England

Service in Staffordshire marks 50 years since start of Operation Banner

General view of a Royal British Legion event at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to mark the 50th anniversary of the UK Armed Forces" deployment in Northern Ireland. Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Operation Banner was the longest campaign in British military history

A service has been held marking 50 years since the first British troops were deployed on the streets of Northern Ireland.

Operation Banner saw more than 300,000 personnel deployed and continued from 14 August 1969 to 31 July 2007.

About 2,000 veterans and their families attended a Royal British Legion event at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The service included accounts from former Royal Ulster Constabulary, Army and firefighting personnel.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Last Post was performed during the commemoration

Among the veterans at the service was gunner Paul Thomas Haigh who served a tour with the Royal Artillery in Belfast in 1974.

Speaking about the importance of the commemoration, the retired 64-year-old, from Coventry, said: "We should remember the people who have fallen there to keep the peace."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Chelsea Pensioners attended the commemoration

In the course of the deployment 722 military personnel died in paramilitary attacks and 719 from other causes.

All the names of those who died are inscribed on the Armed Forces Memorial, which marks the centrepiece of the arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.

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Media captionWhat were the Troubles? The roots of the conflict lie deep in Irish history

Another veteran attending was Paul Newton, 52, an RAF medic who served a three-year tour in Northern Ireland at RAF Aldergrove.

He said: "As a medic, I've been out to situations where there have been bombings.

"You become very mechanical in your first aid, treating people to make sure they're OK and have life-saving treatment.

"But there are times when I still think, 'I wonder what happened to the guy who lost both his arms and leg or how the helicopter crash got on'."


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