Operation Banner ran from 1969 till well past the year 2000. At the peak there were 30 000 soldiers in Northern Ireland. Hundreds of thousands of individual soldiers served there in that time. They were containing a terrorist campaign by loyalists and republicans. The behaviour of the British Army was not perfect. There were a handful who committed crimes – even murder. This clip shows the extraordinary self-restraint of the troops in the face of possibly lethal attacks.
You will see that the troops were subjected to an unprovoked attack by IRA supporters. Some of the rioters may have been IRA men. The thugs threw stones at the soldiers. The soldiers had firearms. A stone call kill. Even when not being fatal it can cause brain damage or other life long injuries. One soldier is knocked out. The soldiers are better armed than their enemies. These soldiers could have defended themselves by opening fire on those who were attempting to kill them but they did not. One might say they did not shoot their enemies because then their enemies would have used guns. The IRA were already using guns and had killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians.
The army had the advantage in terms of firepower but they did not use it. In this sense they were extremely ethical. They took more casualties than they needed to have done. They did this in order to avoid killing too many of the enemy.
Notice how the rioters have spectators supporting them. One of the reasons the soldiers did not fire is for fear of hitting them.
On 30 January 1972 the army in Derry was attacked by hooligans as they had been for months. The situation was already extremely tense. Four people had been shot over the past few days -two of them RUC officers. For some reason the army opened fire. The Parachute Regiment had been attacked with stones and bricks for months. In the subsequent incident 27 people were shot by the Paras. One of them had handled a nail bomb. The others had not handled a gun or bomb. Had some of them thrown stones? It is likely. Nonetheless some or even all of those apart from the nailbomber were innocent. The top brass was very keen to avoid a repeat performance. The Derry Tragedy was ruthlessly exploited by the IRA to inflame anglophobia and to excuse its own wilful attacks on civilians.
If you are armed and someone throws a stone at you are you entitled to shoot that person? If you do not he or she will probably throw another stone. Eventually you will be hit and maybe killed.
What if you are a rioter? The army are there but they almost never fired first. The rioters went with the intention of starting trouble. If they army had opened fire then the brutes would have cleared off.
All this was filmed by the BBC. It shows how free the media was. The rioters also held a seditious banner about the Queen and they were not prosecuted. Yet again it shows that Northern Ireland was not oppressed. There was freedom of expression. This very provocative and inciteful banner was not interfered with.