, , Royal Regiment of Wales, Op CARA CARA in 1986
Written by Robin PARKER
I was sent from Omah to check over Reece Platoons vehicles and arrived at Fort George in Oct 1986. Some of the buildings inside the base looked worryingly lop sided the result of a proxy bomb. The camp on the river with the docks on one side and a coal yard on the other. On my first tour in Belfast we still had our Humber Pigs and Saracens. Here we had the new Armored Landrovers which I found were always misfiring, the weight of the armor causing cam shafts to twist and engines reacted making it sound like we were taking hostile fire. It was no good constantly changing parts they had to go back to the factory. The troops were left with macrolon landrovers which were ok for in coming rocks but not bullet proof.
I felt bad putting my Welsh mates in more danger so stayed at Fort George for the whole six month tour. I worked on the Royal Engineer speed boat and the vehicles for the resident battalion The Royal Anglians as well as my RRW Reece Platoon. I asked to go on a few patrols each day and asked for these to be the worst patrols so I could give the lads the odd break and try to show taking their armor away was my risk too. I was one of the few with the battalion that had been on Op Banner tours in the past. So the lads seemed happy to have their REMF on hand to help out.
On one patrol we had two bricks from the Anglians showing us around. They had gone down towards the Free Derry corner while we gave cover from the old city wall. Once they went to ground, we came down from the wall. We were in the open on a grass slope with tower blocks facing us clearly nice targets. At the bottom of the hill we reached the road and had to walk past several parked cars but we had spread out. I remember being paranoid before we left and asking the chaps to refresh the batteries on our ECM devices prior to this patrol. I was waved over by the Anglian Sgt in charge of this patrol. He advised me that while we had gone past the cars his fast chimp operator had a positive tone and someone had tried to detonate a device. The following day a 200 lb fertilizer car bomb was located. This being one of the vehicles we had walked past. I decided I had to fix the speedboat for the next week so was not available for a few patrols!!!
On another patrol one dark night we came across a car on a driveway and its headlights flashed at us. We instantly went defensive. It was deathly quiet. Seconds later the lights flashed again with a faint beep of the horn. One of the lads moved forward and after peering cautiously in the car waved us over. Soon the car was surrounded by eight soldiers. We could not resist knocking on the window to ask the courting couple if they were signalling us. In reality we had seen his rear end hitting the steering collum. I think we may have spoilt the moment. ha ha.
Then early Nov in Simpsons Brea on another patrol our fast chimp operator overheard terrorist chatter talking about us. We continued the patrol waiting for contact. As I watched to the rear and some of the lads passed me one of them remarked "Wouldn’t kneel there corp. look above ur head. " I looked at the wall behind me to see a large chunk of masonry missing. "AP round last week." was his passing remark. Time to move I thought. No attack came that day.
A couple of days later we were sent out to the same location at the same time of day to patrol the same streets. Something you just do not do. We were under orders but the RRW Corpral DAVIES and I agreed we would patrol the area ordered but adapt a 2 hour foot patrol into a brief 30 min vehicle patrol either side of a brief foot patrol. We will never know if this saved us but it saved someone. We set of in our two fiberglass landrovers.
As we drove around covering the side roads around the Waterside RUC Station we natruly occasionaly went down the same road twice. We were looking for mortar launching points. At this time of night we had a reason to drive like this. The driver of the van in front seemed to be doing the same route only it seemed he may well be trying to avoid us. He pulled into an empty car park and stopped. It was a Welsh Regiment but we had our token Scouser. I presume he was the most expendible. "Scouse go chat with the driver." Scouse reported back "He has given a date of birth clearly wrong and is sweating like a pig."
I checked the drivers compartment expecting to find it hot wired. "Scouse check the back." came from Cpl DAVIES. I found a 9mm pistol and radio in the cab. When Scouse opened the back doors he found two ballaclava clad players with their hands on their heads. An FN auto and an M16 lay on the floor. They had more amo than all eight of us combined. There was no shoot to kill policy. We took them prisoner.
Thus ended the reign of the most wanted terrorist gun team in the area. Until the good friday agreement set them free.
The tour ended early 1987. We had lost two lads.
The Anglians had done well. they moved on to Gibraltar. The local terrorists were getting a lot of flack from the leadership for achieving little for the past two years, In early 1988 three terrorist intent on killing went to Gibraltar. I expect they wanted revenge on the Soldiers who had stopped their killing spree in 1986-87.
It is no loss to the World these assassins met their deaths on the rock. Except for some TV people who never saw what these people did to others or did not care.