspoken triumphalism.
      Indeed that is a hallmark of the Troubles…that curious smirk that one side or another has when things went well. Or that crestfallen look when things go badly.
      Or that sense of shame when it was all too much.
      I see March 1998 as a week or so of ESCALATION.
      The British certainly escalated things by shooting dead the Gibraltar suspects. The triumphalism made it worse.
      The Loyalists certainly escalated things by attacking the funerals of the Gibraltar dead…killing a further three people. Again the triumphalism did not help.
      If I recall correctly the Corporals were killed on a Thursday. I was working in central Belfast. And of course things were already very tense in that unspoken way of shared space neutrality of a busy office.
      Word filtered thru that the funeral had been “attacked by loyalists”.
      Then in a whisper I heard that the “gunmen” had been caught by the IRA.
      I remember wondering if the IRA would just kill them or perhaps arrange a big show-piece press conference and handover to authorities.
      That would have been the clever thing to do.

      I think I left early that day and I am pretty sure that I did not know they were Army corporals until I saw the TV News.
      History is all about Context.
      London Blitz? Dresden? Hiroshima?
      But prrhaps True Morality/Humanity is about NOT seeing Conext.
      I am a “historian” of sorts. I am a human being of sorts.

      And even Context becomes a Context.
      Some might quibble that another context might be that the IRA in Gibraltar had been planning a bombattack.
      And then some might say that there is 700 years of context.

    • Can I just add that Alex Kane is wrong in one crucial respect.
      A lot of the unionists motivated to do something after the death of the Corporals were the same people who were supportive or ambivelant about the actions of Michael Stone earlier in the week.
      Their outrage was not retrospective.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        Exactly, FJH. But no-one writes newspaper articles or blogs suggesting that unionists should feel collective guilt about the actions of Michael Stone.

      • sammymcnally says:


        re. “Can I just add that Alex Kane is wrong in one crucial respect.

        Not wishing quibble over your use of words – but what is interesting about Alex’s article is that a ‘respectable’ Prod has lifted the lid (as mentioned above) on the desire for tribal revenge – he has descibed his own response as ‘animalistic’. I’m not sure he is ‘wrong’ (as in incorrect) about anything. He’s is simply telling it as he felt it and how other Prods felt it.

        I can’t remember such a frank admission by any ‘leading’ and ‘moderate’ Unionist regarding their attitude to taking out the other community- which is the natural outcome of talking the war to the non existent ‘front door’ of the IRA.

        I was surpised when I read it at the time – not about the sentiment – but rather about the admission.

        p.s. I tweeted the boul Alex in the (forlorn) hope he might join in here.

      • Lets be frank that unionists can rely on the LAW.
        There is an element within Protestantism…the lost tribe argument…that gives the settlers and planters the Upper Hand. GOD HIMSELF has licensed them to be here.
        It is a comforting argument favoured by Zionists in Palestine or the Manifest Destiny crowd in 19th century Arizona.
        And similar to the Nazi German culture with its mythology.

        For the Catholic Irish, Palestinians, Apaches and Eastern European Jews are deemed to be sub-human and therefore fair game.
        Of course decent law abiding secular Protestants…unionists will resent these comparisons. They cant be held accountable for the colonialism/imperialism/sectarianism of their ancestors but they live with the benefits of that. A legal system which has codified that position.
        The default position is that everything the IRA did was illegal…in fact their very existence was illegal.
        The default position is that everything the British did (except OFFICIALLY by individuals or rogue elements) is LEGAL.
        Secular Protestants-unionists who would reject their religious superiority would happily accept their LEGAL superiority and by extension MORAL superiority.
        This is an argument that Catholics-nationalists would reject.
        There is of course an understandable barrier to breaking a law ( perhaps moral or perhaps fear of consequence).
        But the simple fact is that the Protestant unionist population was sheltered by the fact that the security forces were legal.
        How do we define that?
        Was it animalistic for American cinema audiences to cheer when they saw the first footage from Hiroshima in 1945.
        Or was it animalistic or the Arab “street” to rejoice at 9/11.
        I would say …YES.
        But would a “reasonable moderate” unionist family not have turned to each other when they heard on TV news that a IRA man had been killed in action and said “serves him right”.
        Is that animalistic.
        But I suspect moderate unionists would be outraged if they thought that their opposite numbers….daylight co-workers maybe thought the same when a lot of Paras were killed at Warrenpoint.
        The simple sad fact is that ANYONE who lived thru the Troubles on at least one occasion had that “serves them right” attitude.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        It’s rather the case that unionism believes it has a monopoly on the law, which can be twisted and ignored to suit the purposes of unionism as and when necessary. Thus loyalist murderers were widely considered to be ‘taking the law into their own hands’. Maybe as you’ve pointed out, it was actually God’s law they thought they were implementing rather than Crown law. FGAU and all that.

      • “taking Law into their own hands” is actually a brilliant point.
        nobody ever says that about Republican violence.

    • Irish Aussie says:

      I was sitting in a pub in London when the BBC 1 o’clock news came on with the lead story that another IRA funeral had been attacked (with footage), I think Micheal Burk was the presenter.
      The BBC initially thought that funeral was attacked and so did everyone in the pub, mind you the narrative quickly changed.

      • sammymcnally says:

        Iirish Aussie,

        re. “the narrative quickly changed”

        The British audiences had been fed largely a diet of, our-boys-are-just-keeping-the-peace, supplemented with the a-few-IRA-terrorists line and I think there was genuine shock and puzzlement in Britain after this event as to why do ‘they ‘hate-us-so-much.

  13. hoboroad says:

    Ask yourself this question if two undercover Israeli soldiers had driven into the funeral of A Palestinian activist killed by a Israeli settler on the West Bank and they were treated like the two Brits do you think the Israeli Defence Force’s would have just left them to die?

    • sammymcnally says:


      Yes, we can guess the answer to that.

      The answer presents a further awkward consideration (for Nats) which is that the British put the lives of the funeral goers above that of their own men.

      If they were ‘two undercover Israeli soldiers’ ( or proper SAS) I think we can assume the fatalities would not have been amongst their own number.

      The fact that the army are telling porkies about this incident even to the family of a dead soldier(s) suggests that the army are not going to give a proper explanation of what went on – this seems surprising as it migh be an opportunity for the British to talk up their restraint and fairmindedness during the troubles.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        “The answer presents a further awkward consideration (for Nats) which is that the British put the lives of the funeral goers above that of their own men.”

        A very selective consideration of events. And certainly wrong.

        “The fact that the army are telling porkies about this incident even to the family of a dead soldier(s) suggests that the army are not going to give a proper explanation of what went on – this seems surprising as it migh be an opportunity for the British to talk up their restraint and fairmindedness during the troubles.”

        They shamefully continue to lie about what happened for propaganda purposes – and Uncle Tom McNally is now spouting the same nonsense.

  14. sammymcnally says:


    re. “Lets be frank that unionists can rely on the LAW.

    I think that statement is a little outdated. 90% of Prods I would guess would be against the Parades Commission. They actually didnt want the GFA either but were coereced into that – and the the attendant legislation.

  15. hoboroad says:

    On 19 September 2005, two supposed SAS members were arrested in the city of Basra in Iraq. Iraqi police claimed the two were arrested trying to plant bombs dressed in civilian clothing and had shot at police officers. The arrests sparked clashes in which British armoured personnel carriers came under attack from petrol bombs. Later, official Iraqi sources said that British tanks knocked down a wall storming the city’s jail and rescuing the soldiers. The British Ministry of Defence initially said that the men’s release was negotiated and the tanks were merely trying to collect them. They later, however, claimed that the police had illegally handed the men over to Shi’a militia and it was from these that they had to be rescued.

    • Another excellent point.
      No politician really wants or needs to know what SAS etc is doing.
      The SAS leads a charmed life.
      The case of SAS sniper Nightengale comes to mind.

  16. hoboroad says:

    The kind of soldier they want for the Special forces is one who can think for himself. Which in the British Army means recruiting the ones with the worst records reguarding military discipline. So it’s no surprise that the SAS recruit mostly from the ranks of the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Green Jackets.

  17. Fear Feirsteach says:

    A lot of people on here are (falsely) speculating that the Israelis would have bahved differently if some of their own were caught in such a situation.

    Obvioulsy they are unaware of this incident, some of which was played out before the TV cameras.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      typo – behaved

    • hoboroad says:

      Never knew about that thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        Just shows – we tend to forget what happens outside our own wee bubble. We’re also desensitised to the Israel / Palestine conflict (in the way that many overseas were to NI conflict). That incident occurred in 2000 and was broadcast all round the world. You may just remember the man who appeared at the window with bloodied hands. The two Israelis were subjected to the most gruesome death imaginable – eyes gouged out, disembowelled, set on fire, etc.

        That the Israelis did not intervene was not out of paternal concern for the Palestinian mob but the calculation (certainly correct) that they could not save their soldiers’ lives. Instead they exploited the incident for propaganda purposes and took their revenge later.

  18. According to a fiend of mine, he was on duty when the incident happen. In context, the guy is a former RUC reservist who is a complete and absolute mess. According to him, they knew what was going down and asked to be able to go up and intervene. The request was reused.

    As a nationalist/republican, I feel no guilt for what happened and I don’t think that those involved should bare any guilt either. Fear and anger were the motivations of the day and understandably so. To buy the opposite view is akin to buying the israli BS regarding their soldiers that were initially defeated by few unarmed Turks on the Marvi Marmara.

    • Id go long With that.
      There is a lot of colloborating evidence that a lot of people watched totally stunned at what was going on.
      If an attack had been planned, I think there would have been a better fore-planning. An exit strategy in a cul de sac just cant work.
      I think they were undercover observers (at best)
      Or more likely they were “just” on routine work and got far too curious for their own good.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      Realistically, complete confusion reigned. That would have been the case with the Brits as well. Too easy to be wise after the event.

  19. wolfe tone says:

    Were the soldiers’ brave? Did they ‘stumble’ into the funeral? Or perhaps they were on a mission to further terrorise republicans and the nationalist community? Lets be honest and say the michael stone incident stunned even republicans’. Did the brits want to see how far they could scare republicans again a few days later???? Did some english suit envisage a scenario were ‘cowardly republican’ mourners’ would scarper at the sight of another gun toting ‘loyalist’ coming at them?? The propaganda value of a hearse being abandoned by fellow republicans would have been soul destroying for the republican movement and uplifting for its enemy. The people who clambered over that car were actually very brave for obvious reasons. The soldiers’ went bravely to their deaths or did they? Did they not believe that their colleagues would be with them at any minute now?? Surely they wouldve been in radio contact suggesting assistance?? Or common sense would tell them the chopper overhead would be notifying their rescue team???? Common sense would also have told them that to actually start shooting mourners would have definitely lead to their demise? So sit tight the cavalry is surely on the way? And as for michael stone??? I have no proof, but no doubt Stone was colluding with the cops/brits in the milltown attack. At that time the ‘security’ forces were under severe criticism from governments abroad for disrupting republican funerals’ over a flag etc on a coffin. All of a sudden they were going to back off and let republicans do as they please at a funeral?? Coincidence?? From where i am looking, Gibraltar,milltown and the 2 brits were all operations to demoralise the republican community. The 3rd leg didnt go as planned for the brits. And as far as i am concerned, when the mourners clambered over that car; what I was witnessing was an attacked community fighting back. And of that I was proud.

    • I think thats a conspiracy theory too far.
      Everybody is entitled to a view but to me there was no real back up plan that would support the theory they were attacking a republican funeral.
      Undoubtedly they were undercover.
      But Im inclined to think that as one corporal was allegedly on the point of leaving Norn Iron and the other allegedly new to Norn Iron, it was some kinda bravado where they thought they might see a IRA funeral up close.
      I think they would have been better armed if there was malice aforethought and carefully placed support people.
      They were stuck in a cul de sac. Panicked. Drawing a weapon and trying to get out the car was reflex rather than brave.
      Interestingly the IRA say they died bravely but that supports the myth.
      Inevitable Death is not “brave”.
      But in feeding the myth that the soldiers were brave, it is reflecting that this is how soldiers …at times…need …to feel about an enemy and themselves.

      • wolfe tone says:

        Disciplined undercover soldiers in a show of bravado?? Then they were more stupid than brave. There wouldve been easier ways of seeing an IRA funeral close up then screeching brakes etc and stressing the nerves of an already tense people. I didnt say they were going to attack the funeral but perhaps feign an attack? High speed car screeches to a halt, crowd scarpers out of panic and the 2 clowns drive off laughing? Job done. Laugh about it back in the barracks over a few jars.

  20. hoboroad says:

    Yes the RUC did manage to grab Mr Stone no doubt saving his life. But did Mr Stone’s getaway driver drive off without him? If you read Martin Dillion’s book Stone Cold a lot of planning and preparation went into Mr Stone’s previous murders. Yet he does not seem to have planned his escape to well from Milltown. Unless that is he was abandoned by his driver.

  21. sammymcnally says:

    re. Bravery

    Alex Kane says this on the subject – it seems like a reasonable assumption -more palatable to Unionism than Nationalism – although it is very diffiuclt to know.

    “They had a number of options facing them – one of which was going out in a ‘blaze of glory’ and shooting as many attackers as they could: hoping that would deter their attackers and buy themselves some time. But they didn’t do that. They did everything they could not to kill or wound their attackers. They died with courage. They died with honour.”

    If it were me I think I would have shot anybody and everybody who was endangering my life.

    wolfe tone

    re. ‘attacked community fighting back’

    WIKI :“Corporal Wood was shot six times, twice in the head and four times in the chest. He was also stabbed four times in the back of the neck and had multiple injuries to other parts of his body”

    Assuming WIKI is accurate I dont know how the injuries can be said to be consistent with a ‘community fighting back’.

    I’m not sure if ’cause of death’ was confirmed – but that looks more like the kind of injuries which were consistent with the other thread on loyalist attacks.

    I cant see now disarming the men could involve stabbing them in the back of the neck?

    That is nothing to be proud of in my book and I suspect those involved arent proud of it either.

    • No…the killings of the Corporals were in no way similar to hose carried out by Shankill Road butchers etc.
      The Corporals were combatants.
      They were armed.
      Their killing was opportunistic.
      The Romper Room setting…totally different. We are talking about pre-meditaed attempts to kidnap, torture and put to death in a prolonged way that was designed to intimidate an entire community.

      • sammymcnally says:


        “but that looks more like the kind of injuries which were consistent with the other thread on loyalist attacks.”

        That is the similairty I mentioned.

        You listed the disimilatiries – I would go along with your list.

        The types of injury are more consistent with loyalist attacks than with those (normally) carried out by the Provos. Dont you agree?

      • In a very limited way..yes.
        Very limited.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      Yet more propaganda from Uncle Tom McNally, a.k.a. Rambo the Brit

      The two British soldiers had no chance whatsoever of shooting their way out of that situation. In not shooting anyone they were increasing their chances for survival.

      The mob perceived them as loyalist attackers intent on murder and behaved as such, including the person / persons who stabbed them. Nobody has suggested you or any one else should be proud of this person / persons

      There is no comparison between the two corporals incident and the abuctions / ‘romper room’ murders carried out by the Shankill Butchers / Davy Payne et al. or the McCreery gang. That you attempt to make such a risible comparison betrays your agenda as a pro-British / anti-republican propagandist..

    • wolfe tone says:

      It wouldnt have be logical to release 2 of your enemy to live another day to attack you. And the IRA had no holding centres where they couldve kept them until hostilities ended as far as i know. So there was only going to be one outcome. Whether that was by the bullet,knife,rope or rock there was only going to be one outcome. To catch 2 armed combatants who looked like they were in the process of attacking mourners yet again would have got anyones blood up, wouldnt it?? The mourners’ behaved heroically in reaction to the perceived ‘attack’ and amongst the mourners’, IRA combatants came forward and did what was expected of them at that time i.e take out the enemy.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        If logic was in play, it was at a crude and instinctive level. The blood was up and an opportunity for instant revenge presented itself. Pretty, it wasn’t – but then The Troubles seldom were.

        if someone had knifed Michael Stone would Uncle Tom McNally be whinging about it? Does he acknowledge that Michael Stone was ‘brave’? Does he acknowledge that the Gibraltar 3 were brave?

  22. sammymcnally says:

    wolf tone,

    re. “IRA combatants came forward and did what was expected of them at that time i.e take out the enemy.”

    The nature of their injuries suggest a frenzied attack on 2 men who were more than likely defenceless at that point – this makes it a mob attack or a lynching – for me that is something Nationalists should condemn – and by suggesting otherwise – complaints about the behaviour of themmuns – even if there modus operandi was worse – ring pretty hollow.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      “for me that is something Nationalists should condemn”

      A spurious proposal given that no-one is trying to justify what was done to those men, certainly not FJH at any rate.

      “complaints about the behaviour of themmuns – even if there modus operandi was worse – ring pretty hollow.”

      A thoroughly dishonest statement. Your lines seems to be: complaints about psychopathic sectarian behaviour by loyalists are null and void until blogger condemns select list of (nationalist / republican) atrocities provided by Sammy ‘Uncle Tom’ McNally. Of course this is absolute nonsense.

      Time you stopped conning people and came clean about your support for the union.

    • Just a reminder; In the full knowledge that they were surrounded, the 2 soldiers fired off their pistols. That’s 2 Browning HiPowers firing off 26 rounds that could have killed anyone around them.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        Probably just as well the crowd didn’t stand there like targets on a firing-range then.

  23. Political Tourist says:

    Looking back on it, Wolfe Tone is probably right.
    An empty street with a hearse sitting alone with a have finished off the Provo leadership.
    It certainly answers a few questions i had.
    If it all was just a mistake on the undercover soldiers part then they must have been the thickest Brits ever sent to Ireland.

  24. hoboroad says:

    According to the Daily Mail the IRA only decided to shoot the two Undercover soldiers after finding documents and equipment on them. That must mean they had equipment or documents on them that were not standard British Army issue.

  25. hoboroad says:

    “The army has never let us meet anyone from Derek’s unit.”

    “We found out recently that the colonel who presented himself to us at the funeral as his commanding officer had nothing to do with him. He only admitted it when I got angry.”

    Above are quotes from Derek Woods father.

    • Looks like the “Commanding Officer” was also undercover at a British Army uniform.

    • sammymcnally says:


      the first quote “The army has never let us meet anyone from Derek’s unit” was included in the Daily Mail story(linked in the post) – which I was surpised at – given its reputation. I think it opposed the war in Iraq (or Afghanistan) so perhaps it is taking a more balanced view on military/foreign affairs matters.

      re. “According to the Daily Mail the IRA only decided to shoot the two Undercover soldiers after finding documents and equipment on them.”

      Suprising agian from the Daily Mail – but I think it fair to describe this event as a public relations disaster for the Provos – hardly giving the impression of disciplined insurgents – and just as with the army I would treat statements made by the Provos with caution.

      p.s. re. The Finucane hearings – really interesting stuff.

    • In general….
      I think this is an incident that both sides would really like to draw a line under this.
      Its all very nuanced.
      It seems to be in the IRAs interest that the soldiers are described as “brave”. On that they are agreed with the British.
      If the soldiers were “brave” the IRA feels enhanced by that.
      And also in the British interest because it deflects from the “wrong time, wrong place” thing.
      The ” Hereford-Herford” confusion(???) again lets both sides of the hook.
      It tends to satisfy the British claim that they were not SAS…and satisfy the IRA claim that it appeared they were SAS.

  26. Clennish says:

    Whilst I enjoying reading blogs and the discussions they generate, I do like FJH’s conversational style, I don’t comment mainly as I am fully aware of my own limitations. This particular discussion has prompted me to break that rule – why? Not really sure to be honest except perhaps it is troubling but can also cloud some deeper truths (well as I see it).
    When I first read Sammy’s piece my initial gut reaction was one of annoyance; it seemed an attempt to deflect from FJH’s post on the deliberately over-looked Shankill Butchers and the impact such a campaign had on the nationalist people in Belfast and that to draw an equivalence between that torture campaign and the killings of David Howes and Derek Wood.
    On reflection however I think it is a good thing Sammy wrote the piece and that FJH enabled a platform for it. It has generated a good level of debate and it is good to have someone challenge a collective outlook and the all too easy assumptions we often make as a community. Whilst I do not think there is an equivalence between them it is a good exercise to reflect on the brutalities that emanated from our own community.
    There is a difference however and ‘the two sides are as bad as each other’ mantra only serves to avoid honest reflection and discussion. The danger of Sammy’s piece is that it sustains such a mantra.     
    There has been much analysis over the events of that day; the general feeling in the air given previous events, the unit and motivations of the corporals and of the crowd that defended themselves/attacked the car and those that actually killed the corporals. I do make the distinction between those who originally attacked the corporals and the subsequent execution. We’ll never know the details but my own take on it would be; FRU unit type, official or unofficial familiarisation exercise, cock-up, everyone initially thinking it was a loyalist attack and then usually unseen execution.
    It was a brutal affair, that was hard to watch, it exposed the brutal nature of any insurgency conflict. If you’ve read the ‘Guests of the Nation’ by Frank O’Connor, whilst fictional, it indicates that it is nothing new within Ireland and although not mob orientated it is many ways a story that is more disturbing.    
    The points I’d like to  make are:-  
    ·         The real distinction of the event is that it was filmed and therefore very public, it has a bigger emotional impact; as recently Boston, the immediate aftermath of Omagh, Enniskillen and going back further Bloody Sunday & RUC handling Civil Right marches all testify.
    ·         If the shootings in Gibraltar were filmed, showing 3 unarmed apparent civilians being gunned down, perhaps with the couple holding hands and with the fear etched on their faces and on nearby bystanders. What would the reaction be? Do you remember the reaction of the British press and the justification of unionist politicians?
    ·         Sammy is right that it is surprising that Alex has lifted the veil on the reaction of ordinary middle-class respectable unionists and FJH paints a picture of ill-disguised pleasure in a reverse for the other side. We too often treated violence during the troubles as football supporters, maybe not playing, sometimes despairing of the team but it was still our team.
    ·         The Shankill Butchers was an act consistent with a civil war where the opposing faction is brutally dehumanised and where there’s a sense of superiority.  Was this the predominate  characteristic of the Unionist war?  The unionist militia’s were, and still are, tolerated by unionist political establishment and community, why is that?
    ·         It was a civil war with the British forces being on their side who were also exploiting the unionist militia/mafia to execute their aspect of their war. Were the killings of nationalist civilians by Unionists a tap exploited by British forces to pressure the nationalist people?
    ·         The militant nationalist war was predominately directed at British forces and grounded in republican mythology of resistance and fight for freedom. It did have a strong civil war at times. We should not shy away from that nor that by and large there was not a descent into a civil war with the unionist community. The principles of republicanism and the lack/loss of support from the nationalist community prevented that.
    ·         The presence of this post and the discussion it has generated is a testament to the general predisposition for self-reflect, argument and debate within the nationalist community. It is a strength not a weakness.
    ·         I may be wrong but I see scant evidence for such self-reflection, challenging debate and openness to re-examining pre-existing attitudes. Whilst the McUnionists may engender such a debate, I think it is long overdue, I fear it may be a limited debate and a pitch to pick up soft nationalist transfers. The lack of reflection and such  debate is to the detriment of us all.
    Blurring the story and import of Shankill Butchers with the sorry tale of the two corporals, being a last chapter in that particular story of the troubles serves us all, unionist and nationalist alike, no favours.
    The Belfast Irish nationalist experience and impact of such random unionist inspired killings has yet to be told.
    The reasoning and examination of the  Unionist Civil War, in all its forms, has yet to be told. Ultimately however that reflection, analysis and coming to terms must be rooted from within the Unionist community – it cannot be told from without. However, I doubt the Unionist community will drop the sense of self-righteousness that excludes all thoughts of the validity of others to enable such self-reflection. Hope I’m wrong though.
    FJH says that for the Irish question to be solved there must be a winner and a loser – currently the Unionist feel they are losing but know they have won? As they have won there is no need to consider or to recognise the national identity of nationalist Ireland.

    • Thanks for this.
      An excellent contribution.
      The problem with people with the one side is as bad as the other mantra is that it is lazy.
      Its Mathematics.Its not History.
      We do need a winner and a loser.
      Appomattox ended the American Civil War in 1865. But the settlement was very different from anything that would have been negotiated in 1863…even if it was possible ..would have been very different.
      Likewise the surrender on USS Missouri after two atom bombs ended WW2. But negotiated settlemnt in 1942…even if possible…would have been very different.

      What we have here in Norn Iron is the 1863 or 1942 scenario. People stopped the war, without a winner. The settlement, although flawed brought Passivity if not Peace. But the Conflict Resolutionists want to second guess the settlement. In the context that the Good Friday Agreement never delivered on some core issues…Bill Of Rights, Irish Language, Victims etc….the Conflict Resolutionists have no right to impose a settlement based on their agenda.

      The British Army used loyalist assassins. Actually “assassins” is too decent a word to describe them. THe British Army actively recruited them.
      Notwithstanding the fact that many unionists followed in a family tradition going back centuries and joined militias such as B Specials and UDR …but the take up in respectable middle class communities was not good. How many university professors joined the UDR? Effectively the unionists had their war fought for them. The British Army fought a proxy war on their behalf.

      • Fear Feirsteach says:

        It’s worse than lazy, Fitz. It’s downright dishonest – like some revisionist crap you’d read in the Sindo. And the notion of collective guilt / blame is what enabled fascists of the Shankill Butcher variety in the first place.

  27. sammymcnally says:

    Clennish, FJH

    re. “Whilst I do not think there is an equivalence between them it is a good exercise to reflect on the brutalities that emanated from our own community.”

    re. “The problem with people with the one side is as bad as the other mantra is that it is lazy.

    At the heart of the ‘dealing with the past’ lies the problems of ‘equivalence’ – which has at least 2 variations – Security Forces v Provos and Provos v Loyalists.

    Regarding our own ‘brutalities’ – there is clearlly a danger with Nat sites – unless ‘debate’ is encouraged (as enbled here by FJH) of the usual old Hibernia immaculatus v perfidious Albion version of history which arguably at least partly explains the ferocity of the Provos campaign – and I say that as someone who supports the idea that some sort of ‘insurgency’ was justified in the late sixties.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      That’s pretty much the excuse Eoghan Harris uses for writing his disingenuous attention-seeking crap.

  28. wolfe tone says:

    If republicans’ had used the same brutal tactics that the british and their militias’ used during the war we would undoubtedly, today, be bombarded with documentary after documentary showing how crazed republicans’ were. You could just imagine the headlines-‘IRA freedom fighters and how they cut the head off a protestant woman’ etc. The british employed those brutal tactics to terrorise an entire people. Their militia’ even said it openly. It wouldve went against republican principles to have used such tactics. Tellingly the unionist community have electorally at least, rejected the people who represent those said militia’. And rightly so i might add. I have no doubt the nationalist community wouldve rejected republicans’ if they had employed the same tactics as their enemy. The grasping at something that isnt there with the 2 corporals incident is, well, grasping. But then again the british militia were never created to contest popularity contests and that is why they are still allowed to exist by the establishment up to the present day. They exist today to also terrorise their own community when the need arises. Woe betide any protestant who decides to marry a taig or reach out in other ways to the taig community. The militia would soon show their opinion on that score. They are also allowed to exist to encourage sectarianism within their community because the british ruling class know that if the ordinary protestant folk were allowed space and freedom to fraternise with the their perceived enemy they might just realise they arent the enemy at all. And then, maybe, just maybe, the thought of Irish Unity might not be as fearful a notion as has so often been preached to them. To equate Republicanism to Brit militias is a not even a contest. It would be like equating a fine wine to a cheap bottle of cider! Maybe its ‘time to move on’ sammy????

  29. sammymcnally says:

    wolf tone,

    Maybe its ‘time to move on’ sammy????

    When someone offers a plausible explanation of how the injuries inflicted on (at the time) defenceless soldiers can be viewed as something other than a frenzied sectarian/racial mob attack – it may well be.

    • Fear Feirsteach says:

      ‘Thought-provoking’ stuff? More like tasteless trolling. Sammy McNally is a necrophiliac.

  30. Political Tourist says:

    Taking that none of us think the politics of the North of Ireland is settled then the possibility of further conflict exists long term and large scale.
    Doubt the PUL community would just roll over in the event of waking up in a NI with a Catholic Nationalist majority.
    Would GB or whatever greater England calls itself use loyalist militias again, i wonder.
    What about SAS types or spooks.
    Why bother when technology is moving so fast.
    Drones could cause as much fear without using unstable Lenny Murphy types and uncover cars driving by pretty stupid uncover cover personnel are long term a thing of the past.
    A drone doesn’t need darkness or drink or drugs to frighten humans.
    You can’t put a drone in prison.
    A drone won’t spill the beans years later.
    Long term the Brits will never entertain loyalist murder squads.
    They just won’t need to.
    And the loyalists themselves, who knows.
    Their hatred knows no bounds so Gusty Spence style personal killers will no doubt be around.
    How technology works in picking them up lies with those in charge of the drones.
    “The camera wasn’t working” might seem nonsense 15 years from now.

    • There will never be an end.
      I see it in historic terms.
      There is maybe a simple fact that Ireland is too far away from Britain to be totally integrated with Britain.
      And too close to be fully isolated.
      Thats as true in 2013 as it was in the 12th century and it will be true for the next 800 years.
      History…Reformation, Revolutions, Dynastic Wars, World Wars happened over 800 years and the relationship between Ireland and Britain influenced by those events.
      The Common Market…Europe…and the future break up of Europe.
      Acts of Union and Independent Kingdom has come and gone.
      Nothing is long term.
      Possibly in 24 hours or 24 years…indeed probably …it will all start again.
      The Good FRiday Agreement will not be the end.
      It will go on and on…and on.

      • sammymcnally says:


        re. “The Good FRiday Agreement will not be the end.
        It will go on and on…and on.”

        I’m not sure we can say that – paritition was a very messy solution the GFA, still a bit messy, but less so.

  31. factual says:

    Good article Sammy. Well written and well thought through. You should do more guest blogs.

    • Want to try one “Factual”?

      • factual says:

        FJH: It is an privilege to be asked, and an opportunity to get a SF message across on an SDLP blog. It could be an empowering experience. However I see myself really as a commenter rather than a blogger. So while I will think about your offer I expect to say no. The world of being a blogger is a demanding one, and one that I have never planned to enter.

    • sammymcnally says:


      As you may have noticed above I dont tend to respond to ‘personal’ remarks – however I do make a disticntion between those thare are positive and those not so much.

      So thanks for that.

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