Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

July Books 4) The Bloody Sunday Report, volume III

This is the first of what I imagine will be six or seven intensely detailed volumes, detailing every available account of events remembered by the participants in Bloody Sunday. It covers
[22.1] what happened in the area of the Rossville Flats car park and in the adjoining waste ground to the north. There is no doubt that in this sector Jackie Duddy was killed by gunfire, while Margaret Deery, Michael Bridge and Michael Bradley were wounded by the same means. Patrick McDaid, Patrick Brolly and Pius McCarron were injured, though whether by gunfire or otherwise was a matter of controversy.
I had wondered how Saville and his colleagues would pursue their analysis of events; would they, for instance, attempt to tie down an exect sequence on movements and shots, minute by minute, second by second? In fact they have not done this; in this volume at least, they have instead opted for following individual soldiers in turn across the car park, detailing their stories of what happened, then grouping by theme (was there incoming fire? were acid bombs being thrown at them?) and drawing conclusions. By the end of this volume we have a good understranding of the soldiers' point of view - which Saville then demolishes in a couple of well-framed paragraphs; I guess we will now move on to the evidence from the victims.

The 18 soldiers of Mortar Platoon drove into the Rossville Flats area in two APCs (known to the soldiers as 'pigs' and inaccrately called 'Saracens' by the civilians). Two in each vehicle were armed with baton guns firing rubber bullets; the other 14 were armed with rifles. They were under the command of Lieutenant N and Sergeant O. The two baton gunners in Lieutenat N's APC both started a pattern of firing without cause. One fired a round that hit an Order of Malta volunteer; the other grabbed a local man, hit him with his rifle butt and then fired a rubber bullet into his leg.

Lieutenant N himself then fired over the heads of a crowd which he feared was trying to rescue a man he had just arrested. Saville is very critical of this action by the commanding officer of the platoon, the first shots fired after soldiers entered the Bogside on Bloody Sunday:
[30.120] the most likely reason Lieutenant N fired was that he decided that this would be an effective way of frightening and moving on the people, regardless of whether or not they posed such a risk to him or the other soldiers that firing his rifle was the only option open to him. In our view such a use of his weapon cannot be justified. In his oral evidence to this Inquiry, General Ford said: “It is always undesirable to fire over the heads. It occasionally has to be done as a last resort to prevent being overrun or something similar." We consider that Lieutenant N was not faced with such a last resort situation.

30.127 We are of the view that Lieutenant N’s shots had the effect of causing other soldiers who had come into the Bogside to believe either that there was high velocity gunfire from paramilitaries, or that a soldier or soldiers had fired in justifiable response to paramilitary activity. In either case this would have led them to believe that they had encountered paramilitary activity.

30.128 As we have noted, Lieutenant N told the Widgery Inquiry that he had not considered what effect the shots he had fired into Chamberlain Street might have on other paratroopers. If, as we consider was likely to be the case, he decided to fire otherwise than as a last resort to protect himself or other soldiers, he can in our view fairly be criticised for failing to realise the effect his firing would be likely to have on the other soldiers who had come into the Bogside; and for that reason too have refrained from using his rifle as he did.
We then move on to a grim litany of brutality in arrest, mostly captured for the record by press photographers who were present. Chapter 44 of the report reads, in its entirety,
44.1 On the basis of the evidence we have considered, there were instances where soldiers used excessive force when arresting people in the Eden Place waste ground, as well as seriously assaulting them for no good reason while in their custody. We consider such conduct to be unjustifiable. It suggests to us, rather than that a few individuals overstepped the mark in isolated cases, that such behaviour was closer to the norm than the exception among soldiers of 1 PARA. To our minds this view is reinforced not only by what we regard as the unjustified use of baton guns, but also by other instances of the treatment by 1 PARA soldiers of civilians, which we consider elsewhere in this report.
We then move into an exceptionally detailed consideration of what was actually happening in the Rossville Flats arae at the time that the soldiers began shooting. (Chapter 51, at 140 pages the longest of the 33 chapters in this 498-page volume, takes us point by point through the shots that each soldier claimed to have fired, though looked at from the point of view of the shooter rather than the target.) The evidence of the soldiers is then summed up in one of the most masterfully written passages so far:
54.1 If the accounts of the soldiers of Mortar Platoon are taken at face value, their vehicles were fired on as they entered the Bogside; the soldiers from Lieutenant N’s APC were fired on as they disembarked or soon afterwards; firing was directed towards soldiers soon after they disembarked from Sergeant O’s APC in Rossville Street and as they were conducting arrests; and soon after Sergeant O had arrested William John Doherty near to his APC in the car park, the soldiers came under substantial fire from a variety of firearms for some three to four minutes, as well as being subjected to an exploding nail bomb and a number of acid bombs. There were in addition unsuccessful attempts to throw two nail bombs and a petrol bomb.

54.2 On the basis of these accounts, as noted above, Lieutenant N, Private Q and Private R shot three nail or blast bombers, Lance Corporal V shot one petrol bomber, Sergeant O shot one man with a pistol and Sergeant O and Private S shot two or three men with rifles or carbines. There was in addition an unsuccessful attempt by Private T to shoot an acid bomber, a probably unsuccessful attempt by Sergeant O to shoot another man with a carbine, and a probably unsuccessful attempt by Private R to shoot another man with a pistol. As we have already noted, in all the soldiers of Mortar Platoon fired 32 shots in Sector 2.

54.3 While two soldiers (Private R and Private T) sustained minor injuries from acid or a similar corrosive substance contained in bottles thrown down from a balcony of Block 1 of the Rossville Flats, none of the soldiers of Mortar Platoon in Sector 2 sustained any injury from nail or blast bombs, or firearms, despite the fact that most of them were in close proximity to those they said were deploying these weapons and despite the substantial amount of incoming fire which some said they encountered. On the other hand, according to their accounts, the soldiers of Mortar Platoon were able to shoot seven or eight people in the area of the Rossville Flats car park, all of whom were armed with lethal weapons.

54.4 We have already concluded, for the reasons we have given, that we have found no acceptable evidence that there was incoming fire before these soldiers opened fire or that a nail bomb exploded as described by Private Q.

54.7 It has not been suggested, nor is there any evidence to suggest, that any of the known casualties was armed with a lethal weapon or doing anything that could have justified any of them being shot. We consider below (and for the reasons there given reject) the submission made on behalf of the majority of the represented soldiers that Margaret Deery and Michael Bradley might have been shot by paramilitary gunmen, but no such submission was made in respect of the others, who no-one disputed were hit by Army gunfire.

54.8 On the basis of the evidence of the firing soldiers, therefore, the shooting of Jackie Duddy, Margaret Deery, Michael Bridge and Michael Bradley remains wholly unexplained. To our minds it inevitably follows that this materially undermines the credibility of the accounts given by the soldiers who fired. The evidence of one or more of them must be significantly inaccurate and incomplete.

To me, it becomes absolutely clear that soldiers expected to be able to shoot at their own whim and get away with it without serious investigation or penalty; the Yellow Card, which specified the circumstances under which soldiers might fire, was simply ignored (or at best misunderstood). This was the case for the soldiers, for Lieutenant N in charge of the platoon, and probably went all the way to the top. Sergeant O has an account of a peculiar conversation with Colonel Wilford of all people, who popped up when Private T was firing into the balcony of the flats at a suspected acid-thrower:

51.294 Sergeant O also told us that after he had fired at his third gunman, Colonel Wilford appeared and asked him what had happened. Sergeant O gave him a quick description and told him about his order to Private T to fire at the acid bomber. Colonel Wilford reminded Sergeant O about following the Yellow Card, and Sergeant O “confirmed to him what I had done ”. Sergeant O told us that Colonel Wilford seemed satisfied with what he had been told and left.

51.295 In his oral evidence to this Inquiry, Sergeant O said that Colonel Wilford had come up and asked for a quick snapshot of what had happened. Sergeant O told him that the soldiers had come under fire and returned fire, and as far as he knew they had some hits. Sergeant O told Colonel Wilford that acid bombs had been thrown at the soldiers from Block 2,2 and that he had told one of the men to fire back. He did not tell Colonel Wilford which soldier this was. Colonel Wilford told Sergeant O not to forget the Yellow Card. Sergeant O told Colonel Wilford that he had ordered the soldier to fire, and “I was quite happy with that and he seemed quite happy with it ”.

So, having muttered about the Yellow Card, Wilford just let the soldiers get on with shooting.

The other detail that caught my eye was a couple of allegations that the Royal Military Police had manipulated the statements of soldiers. Coporal 162 (in paragraph 46.2) said that the assertion that he saw people throwing stones and bottles was not true, and had been based on information given to him by the RMP. (Though Saville, at 46.6, doesn't believe him.) Private S alleges (47.9) that the RMP told him to say that nail bombs had been thrown, and (49.16) that they had inserted a story about him seeing a gunman in his statement, but again Saville doesn't believe him; and the Inquiry took him through his RMP statementes (51.65-70) and failed to really get a coherent story from him about what he was saying the RMP had done. Both 162 and S appear to be unreliable witnesses generally, but it is interesting that both, when challenged on their inaccurate stories, blamed the RMP for making up things that didn't happen and which, crucially, would have supported the soldiers' case had they been true. I hope Saville will at some point have a balanced assessment of the role of the RMP in the initial coverup. The maps they compiled of the shots fired are also not very helpful.

Finally, delving into the evidence, not all witnesses were helpful (see from end of page 159).

Q. When you say "possibly," can we take that as a yes? 
A. If you wish. 
Q. No, can we rightly take it as a yes? 
A. As I said, it was a long time ago. 
Q. Could you answer my question? 
A. I just did. 
Q. No: did you join the anti-internment march in Derry on 30th January 1972? 
A. Possibly, yes. 
Q. Were you late in joining the march? 
A. Maybe, I cannot remember, it is a long time ago. 
Q. Are you being deliberately obstructive? 
A. No, I am just saying to you.
Shortly after this exchange, Lord Saville told the witness that he could to go away, and he did.

Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Volume IV | Volume V | Volume VI | Volume VII | Volume VIII | Volume IX | Volume X and conclusions
Tags: bloody sunday, bookblog 2010, world: northern ireland

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