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When the streets were a battleground
7:00pm Wednesday 28th August 2013 in News
“You don’t think too much about getting killed. If it happens, it happens. You can’t get away from it,” 22-year-old Private Joe Arnold from Eastbourne said.
Belfast was a very different city to the prosperous one today. Yes there are still problems. But back in 1984 – the streets of the city were a battleground.
In April of that year, just months before The Grand bombing, Argus reporter James Murray and photographer Simon Dack spent time with some of the Sussex soldiers on duty.
Riding in the back of the “pig” armoured vehicle, they told |how their convoy came under attack from brick-hurling |loyalists.
They described housing estates decorated with IRA paintings and murals to their hunger strike heroes as soldiers searched out terrorists among the terraced housing.
But some parts of Belfast, they explained, were not too different to Brighton.
Patrolling Reporter James Murray explained: “There are rundown areas, picturesque tree-lined streets and charming, winding lanes.
“The difference is we don’t have soldiers patrolling the streets in armoured vehicles with rifles loaded.”
John Lambson, just 19, summed up the mood of soldiers out there at the time.
The Westergate rifleman said: “I thought I was going to get a good kicking on St Patrick’s Day. There were a lot of drunks and skinheads around.
“I got cut off from the main patrol and was surrounded by about 30 skinheads. Some hit me around the back of my head with a jacket or coat and one threw a punch at me.”
His pal, Cpl Paul Mitchell explained soldiers got just four to five hour sleep a night.
The 27-year-old from Angmering said: “When you are riding shotgun you have to make sure you keep awake and alert.
“When the schools come out there are usually quite a few brick attacks.”
Pte Geoffrey Keys, from South Chailey, was on the receiving end of one of those attacks shortly before The Argus visited.
Sporting a number of cuts and bruises he explained how soldiers could claim compensation from the Criminal Injuries Board.
Lt.Col David Beveridge, of West Wittering, said 50 “hardcore terrorists” were thought to be hiding in the patrol areas.
He explained how they were organised into shooting and bombing teams and were prepared to “get their hands dirty”.
He told The Argus reporter at the time that they were careful not to become too predictable for fear of “getting caught”.
The feature went into the |paper on April 4 1984, giving |the residents of Brighton and |Hove an insight into an overseas conflict.
Little did they know, just months later that conflict would arrive on their doorstep.
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