British soldiers faced many dangers here and reading the local Irish News was one of them it seems.
Warmongering is a grave business but names like Colonel Maurice Tugwell and Brigadier Marston Tickell still make me giggle as if they were set adrift here by Captain Pugwash.
Yes, puerile, I know, and these particular two were indeed serious, career British soldiers. They were also fighting men who understood the power of words. Their enormous impact on information policy and public relations in the north of Ireland in the early 70s have them solidly on my radar due to my studies of the dark arts of British disinformation and the McGurk’s Bar massacre.
This made me giggle again.
In a secret archive written as a record of a visit by army top brass just after the first internment swoops (1), and under a section headed “Propaganda”, Brigadier Tickell tells us that the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of British forces in the north of Ireland:
… reported that the majority of the soldiers read the Irish News as it is cheap and readily available. The GOC pointed out the dangers of this and said he was… requesting free Great Britain newspapers for the garrison. (Sun, Mail, Mirror and Express).
As if the poor squaddie had not gone through enough without having to read these papers 🙂
Then again, this is no laughing matter as the control of the media is a cornerstone of successful warmongering to this day. It is interesting that the battle for hearts and minds was being fought in the barracks as well as the streets. On a more serious note, the implications for the Irish News may have been dangerous too.
As I discovered in 2009, Colonel Maurice Tugwell, the head of the British Army’s psychological operations (PSYOPS) unit, considered that the Irish News was an IRA mouthpiece just a few weeks later. This is outrageous, of course, but we know only too well that workers have been targeted and killed by state forces for less.
(1) Internment began on 9th August 1971 and this record is dated 17th August 1971. I am withholding the full details of the record as it will feature in our civil litigation against the British state.