Sunday, 13 March 2016

"A legalised Death Squad" - Killing For Britain, 2016 edition

Another of our authors, an ex-SAS soldier who was in the MRF in Belfast in 1972, actually said to me, "we were a legalised Death Squad." 

(Killing For Britain 2016 edition is published 12th March on Kindle for the first time)

Killing For Britain 2016 on Kindle

John Black was a former UVF member from Belfast. I interviewed him dozens of times over a two-year period in preparation for publishing Killing For Britain, his own account of his time in Belfast in the early 1970s.  

Black lived quite close to me around 2006 and I got to know him very well. It was hard to believe that the frail man approaching old age could have been involved in an organisation that committed terrible crimes in early 1970s Belfast. The UVF were by no means alone in committing terrible crimes against civilians. The IRA, the UDA and others were responsible for the deaths of civilians as they prosecuted their wars. The responsibility for the creation of these wars will provide debate from now to eternity. But that civilians, as always, bore the brunt is indisputable. And, what is becoming clear as research into Collusion (between British Army and Loyalist killers) continues decades later, is that the British Army not only killed civilians "by accident" but actually planned the killing of civilians as a tactic. This is why, according to John Black, the army's secretive MRF (Military Reaction Force) used loyalists to target Catholics in Belfast in the 1970s.  

The idea was to put pressure on Nationalist communities to stop them either supporting or tolerating the IRA. The logic was that if Nationalist suffered enough bereavement and grief as a community then they'd insist the IRA ceasefire. This is not a uniquely barbarous method of madness. This is a common military tactic when armies seek advantage over enemies, not that this fact is ever used in recruitment ads. War is brutal so no one should be surprised by its brutality.

This was the context for British Miltary Intelligence to approach loyalist paramilitaries like John Black and convince them that they were aiding the British army by carrying out "dirty actions" in the dirty war. As I said on George Galloway's Press TV show some years ago, if it wasn’t John Black, it would have been John Brown, or Fred Brown, or whoever. The actions would have been performed regardless because they were planned.

Collusion was a dirty word when the first edition of Killing For Britain was published in 2008. In my own research I came across former members of the MRF from that period. One of them described the unit he worked in then as a "legalised death squad".

There was a Panorama documentary on the Military Reaction Force a few years later and one of the participants was one of the MRF members I'd discussed the period with. So, there is no doubt that the unit existed and targeted various people for extra judicial executions. It’s hard to write off these claims off as "Republican Propaganda" when terms like "legalised Death Squad" was the description of the MRF by one of its own members.

British Military intelligence utilised the MRF and other strands of activity relating to putting pressure on the IRA and Nationalist communities. It is our contention that the term MRF was used by John Black's military contact ("Mike") as a handy tag to pin on their activities, like a brand name almost for much of the "secret squirrel" activities which ran concurrent to the MRF activities in the Panorama documentary.

John Black's claims benefited from our research finding the "Mike" character in the book - at least, that is our certain belief. See the extract from the book below this blogpost.

Killing for Britain is a harrowing account of murderous times and none of the participants, Loyalists, Republicans, or the British Army, can claim to have clean hands.  The author was traumatised by the events, although not as traumatised as innocent victims of the period, a fact he readily agreed with. While the author will always be a committed loyalist, his hope was that the awful events and attitudes highlighted in the book would make anyone thinking of following in his footsteps think again. 

Extract from 2016 edition of Killing For Britain, by John Black

"Initially, the author's claim having been taken out in uniform by the British Army on Bloody Sunday was considered doubtful but, on consideration, it had to be either the truth, or a downright lie – there was no in-between regarding this claim. The author would therefore benefit from receiving some corroboration. As well as the author himself, the other main personality in the book is the author's British army contact, "Mike". Post-publication of the first edition of this book we made attempts to locate the now infamous "Mike".


British army sources had, upon reading the manuscript, suggested a likely profile of “Mike”: a senior NCO, late 20s, early 30s, certainly with specialist weapons training, and probable Special Forces involvement.

The author had described “Mike” as being around 6ft with "a decent head of hair", capable of affecting an “Ulster” accent, one from "out in the country somewhere”, rather than from Belfast. “Mike”, according to the author, had claimed to be Irish originally and had moved to England as a child and grown up in the North East of England before joining the army there. British army sources further suggested that “Mike” was unlikely to have been officially connected to the MRF but was in fact more likely to have been involved in some concurrent operation, one that felt it convenient to use the tag, or catch all “brand name”, of the MRF. Sources further suggested that “Mike” may have been what they called a “secret squirrel”. (Admittedly, other sources though, who were in the MRF in Belfast at that time, deny ever knowing a character such as “Mike”. However, they didn’t have an overview of all Military Intelligence options in play at the time). The shots allegedly fired by "Mike" in the book are clearly those of an uncommonly skilled marksman.

The book was published before we had found “Mike” but with having a firm belief he existed. We believed most of the other claims (apart from the Bloody Sunday ones) could be stood up. Concerns regarding the sheer scale of the amount of so-called OOBs (Out Of Bounds orders) were put to British army sources who responded that if “Mike” existed, there was nothing to stop him claiming to the author that OOBs were in place when none actually were. It was suggested that “Mike’s” job may have been to convince people like the author that their activities were approved of, and supported by, official security forces. In other words, “normal”. This is not unusual where a colonial power has co-opted and encouraged the murderous impulses of “reliable natives”, many of whom develop feelings of doubt, then guilt and then become “unreliable”. Reinforcing their belief that they were in some way, however abstract, part of the army’s efforts stemmed guilt and doubt. It also reinforced their belief that they deserved to be the dominant community. The author’s claims of an OOB being in place are based simply on “Mike” telling him they were. Sources suggested the term OOB might have been a corruption of various terms. It was also suggested that “Mike” could have called them anything he wanted. As far as the author was concerned “Mike” was the army. It must also be said that some sources indulged in something like a campaign of misinformation when responding to our queries.

In the text the author describes being briefed at Palace Barracks. He mistakenly IDs an officer’s rank, misreading his “pips”. The author’s lack of knowledge of the ranking system or emblems does not mean his claims are not real. It just means he never studied rank.

The author claims the Palace Barracks compound was walled by a “wooden fence”. It was in fact walled mainly by corrugated iron fencing. Post publication of the first edition we put this to him. He replied that his memory struggled here but he was certain that it was at least some combination of both. Subsequently, we were shown photos from the period by an army source, who was there at the time, showing the wall to be indeed corrugated iron but with some wooden supports at points.

Post publication we believe we found “Mike”.

Warrant Officer Michael Norman was a sniper of exceptionally high skill to the point that he ended up a sniper instructor at Warminster. He had served in Ireland during the period covered in the book. He was 62 years old in 2005, making him late 20s early 30s in the early 1970s. From North East England, he’d spent time in Ireland as a child where his family had land in Roscommon (according to his ex-wife). He’d joined the Coldstream Guards, as other Geordies had done. Michael Norman was an anonymous witness called by the Bloody Sunday Enquiry, surely only because he was there on that fateful day.

Michael Norman had in his possession photographs relating to the Springhill Massacre when he was found shot dead in his car not far from a police station in Hounslow in April 2005, around 6-8 months after he’d met the author in Ayr, Scotland, in an effort to dissuade him from writing his book. Detectives initially suspected foul play (a so-called IRA “revenge squad” being suspected). Scotland Yard took over the investigation, reportedly “due to the sensitive nature” of Mike Norman’s “work in Ireland”. His death was eventually ruled suicide.

Initial reports stated that a 9mm pistol was found in the car when the body was discovered. However, a police source told us in 2010 that the weapon was actually a shotgun which had been registered to Mike Norman and that he’d shot himself in the stomach. The same source stated that there had been NO photos of the Springhill Massacre in the car at the time, contrary to initial reports on the public record. The source added that Norman had become a quite unstable in later life. It seemed this source might be trying to discredit Norman.

1. Why would a renowned weapons expert decide to maximise his suffering by shooting himself in the stomach, and with a shotgun at that?
2. Was Mike driving to a police station?  If so, why do that with a shotgun, or, for that matter, a 9mm?
3. Why was the weapon changed from a 9mm to a shotgun in different reports? It’s not like they are similar.
4. Why was the presence of photographs from the Springhill Massacre initially claimed at all if they had not been there. As one police source said, “it’s a strange thing to report in the first place if it wasn’t true.”
5. Why was Michael Norman called to give evidence to the Bloody Sunday Enquiry?"



1 comment:

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