Brigadier Dick Mundell
I was privileged to take over command of the 1st Battalion on the 10th of August 1979, in Minden, West Germany. The Battalion was just starting to prepare for an operational tour in West Belfast, My first recollection was interviews with two Company Commanders and the RSM. One alerted me to a medical problem, that might prevent him going, the second deafness and the RSM announced his Intention of not applying for a commission – what a start! I can report that both Commanders shone in Belfast, each In their different ways and that the RSM was commissioned.
‘The tour from October to February 1980 was marked by two significant features – the ‘Ballymurphy Gun Team’ and the construction of ‘Fort Whiterock’. The gun team’s ‘modus operand!’ was to take over a house and ambush security forces, firing through a closed window, prior to a speedy retreat. The first such Incident happened on our handover from 1st KOSB at Springfield Road. The Jock’s 3 Tonner was the target, with several wounded; one of whom owes his life to U/Cpl Charlie Tate, a wounded Duke’s Medic, who kept him alive. This was followed by a gun battle in the Royal Victoria Hospital between ‘Dukes’ guards and the IRA, dressed as hospital staff! Sadly, later the IRA team again ambushed an armoured RUC land rover, which had stopped to allow a police Officer to retrieve his hat from the station. The resulting machinegun fire burst Into the back of the vehicle, killing our APTC – QMSI Bellamy, and very cold, clear day in our home county on the 4th of April.
“We won the Army Rugby Cup on 15th of April at Aldershot: 1st DWR 20 – 7th RHA 0. Well done to Capt Tim Sinclair and his team of 8 soldiers and 7 officers.
“The expected next tour to Northern Ireland was delayed by four months, which allowed us to get back to some hard, basic military and adventure training across the Yorkshire Moors, though Corunna Company returned to ceremonial duties to provide a Royal Guard at the opening of the Humber Bridge in July.
“In early December, we relieved 1st D & D in South Armagh to begin a very different Northern Ireland tour. Helicopters, with no vehicle movement close to the border; searches; long rural foot patrols; OP’s and cross border liaison with the Gardai – the Eire police. The Colonel in Chief visited and ‘could not leave the Burma find of a culvert bomb (10 milk churns packed with l,000lbs explosive) for many minutes!’ RN helicopters, with a Wren and rum, marked a snowy Christmas Day. OC Hook Company (an ex boxer and rugger player) helped on the busy helipad at Bessbrook until an arriving RAF Chinook turned him into a snowman! On the more serious note much progress was achieved in finds, intelligence and cross border co-operation between the two police forces.
“We all returned safe and sound by helicopter direct from South Armagh, refuelling at Weeton in Lancashire, to our barracks in Catterick to the sound of the Band and the welcome of our wives and families on the 24th of April 1982. Five days later I was towed out of camp with so many memories and so much emotion; and with gratitude to our officers and soldiers.”