46 Comments

  1. The vehicle they’re sheltering next to is a Humber FV1611 wheeled APC, more commonly called the Pig;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humber_Pig

    The most common sniper weapons with the IRA and INLA were 5.56mm carbines, notably the AR-180. Equipped with low-power telescopic sights, they were more than adequate for use in Ulster.

    The AR-180 was especially favored because it could easily be broken down to be transported to and from the sniper’s hide. This was done by special “gun carriers”, usually young women. Now you know why the British Army searched everybody at checkpoints, regardless.

    cheers

    eon

    • This was also the inspiration for the punk song Armalite Rifle by Gang of Four.
      Even before I saw the caption I could tell it was a very early picture by the basic vehicle and the steel helmets. By the late 70s VPK and Shorland Landrovers were more common and many vehicles had side skirts to keep things from being thrown under them. Personal equipment evolved more slowly, staying about the same until the mid-late 80s, by which time the CAV Landrover was the vehicle of choice, the Pig was reserved for major events and the VPK was second line.

        • If the next smuggler is only a child I will have the child put in a cage (with a laughably easy-to-pick “lock”) with only one horrible-tasting MRE for dinner and three bottles of water (distilled, not polluted). The cage will be suspended by steel cables above a “minefield” of laughing-gas dispensers. S/he will not be able to escape without triggering the nitrous oxide payloads of the “mines.” Instead of becoming a martyr, the child will look like some Hollywood reject!

          Yes, by the way, this plan is supposed to be EVIL!!

          • There’s really no way to solve “sectarian” violence of that sort. In Belfast’s case, it was based on disputes going back to Cromwell’s time or even earlier.

            It only ends when one side quits or leaves. Which is basically what the “peace agreement” with Gerry Adams’ Provos was; the British saying, “OK, you (bleep)ing win; we’re leaving, and what happens from now on is your own look-out”.

            We did the same thing (without admitting it) in Vietnam. The difference is that the government in Dublin wasn’t going to drive tanks into Belfast. They wanted the PIRA to knock it off just as much as London did. And they didn’t want Derry to become their problem.

            The final result didn’t much please anybody. That’s called a “successful compromise” in politics.

            cheers

            eon

          • The Republic was definitely going not going to drive tanks to Belfast, because the Army had none! The Irish Army has not operated tanks for a long time. I don’t know if they had any even during WW2. Post-WW2 they have had different armored cars and APCs. In general, for a neutral country of significant size the Irish Defense Forces have always been rather small.

      • The executions of the group who occupied the General Post Office building in Dublin in 1916, apalled and swayed opinion in the previously pro union Dublin population, to pro Home Rule.

        That said, as soon almost as soon as home rule was instituted, the fratricidal pro home rule Versus anti partition civil war kicked off

        and the death penalty was instituted for anyone who got caught with a gun

        • Except that home rule was implemented in 1920, after the home rule movement had pretty much been killed by the British and the war of independence was in full swing. The civil war was between those who accepted compromise on the issue of membership of the British empire and those who felt that anything less than the republic established in 1916 was a betrayal of all those already dead.

  2. I can’t help but look at the handguards on those L1A1s. Three round holes instead of two oval holes seems a bit odd. They also look light colored. Are they wood handguards?
    Also, Pattern 69 DPM uniforms? With U.S. M69 flak jackets, this must be the early ’70s with some old (Australian?) SLRs.
    What’s that chap who’s lying prone have in that ammo pouch that isn’t magazines for his rifle? It looks puffy like it’s full of socks.

    • I only just noticed that the caption says “British troops in Northern Ireland, 1971”, so yea, I guess I should look at the caption before studying the rifles and pattern 58 ammo pouches so carefully.

      • Okay, thanks. I guess that IS a canteen pouch… The difference is in some pretty small details, but certainly NOT an ammo pouch as I said earlier.

    • The L1A1 SLRs we used in training in Australia in the late 60s had wooden front handguards which were more or less triangular in cross-section, and with two long ventilation holes. In Vietnam in 1971, the SLRs I saw were all like these in the photo, with the three round holes. The handguards were wood, and had less of the triangular cross-section shape, ie a bit more rounded. About 10 years ago I saw SLRs in use here with synthetic furniture.

  3. The Provisional Irish Republican Army developed many interesting (and frequently devastating) tactical weapons in its time, from truck-mounted mortars to ‘drogue’ bombs, even if it was their parked-car bombs that achieved the greatest notoriety.

    The weaponized robot recently used by the Dallas police to assassinate a suspect was a type originally developed by the British to search for and deactivate IRA planted bombs — a less violent and destructive alternative to the usual method of simply blowing up anything that looked suspicious (as the IRA routinely boobytrapped its bombs, some of which were even specifically aimed at police/military sappers).

    • The IRA developed a interesting and efective homemade RPG in the 80’s. Made out of pipe, bagged launching charge and electrically fired. Using tins for the rockets, Sentex filling with funnels to make the shaped charge. It also used two packs of digestive biscuits to give the launching charge a little back pressure. One telltale sign this launcher had been fired was the biscuit crumbs blown out of the back of the pipe.

      • I think you meant to say “Semtex” rather than “Sentex”. Semtex is still probably the best plastic explosive available for general military use, with a wider operating temperature range than C4 or other equivalents, and better stability under extreme conditions.

        • There is extremely low amount of public information in any language on Explosia a.s. producer of Semtex. From older information going back to 2011 it appears that state was about to take control back from private (foreign) holding. Also, according that information, Semtex is only small part of company’s output. Company’s assets at that time were about 1.1 bn CZK (45 mil US dol.); net income was about 1/10 of that amount. In other words, not doing very well.

    • That’s sort of the way I feel about the original wooden-stocked Ruger Mini-14. Sleeker than the M14,and about as ergonomic as the M1 Carbine except for that silly squared-off stock comb.

      But in terms of looks, my heart still belongs to lever-actions, especially the Winchester 1866 and 1876.

      😉

      cheers

      eon

      • Aw… I assume you’d also take up a Colt-Burgess reproduction done by Uberti. It’s pretty good looking as well!

      • “Winchester 1866 and 1876”
        I somehow more like pistol-grip-stock over straight-stock, maybe because it allow lower recoil feel, so from REPEATING-RIFLE/LEVER-ACTION I more like Winchester Model 71 look.

    • and if some w says
      “but you can’t fight the government”

      the reply is “South Armagh Brigade”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_IRA_South_Armagh_Brigade

      one of the top five militaries in the world, apparently couldn’t keep a lid on six largely rural counties and one and a half cities.

      I qualify it with “apparently” because there are hints which have emerged in the media, along with such factors as the timing and tactics
      which suggest that some aspects of “the troubles” and perhaps the whole thing, was nursed along as part of a “Strategy of Tension”

      as a British version of the chronologically and tactically identical “Operation Gladio” on continental Europe.

      • Armed resistance movements are generally destroyed from within. For example, the various US militia movements that sprang up in the 1990s were all heavily infiltrated by FBI plants, as well as existing members pressured to turn informer. Key people were targeted and set up for prosecution, with draconian prison terms for anyone who did not “cooperate with authorities” — which puts extreme pressure on everyone to rat-out others to save their own necks. In the recent Oregon militia standoff, many people believe that leader Ammon Bundy’s right-hand man, Mark McConnell, was definitely a government plant because he was never arrested or charged, despite being a top operative. Nine people have pleaded guilty and will testify against the (currently) sixteen others, including Bundy, who still refuse to turn on their friends.

        It’s a good bet that since the recent police mass-shootings, the Feds are stepping up efforts to infiltrate militant Black Nationalist groups such as the (New) Black Panthers, which will be busted down whenever they feel the time is right.

        For whatever reason though, it seems that the British government never infiltrated the IRA to anywhere near the same degree (or perhaps they actually did, but just didn’t want anyone to ever know).

        • HI aa,
          Totally agree
          I did a little bit of reading up on the 90s militia movement, and the excesses of the three letter agencies (eg what they did to the Weaver family), and what appears to have been very careful shepherding of the extreme fringe minority “Aryan” groups, for example the multiple agents in “Elohim City” where Timothy McVeigh used to party, and the apparent subsequent impunity of the bank robbing gang.

          and much later on in the late 2,000s facilitation of complete and utter inepts like the “Hutaree” in the late 2000s.

          I wonder how far the agencies managed to infiltrate the mainstream militia movement?

          The bits that I’d read in Churchill’s “To shake their guns…” suggested that the Oklahoma bombing put a lot of people off, and then 9/11 fooled many of the remaining people that perhaps they had a degree of common cause with DC.

          I suspect that there are some severely bruised ego s at stake in the vendetta against the Bundy family.

          Returning to Ireland

          The bits which have come out (especially in the press in the Irish Republic) suggest that the northern Irish paramilitaries on both sides were well and truly infiltrated.

          Aside from [in]Security force collusion with “loyalist” paramilitaries, and their use as assassination squads (eg the Finucan murder).

          It appears that Britain provided bomb making skills to the nascent pIRA in the late 1960s early 70s.

          Throughout “the troubles” ordinary squaddies said that they knew something was coming if the BBC (Britain’s state owned and state run news/propaganda broadcaster) showed up

          The state propaganda broadcaster knew before the soldiers did.

          People in Omagh, remember quite clearly that on the day of the rIRA bombing, The cops, the army and Sinn Fein were all out of town (echoes of the pager message telling the Oklahoma ATF agents not to go to the office).

          the rIRA were adamant that they had given due warning of the bomb, but the authorities never acted on it.

          even after the Stormont agreement – a British agent was working in the Sinn Fein office in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

          Those are little fragments that I’ve picked up as someone who spent time in Ireland in the 2000s.

          In terms of full scale false flags during the “troubles” the Dublin bombs are almost certain candidates.

          The Irish parliament was to debate security measures and it was expected that they would be rejected,

          however, with two bombs going off in Dublin on the day of the debate – the measures were approved. Very convenient.

        • I have very similar perception. Bundy, basically a peaceful man with sense of justice and solidarity is most likely doomed.

  4. People, the PIRA was absolutely riven with informers. That is why they eventually accepted the peace process: they had lost the armed struggle. A few die hards calling themselves names such as Real IRA or Continuity IRA struggle feebly on, but the war is over.

    The PIRA, through its political party, Sinn Fein, basically accepted that there was no longer any point in terrorism, and joined the political process.

  5. The L1A1 was originally issued with wooden handguards and stocks, from the very late 1960’s these were progressively replaced with synthetic stocks and handguards they were pretty much all gone from the Army by the mid-1970’s; I always assumed it happened whenever weapons went through an armoury for some sort of deep service.

    However, in the other services there were still wooden stocked L1A1’s serving until eventually replaced with the L85. My brother served in the Royal Naval Reserve from the 80’s until the early 1990’s and won the tyro pairs contest at Bisley in 1985 with a wooden stocked L1A1. The RM reserve team he beat in the final were more than envious of his “old” rifle and bemoaned the fact they had to use the plastic version. The RAF (not RAF regiment) also had some wooden stocked L1A1 until the end.

    Another indicator this was an early photo is that none of the rifles were equipped with TRILUX sights, these were very common later on in the troubles as it allowed for better and more precise targetting of hostiles. I was told by one squaddie that if you had an SLR with iron sights the ROE was normally (but not always) much more restrictive.

    My favourite story about the troubles was told to me by an ex-RUC man. In the early 1970’s the band Bay City Rollers made baggy trousers popular which allowed the PIRA (and the UDF for that matter) to transport bulky items by shoving them down their trousers. His sergeant nabbed a young guy with an RPG7 launcher down one leg and a reload down the other… walking like Frankensteins monster and approaching a checkpoint is not a good idea. When he got to court the Judge asked him why he had an RPG7 and he replied “For Self-Defence”. The Judge said “For gods sake man, John Wayne only had a six shooter”.

  6. @ Euroweasel: The Defence Forces had tanks from the 1930’s onwards (first a Swedish model, then surplus Churchill’s and finally surplus Comet’s which they were using in the 1960’s). They have pretty much always had some kind of armoured force from establishment including up to the present day with MOWAG Pirana.

    The big give away timing wise is the old Flak vests and lack of riot adapted helmets (initially after the steel helmets proved fairly ineffective against thrown objects a modified motorcycle helmet was adopted for public order use only.)

    The history of weapons used by the RUC is actually quite interesting. They were big M1 carbine users right into the late 1970’s when they were replaced with Mini 14’s and Sterling SMG (so as not to look too military, which I find quite funny) which in turn were replaced with G33 and MP5 (fitted with Safe, Single and 3 round burst trigger packs which was pretty unique at the time.)

    • The L-60 Wikipedia page says that they had all two (2) of them, which is almost nothing in practice. Useful for training infantry to co-operate or oppose tanks, but very little actual combat value. Do you know what kind of numbers of Churchills and Comets did they have ?

        • Two platoons worth might be somewhat useful for countering special forces or airborne incursions, although it would be quite difficult to keep them all in a serviceable condition at the same time. Considering the 1944 vintage medium tank level of armor on the Comet, I wouldn’t want to face infantry with RPG-7s or even RPG-2s…

          A side note about the Finnish Army Comets, which were acquired from British Army surplus at the same time as the Irish ones: the tanks were bought through a private shell corporation to conceal their destination. The reason for this clandestine measure was the neutrality policy, which decreed that major weapon systems had to purchased equally from Comblock and Western sources. Finland had already purchased a roughly equal number of T-54s and Charioteers, and there were no funds to buy more tanks from the Soviets. The Comets were available cheaply and had a chassis which was essentially the same as the Charioteers, making them good training vehicles and spare parts sources, so the Army wanted them. In Finland they were classifieds as training vehicles and were officially never considered any combat use, although naturally they would have been used if necessary. The 77mm gun was even in the 1960s still a somewhat viable anti-tank weapon.

    • There’s a long standing suspicion that the two or three day pause between the burning out of the predominantly Catholics (?entirely catholic) living along Bombay street in 1968 and the deployment of British forces

      was for the republic’s army to step in and interpose between the “loyalist” thugs and catholic residents.

      But, to me, that speculation does not sit well with the apalling neglect of the Catholic population’s basic security which followed.

      That neglect of the safety of almost half of the population of the six counties, was the reason for Jack Lynch, instructing his (highly competent) military planners to examine the possibility of using the Republic’s forces north of the border.

  7. Thanks to everyone for the new information and feedback on my previous comments. I am loving all the comments and discussion on this picture, but now I’m getting a burning desire to replace the handguards on my L1A1 with wooden ones. However, an entirely new SLR with (British) wood handguards sounds good too. I’ll just have to add that to the ever-growing list of firearms and arms-related stuff that I probably will never be able to afford.

  8. The picture looks like mid 70s – the Pig does not appear to have the appliqué armour that was added later as a result of the appearance of .30-06 AP in the province ( thanks guys!)

    The guy on the ground has two pouches showing, the one in the small of his back is a water bottle pouch, and the one on his side is an ammo pouch – note the loops for the bayonet scabbard. This is Pattern 57 webbing.

    The guy standing is not wearing webbing, and so is possibly a crewman for the Pig. A face shield was necessary in these vehicles as the front hatches were not glazed. The Pig pictured has a grill over the hatch, however this would not stop liquid penetrating! Young kids were very adapt at hitting the hatches with bottles from surprising distances, and the contents were rarely pleasant!

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