The Development of Internal Security Equipment for Northern Ireland (1972)

In 1972 Brigadier Sir Ian Jardine had the task of writing a history of the Northern Ireland emergency including an annex on equipment development.

The document below is the content of this annex, dated 22 May 1972, and undersigned by the Assistant Chief of the General Staff (Operation Requirements) or ACGS(OR). The original document, now available in the National Archives at Kew, was classified as SECRET.


Work in hand in August 1969

1. It is a sober (and sobering) fact that in August 1969, when violence erupted in Northern Ireland there was no stated General Staff Target (GST) or General Staff Requirement (GSR) for any equipment specifically for IS. There were in fact two projects in hand at CDE Porton pending the issue of formal GSRs, but neither owed its existence to the normal process of General Staff forethought, forecasting and planning.

2. The first, a requirement for a Self Protection Aid Device (SPAD) owed its conception to the fact that it was discovered that land forces in Hong Kong were acquiring (from the Hong Kong Police) MACE, a commercially developed American device filled with CN which was known to carry with it the risk of eye injury, and, in the worst case, blindness. Research at CDE Porton had shown the potentially dramatic effects with a high degree of safety of Dibenzoxazepine (DBO, later re-named CR) and it was considered that the risks inherent in the use of CN did not meet British standards for non-lethal systems (see also paras 26-28 below). In fact the first draft GST for a SPAD was issued on 11 Nov 69 and the subsequent GSR was accepted on 1 Jan 70. The device was issued to Hong Kong (with Ministerial approval for its use under certain conditions) in Jan 69 and 1000 were sent to Northern Ireland in June 1971 in anticipation of Ministerial approval for its use in clearly specified circumstances. In the event this approval was withheld and, despite a proposal for more limited application, refused again in December 1971. It is interesting to note that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office even today issue MACE where a self-protection device is considered appropriate rather than the safer (and British) SPAD.

The second project, a CS Bursting Grenade, came about because a commander in Hong Kong, frustrated by the shortcomings of the existing CS Grenade, in particular the slow build up of a concentration adequate to prevent illegal incursions, proposed to use white phosphorus instead. A scientist from CDE Porton believed that a bursting grenade using CS pellets to provide a large number of small point sources could overcome the defects of the existing weapon. The first draft GSR was issued on 3 Mar 70.

The General Staff Responsibilities

A. It would be easy to castigate the General Staff for such palpable failure to initiate the process of development by e sequence which, with equipment for general and limited war, follows a well defined and well tried formula. In abbreviated and simplified form this formula is:—

a. Assessment of the threat and formulation of operational and tactical concepts to meet it.

b. User and scientific input.

c. Preparation of GSTs and, after the resulting feasibility studies, GSRs for the equipment required to enable the user to fulfil the role allotted to him in the concept.

5. In fairness to the General Staff, however, it should be said that planning and equipment development (including the necessary funding) can only take place in accordance with the priorities allotted in Defence White Papers and subsequent Chiefs of Staff policy. At no time was Internal Security as such given the necessary priority to permit such development.

Equipment available in Northern Ireland in August 1969

6. In August 1969, therefore, the IS equipment available to garrison units and reinforcements consisted of the contents of the standard IS pack which, in general terms, provided increased scales of certain equipment already on their AFG 1098, and added a small number of batons and shields, some traditional IS banners and, from the ammunition depot, the standard hand thrown CS Grenade and 1 ½ inch cs cartridge.

7. There were in addition, as a result of the widespread deployment of Key Point Guards after the sabotage on water undertakings and an electricity station in the spring of 1969, some intruder alarms (IRIS and TOBIAS) and a small collection of improvised tactical lighting systems.



8. It would have been pleasant to have been able to head this section “The Equipment Development Plan” but this would be utterly inappropriate. The absence of plans and the development of processes are so full, of fundamental lessons that they will be recorded in some detail.

HQ Northern Ireland in 1969/70

9. Events moved initially, and, indeed, throughout the emergency, so fast that the staffs in Northern Ireland became almost totally inmersed in the operations of the day. Equipment needs therefore, were not so much foreseen as stated in arrears to meet the current situation. Unit COs fed suggestions to Brigade Commanders and so on upwards. In fact until early 1971 Headquarters Northern Ireland had no staff branch designated as responsible for equipment and until January 1972 no staff officer concerned solely with equipment.

Ministry of Defence in 1969/70

10. Similarly the Ministry of Defence initially sought to meet the situation as it developed. In early 1970, largely because the majority of urgent equipment needs emerging from Northern Ireland fall into the field of GS(OR)2, that branch became under DOR 3(A), the co—ordinating branch for IS equipment development. As the number and variety of needs increased the coordinating function became more and more obviously appropriate to GS(OR)l(Coord) and in late autumn 1970 they took over.

11. Throughout this time the Ministry of Defence machinery remained essentially the standard peacetime machinery, geared to longterm development and procurement and totally unsuited to meet a war situation in one small province of the United Kingdom.

12. Early in 1971 it became obvious that:

a. The systems in NOD and HQ Northern Ireland were failing to meet the needs of the troops on the ground with anything like adequate urgency.

b. There was a serious failure of communications between HQ Northern Ireland and NOD on equipment matters.

13. ACGS(OR) was. with the authority of M60 and VCGS| given special responsibility for ensuring that:

a. The equipment which Northern Ireland needed was provided as quickly as possible.

b. The long term IS and Counter Insurgency Equipment requirements were clearly stated in order to avoid a situation similar to that of August 1969 catching the Army so completely unprepared.

14. ACGS(OR) directed that:

a. A weekly “equipment prayers” be held which would survey, coordinate and quicken the provision of equipment for Northern Ireland. This later became known as the Northern Ireland Equipment Committee.

b. An “IS and COIN Equipment Review Committee” would be formed to state the long term IS and COIN equipment requirements.

The composition and terms of reference of these organisations are at appendixes l and 2 respectively. The IS and COIN Equipment Review Committee is not considered further because it was not directly involved in the shorter term Northern Ireland situation.

15. The Northern Ireland Equipment Review Committee

This Committee started work in February 1971.

Every suggestion or stated requirement for equipment for Northern Ireland was to come before it and remain on its agenda until the equipment had been provided or the suggestions had been provided or the suggestion had proved impossible to meet. It brought together equipment sponsors, approving  authorities, equipment managers. financial, soientific and political advice and GS and Q planners.

16. Lines of Communication

It was obviously essential to establish clear lines of communication on equipment matters. GS(OR)1(Coord) were already the MOD focus. In January 1971 Chief of Staff Northern Ireland decreed that:

a. G(Ops) HQ Northern Ireland was to be the General Staff branch responsible for all equipment matters.

b. In the absence of a G(Tech) or G(OR) branch, CREME N Ireland was to act as G(Tech).

17. Northern Ireland Staff Responsibilities

a. There were clearly going to be inherent problems, notably that still there was no one branch responsible solely for equipment, and that when operational pressures were greatest the G(Ops) staff would inevitably have their eye removed from the equipment ball. Despite these problems the new system worked better than many had feared, thanks largely to the enthusiasm, dedication and good humour of those directly responsible in Northern Ireland.

b. Eventually it was decided that the pressures on this system were too great to permit it to be fully effective and a GSO 2(w) (Operational Requirements) was added to the establishment of HQ Northern Ireland. The first incumbent took office in January 1972. With the Deputy Scientific Adviser to the GOC (sec para 210 below) and a Sergeant Instructor established to help with the introduction of new equipment) he formed G(OR) HQ Northern Ireland. It is no criticism of the numbers of the staff formerly concerned with equipment (though it is to the great credit of the newly appointed G50 2(w)(OR)) to say that the wisdom of this decision became instantly apparent.

18. Early in 1972 DGW(A) decided that more coordination of procurement requirements for IS equipment was necessary. He set up a Steering Group whose composition and terms of reference are at Appendix 3. At the same time he established a small coordinating staff section in Wpns (A)3 whose tasks were to allocate projects to the appropriate branches and to review progress and procedures with the aim of improving the speed and efficiency with which urgent projects of DGW(A)’s concern were handled.

19. The Internal Security Steering Committee (ISSC)

a. In late 1971 the Chief Scientific Adviser expressed a wish to ensure that any help which he could give should be made available and drawn upon to improve the research and development for IS and particularly Northern Ireland.

b. After discussions with MGO, VCGS and the Scientific Staffs, it was decided to set up a high level policy committee, chaired by VCGS to review all the activities in this field. Its first meeting was held on 10 Jan 71. The composition and terms of reference are at Appendix 4.

20. Forecasting Northern Irelands future needs:

a. At its second meeting the ISSC discussed the problem of looking beyond the current operational situation in order to try to foresee what special equipment would be required in any new tactical situation. It was decided that an additional GSO II should be attached to the staff of ACGS(OR). His task would be to work out what equipment would be required to meet possible situations considered by DMO as reasonably likely to occur 6 to 12 months ahead.

b. An officer was quickly provided on loan from DOAE and was in post working on DMO’s first scenario early in March 1972.

21. Scientific Advice to GOG Northern Ireland

a. Finally, but no less important than the military staff processes so far described, there were provided:

(1) A Scientific Adviser to GOC Northern Ireland who took office on (blank). He was resident in Whitehall but regularly visited the Province.

(2) A Deputy Scientific Adviser to GOC N Ireland, who took office on (blank). He was resident in N Ireland.

b. The Scientific Adviser

(DGERPB please provide a paragraph on how the decision to establish SA to GOC was taken. It should show that SA was established as an increment to CA(S)‘s staff subject to review in June 1972, give his terms of reference at Appendix 5 and briefly (if possible!) describe in general terms the work he undertakes).

c. The Deputy Scientific Adviser

(SA to COC please provide a paragraph of similar scope to 21b. above).

d. The scope and location of both these posts was brought under review in March 1972 at the request of Inspector of Establishments (DCS(A) please give the latest situation).

The methods of development

22. As has already been said, the total involvement of the staff of Headquarters Northern Ireland with the current problems of the day precluded anything more than stating requirements to meet on existing situation. Where it was possible to meet these requirements, this was achieved by:-

a. Local development or improvisation. This covered a wide range of equipment from a cup discharger for the CS grenade to vehicle protection kits and owed much to the tireless inventiveness of the 2IC CREME.

b. Crisis management leading to crash development programmes or the acceleration of existing development. Scientists at the research establishments threw themselves wholeheartedly into this undesirable but in the circumstances essential process. There are always risks that rushing new equipment into service by Cutting corners will result in problems of production, reliability or efficiency. Nice judgment was required and willingly given to avoid the long term best being the enemy of the short—term good.

c. Off the shelf purchase.

23. During the first two years or so of the emergency, money and effort could only be obtained for development demanded by Headquarters Northern Ireland and endorsed in the Ministry of Defence as an urgent operational requirement. Although this was undoubtedly an effective method of control the wisdom of hindsight suggests that it was unduly restrictive. It meant that a potentially useful development was rejected merely because it had no place in the  immediate tactical situation. More than once such development was demanded at the highest priority a year or more after its first rejection.



24. It would be tedious, maybe impossible, to attempt to trace the story behind every piece of new equipment introduced into the theatre. If one includes redeployment of existing resources, off the shelf buys and suggestions from soldiers, scientists and laymen. well over three hundred projects were considered in under two years for operational use. The problems of housing, heating, cooking, sanitation and welfare must have given rise to almost as many.

25. This section therefore will aim to concentrate only on operational rather than administrative equipment, and on the more significant developments arising from successive changes in the tactical situation.

Political Constraints

26. It is necessary to be clear what constraints existed (and still exist) in the application of weaponry to the Northern Ireland situation. These were never specifically laid down (apart, of course, from rules of engagement issued from time to time) but became clearly understood at an early stage.

27. Public Relations

Some constraint is always imposed by the effects which a new weapon is expected to have on public sympathy. Indicriminate “weapons” such as CS alienate moderate opinion. Weapons with dramatic effects, even if entirely safe, may be prohibited merely because of their addition of drama to an already highly charged atmosphere. The severity of such constraints varies with the situation. It is fair to suggest, however, that the degree of unpleasantness likely to be regarded as politically acceptable will depend directly on the degree of discrimination the equipment offers.

28. Lethality

We have come to accept that what are called “non—lethal” weapons are required to be much safer than their name implies. A reasonable working definition of Ministers’ wishes seems to be that they should have no significant risk of lasting harmful effects. The reduction of risk must to some extent be inherent in the design of the equipment but can also to some extent be achieved by imposing limitations on its use. For instance it would be idle to pretend that a rubber bullet fired at a men’s face at point blank range complies with the definition, so rules are issued to reduce the risk of this occurring. The degree of risk of harmful effects and the practicability of applying stringent rules are a matter of Ministerial judgment and should inform rather than inhibit developers.

Crowd Control and Aids to Arrest

29. As early as November 1969 events on the streets gave rise to demands for something between the baton and the bullet. Existing orders forbade the use of the rifle in the classic IS “Disperse or we fire” manner and even when the existing rules permitted fire to be opened commanders were uneasily aware of the dangers of multiple deaths from a single shot from the SLR.

30. Accordingly DOR 3(A) and a smell team of scientists and Weapons Staff Officers visited Northern Ireland and attended a convention of commanders.

The wooden “baton round” available in Hong Kong and fired from the riot dun was demonstrated and almost unanimously rejected as being totally indiscriminate and potentially dangerous (see para 27 Above). The visit gave rise to a crash programme to develop the rubber baton round, a degraded round for the 7.62mm SLR and, in the longer term a NGAST for a “Non-lethal incapaciteting system as an aid to arrest”.

31. The Rubber Bullet

a. The rubber bullet was developed at CDE Porton. It was brought into service in the amaringly short time of seven months from the first request. Originally intended to be fired in volleys, bounced off the ground at a massed crowd, it came to be fired directly at a target and, after experience of its use and effect showed that some increase in charge was desirable militarily and acceptable politically, given a greater charge in April 1971.

b. Despite its improved charge, constant practice enabled the throwing arm of rioters to outrange the rubber bullet. In September 1971 HQ N Ireland stated a requirement for a round which would have the effect that the rubber bullet gave at 25 metres at ranges between 50 and 100 metres. This in effect demanded greater accuracy (implying improved stability and a greater risk of “nose on” strike and greater velocity. Each of these, of course, increased the risk of penetrating wounds. By March 1972 CDE Porton were able to report on a plastics projectile (still fired from the 1 ½ inch Riot Gun) with much improved accuracy, out to 50 metres. Inevitably it had significantly greater wounding capability at short ranges.

c. Also by March 1972 another promising development was being investigated, in the shape of an adaptation of the Belgian Mecar bullet trap grenade.

32. Entanglers

A. Bolas. N Ireland developed a bolas in 1970 (two rubber weights joined by a cord) fired from a cup discharger which showed some potential. It was given to RARDE but proved difficult to give sufficient accuracy or sufficient certainty of entanglement. It took until the Spring of 1972 to develop a version which was considered worth demonstrating in Northern Ireland. It still was not sufficiently accurate and work continued at a lower priority.

B. Nets. The projected net (incidentally a great favourite with the public who metaphorically threw Peter Scott at the Ministry of Defence with unusual unanimity and regularity) also proved difficult if not impossible, mainly because the projection and deployment of the net necessarily involved means which were in themselves potentially dangerous.

32. Degraded Round

It did not prove possible to meet the parameters stated by Northern Ireland. After a series of comparative tests the best solution proved to be a high velocity .22 inch round fired from a converted SLR. 120 conversion kits were ordered in 1970 but never used.

33.Chemical Devices

a. CS. The limitations of the CS Grenade and CS cartridge were:-

I) Range

II) Slow build-up of adequate concentration

III) Relative ease with which rioters could evade the affected area and return it was clear.

The development of a bursting grenade had already started in 1969. (See para 3). A first version was produced in March 1971. It was greeted enthusiastically in N Ireland, but because of serious production problems they never received enough to permit its wide scale use. An improved version was accepted early in 1972. Both versions came in two forms, hand thrown and launched from either a hand—held, shoulder supported discharger or a 4 barrelled vehicle-mounted discharger.

Meanwhile N Ireland sought to overcome the range limitations and themselves developed and manufactured a cup discharger to throw the existing grenade some 100 metres using the SLR and a ballistic cartridge

In the latter half of 1971 the use of CS in solution in water cannon was considered. This is discussed in para 34c below.

b. Instant Banana Peel and Odoriferous Compounds

Both possibilities, the former already developed commercially in America and the latter having been given some study, were considered and rejected for various reasons early in the emergency. Some two years later Banana Peel was demanded urgently and work was restarted on smells. After some quick trials on various substances Polyox was accepted in March 1972 as the best Instant Banana Peel and Ficlor as a satisfactory agent to help clear it away.

c. Dye

A considerable amount of work had been done before the emergency on dyes, but nevertheless it had not proved possible to produce a medically acceptable dye in politically acceptable colours which was persistent.

However even a non persistent dye could be an aid to arrest whether or not it eventually became an aid to conviction and two requirements were stated:

(a) A discriminate hand held device to enable snatch squads to mark someone who might temporarily evade their clutches.

(b) Dyes for use in water cannon.

Two types of hand—held device were issued to Northern Ireland for evaluation, but tactical circumstances changed and interest was lost. In early 1972 the Ministry of Defence decided to continue work in this field against a renewed requirement later.

Dyes for use in water cannon (see para 34d below) were eventually limited to three edible food dyes. There were unacceptable medical risks (mainly to the eyes) in all other non toxic dyes. These were initially bought as powders, mixed with water to form a liquid concentrate at CDE and issued to N Ireland in 45 gallon drums. The urgency of their need was such that there was no time for storage tests. Nevertheless it was with some alarm that N Ireland reported after a few weeks that the bluedye had turned orange! New types of container

were demanded and, to reduce freight costs, arrangements were made for mixing to be done in N Ireland under contract. (The forensic department of the Ministry of Home Affairs were the contractors).

a. CR

CR had already been mentioned in connection with SPAD (Para 2 above). SPAD will not he further discussed. It had been decided at on early stage that CR in smoke form offered no advantage over CS in smoke. Other applications for liquid CR were connidered and work continues on its longer term possibilities in a liquid filled bursting grenade and for use in water cannon (see para 34c below).

34. Water Cannon

The RUC owned and operated some old and rudimentary water cannon in 1969, however after the report of the Hunt Committee it was considered that their use did not match the new role of the RUC.

Early in 1970 HQ Northern Ireland stated an urgent requirement for water-cannon. Such was the urgency that two Mercedes cannon were bought from Germany and delivered in July 1970. These were not entirely satisfactory and required modification.

In August 1970 HQ Northern Ireland made a case for a total of eight water cannon. As an interim measure two RUC cannon were borrowed and modified to improve their performance (subsequently two more were similarly modified). Meanwhile MVEE produced a design, from which Pyrene were to build four, the remaining two awaiting re-justification by HQ N Ireland. Foden chassis, bought some time before by the Army but not used, were to be the base for all six. In the event one chassis was unusable and all had to be reduced in length. Much work at various levels went in to overcoming delays and the eventual timetable was:

I) First statement of requirement Aug 70

II) Delivery of Nos 1-2 mid Jun 71

III) Delivery of Nos 3-4 end Jul 71

As N Ireland’s needs were now met (including the old but still serviceehle RUC cannon) the final two of the six to be built by Pyrene were approved but no great urgency who required to produce them. They were to be delivered in the late summer uf 1972.

It was felt by HQ N Irelend that dye in water cannon could he a useful aid to arrest and perhnps conviction, and the ability to dispense dye was incorporated in the design for the eight Pyrene vehicles and the Mercedes and RUC vehicles were suitably modified.

By the summer of 1971 the situation had so changed that water cannon were seldom used. However when they were, it was found that at extreme range they gave little more than a gentle and enjoyable spray (indeed children appeared on television dancing under it while hurling insults at the troops). In July 1971 N Ireland asked whether irritants could not be introduced into the water but, in view of the changing tactical situation, did not put the highest priority on development. Much work had been done and in Nov 71 it was decided that of the choice between CS and CR, priority should he given to development of CS in this role. This was on purely political grounds. CS had received the approvnl of Sir Harold Himsworth, CR had not. The use of CR in a small, discriminate SPAD had been rejected by Ministers; there was clearly no hope that they would approve the use of a giant, indiscriminate SPAD. At about the same time the situation again began to change and the project became more urgent. CDE Porton undertook to provide all the necessary information for a submission to Ministers by July 1972. Meanwhile parallel work was commissioned on the necessary plumbing for the existing cannon and the two still being built.

Protection, Barriers and Lighting

35. Protective Clothing

a. Very early in the emergency it was found that soldiers equipped only with small shields were vulnerable to missiles thrown by rioters, as well as to rioters’ boots and knees when snatch squads had to go in. They were of course also potentially vulnerable to ricochets and to direct fire from low velocity small arms. These needs were met by

I) Purchases of American “flak jackets” for the low velocity small arms/shrapnel, and of cricketers’ abdominal protectors against the knee and the boot.

II) Development by SCRDE and N Ireland of leg guards, helmet vizors made of polycarbonate (Macrolon), transparent shields in two sizes (also made of Macrolon) and a shield to protect the back of a Ferret commander’s head and neck (also Macrolon).

b. In spring 1971 the ambushing of a landrover in which the driver was killed led to a demand for a more truly bullet proof body armour. Various types, including Rolls Royce, (Belgian) and Ceramic (US) were evaluated, but the weight penalties for protection against high velocity weapons and, in some cases, the small area of the body protected were unsatisfactory. In the element of any definition of who was protected from what and what weight penalties was acceptable, decision was deferred.

36. Vehicle Protection

During the first months of 1971, N Ireland were developing and evaluating a lightweight protection kit for vehicles using polycarbonate (Macrolon) for windscreens and a laminated fibreglass for the sides and belly, and in march 1971 requested approval approval for a first order of 300 kits for ¼ and ¾ ton. In the spring of 1971, partly as a reaction to the killing of two drivers, further bids for another 5% were made. The protection offered was against low velocity small arms and from shrapnel, but not against high velocity weapons. It undoubtedly saved a number of lives in attacks by claymore mines. 

Initial manufacture was by Naval and Air Force workshops and by REME but as the orders mounted and the other Services pleaded pressure of their own business, REME took over the whole programme. By the end of March 1972 some 2000 assorted kits had been produced. 

The urgency of the demand and the emotive spur applied by the first two deaths in ambush perhaps clouded judgement. Again (as with personal body armour) had events permitted, it would have been preferable to seek to define who was to be protected and from what. At least one unit declined to use protection kits in Belfast relying on tactical deployment of vehicles and all round vision for the men and almost every unit demanded (or executed( its own modifications to the kits provided. 

37. Barriers

In 1969 the only barriers readily available were the traditional and unwieldy knife-rest and, as the urgent need for instant vehicle check points increased, crush barriers borrowed from the local authority.

Vehicle points were, however. frequently “bounced” and as rules of engagement did not permit fire to be opened the offender usually escaped. In many Cases he (and she!) was guilty only of over indulgence in alcohol. Early in 1971 an issue was requested of “Caltrop Chain”. a spiked chain developed by the Road Research Laboratory which was claimed to bring vehicles to a controlled stop within half a mile by puncturing 3 out of 4 wheels. 750 lengths were delivered to N Ireland by 1 Apr 71 having been made by Royal Engineers at Long Marston.

a. Foam

Work on foam barriers had for some time been carried out at RARDE. The use of foam in IS situations was discarded early in 1970 because the barrier then envisaged was 8-10 feet in height and 20 ft or so deep. Apart from risks of damage to property if it flowed into houses there was considerable risk of disorientation of a person entering the barrier and consequent suffocation. However in March 1971 it was suggested that a low foam barrier over a coil of dannert wire would provide a means of providing quick barriers for, for instance, keeping public marches to their authorised route and in August 1970 the prototype RARDE equipment, by now mounted on a 4—ton truck, was issued for operational trials. Inevitably it was never used, chiefly because the one equipment was never where it was needed when it was needed, partly because the situation soon changed and the need disappeared for the time being and partly, one suspects, because of natural reluctance by commanders to use something new and which they had never seen evaluated.

b. Instant Banana Peel

At the start of the emergency “Instant Banana Peel” had been rejected by N Ireland as a means of crowd control mainly because if it really was effective it would be a two edged weapon. However, in January 1972 N Ireland asked for an immediate issue and for Ministerial permission for its use. The latter was more clearly impossible to obtain without a great deal more information than was available on effects, toxicity and environmental risks. At the same time senior officers in MOD were reluctant for troops on the streets to use equipment about which they knew little or nothing and in whose use they had not been properly trained. A crash programme of testing and evaluation was at once started and by March 1972 tactical evaluation and technical details were available for a case to be made to Ministers. 

38. Lighting

Before the emergency proper started in August 1969 a quantity of  improvised lighting for key points had been erected. However this did not meet the needs of urban IS and further improvisation and trials took place constantly. The field of lighting probably gives the best example of not deciding what it is that the equipment is required to do before trying to buy or develop it. The commercial market was, and is able to meet any demand the Army is likely to make for IS and the tendency was to buy anything that might be useful. As a result by early 1971 there were some eight or ten different types of spot/search light on issue, many of which duplicated each other. However the urgent needs were met and during 1971 it was possible to rationalise scales and types of lighting equipment.

Detection and Surveillance

39. Search Devices

a. General.

Even in the first few months of the emergency when vehicles were being searched for arms and their occupants subjected to a rudimentary frisking it was clear that a need existed for devices to make the process both more efficient and quicker. As the emergency developed the need became more urgent.

b. Searching for arms

In May 1971 an eddy current metal detector was bought and after initial evaluation four were sent to N Ireland for trial. The equipment was Swiss made. Heanwhile a British firm, aware of the Army’s interest, offered a similar device (Handetector) and after comparative trials this was accepted and orders for some 350 were placed in September 1971.

c. Explosives

Also in the spring of 1971 N Ireland was becoming interested in searching for explosives and a commercial device (Leak Meter) developed to detect leaks of certain industrial gases was given a trial. By July 1971 the purchase of 7 more had been authorised and by March 1972, 20 were in service in Northern Ireland.

The Leak Meter was a fairly delicate instrument and required specialist operators. This rather than cost (some £500 each including spares) limited the number which could be used. Early in 1972 the Explosives Research and Development Establishment offered a compact and simple chemical test kit which could detect the recent presence of six explosives (the Leak Meter could only detept gelignite). Virtually anybody could use it (and a kit cost only some £5). 500 were ordered immediately.

Searching vehicles for arms is a slow business requiring, if it is to be done thoroughly, some expertise and the removal of trim, head-lining and so on. Clearly effective searching of every vehicle passing a check point is impossible.

Watching television one night in July 1971, a scientist at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment saw a somewhat makeshift use of x-ray equipment to search cars being demonstrated in N Ireland. After some preliminary work he approached the Ministry of Defence and aroused interest there. In six weeks he produced an outline plan and costing for a trailer mounting a battery of x-ray sources whose pictures were to be monitored by closed circuit television and in less than six months more had delivered the first of two prototypes. By March 1972 both prototypes were on operational trials in N Ireland.

Optical and Electronic Surveillance

a. Photography

In the earlier part of the emergency the prime requirement was to obtain photographs of rioters which would be good enough to be used as evidence in court. The first reaction to this was a considerable increase in scales of issue of simple cameras for use at platoon level. Unfortunately much of the rioting took place at night and, despite much work with high intensity flash equipment, no way was found of meeting this requirement. As the emergency developed more recording apparatus for special purposes including covert photography resulted in special purchase of highly sophisticated cameras and six portable TV cameras with videotape recording.

b. Optical Instruments

Special purchases were made in early 1971 of high-powered telescoped and binoculars for covert surveillance and a number of “Donkeys Ears,” artillery periscope binoculars, were issued for special OPs, notably on the walls of Londonderry City. 

c. Electronic Equipment

During 1971 the need for surveillance in rural and urban areas at night brought pressure to provide more image intensification devices and, especially, a short range simple company’s radar for rural border areas. 

The last requirement could only be met by the French Olifant, but after representatives by British commercial interests, Ministers declined to sanction the purchase of a quantity sufficiently large to interest the French suppliers. After technical studies ZB 298 was deployed. It was far from ideal in the role which existed for it, in some places at least, was better than nothing.

Individual Weapon Sights and Night Observation devices came increasingly into demand. The existing American Starlightscopes were re-tubed with British tubes with Automatic Brightness Control (especially useful in urban areas where street and vehicle lights “dazzled” the original tube) in a programme which ran through the latter half of 1971 and more Starlightscopes were brought in from BAOR. One Crew Served Weapon Sight had been in the Province since very early in the emergency but was never used, apparently because nobody knew what it was! During the whole emergency 4 American Night Observation Devices had been deployed and in October 1971 a request was made for 6 NODs per Battalion. A quick study was made of the detailed requirement and by 9 November approval had been given to the purchase of 125 British made S3 32 (“Twiggy”). The first five were issued in mid December. 

Rank Precision Industries SS32 image intensifier “Twiggy”

Various tests were made of Infra Red Linescan and False Colour Infra Red Photography as aids to detecting ground that had been recently disturbed and which therefore might conceal arms caches. False colour was preferred and, having been available experimentally by mid 71 was formally deployed with the necessary ancillaries in Sep 71.

41. Intelligence Handling

At the start of the emergency units and headquarters had only the basic hand written index cards on which to record intelligence. There was, at that time, relatively little to record, however this state of affairs soon changed and by mid 1971 HQ N Ireland had over 6,000 index cards. Units, constantly changing, handed their cards on to their successors, but collation of new information with what had gone before became increasingly difficult. A study in 1971 recommended the use of a magnetic tape encoder and a computer in Great Britain to provide print out but this was rejected by N Ireland. As a result of the continuous growth of the problem and a second study, an alternative scheme was devised (DI 16 please say briefly what and the time scale for introduction).

43. Communications

(GS(OR)1(Plans) and Signals 35 please give a brief summary of the introduction of Stornophone and, later, Pocketfones in Belfast, mentioning the shortcomings of Larkspur equipment and the vastly increased scales of radio required by the intensive patrol programme using small patrols).

44. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)

a. In 1969 and 1970 research and development into EOD equipment, although active, was mainly devoted to the heavier equipment appropriate to war. The advent of the IRA bomber in mid 1971 and the rapidly increasing scale and sophistication of his activities gave a spur which ought perhaps not to have been so necessary, to the special requirements of EOD in an IS situation.

b. It would not be fair to suggest that the dichotomy of responsibility between RE and RAOC was responsible for any shortcomings in the programme, but there is no doubt that the staff of the Chief Inspector Land Service Ammunition (CILSA) were not properly aware of the responsibility of GS(OR)7 (a primarily Engineer branch) as their GS Sponsors.

Consequently GS(OR)7 were not aware until the matter became extremely urgent, of the sort of requirements that CILSA was considering. Once this failure of communications had been overcome crash programme after crash programme was put in hand on requirements to meet first, what the bomber was already doing and later, to meet his new techniques as they appeared. In early 1972 CILSA appointed on officer specifically charged to wrest the initiative from the bomber by predicting his future techniques in order to have equipment developed to meet them.

c. The programmes covered a host of requirements ranging from portable power sources to stethoscopes and remote delivery equipment to detection and neutralisation of radio operated devices. It would take too long to list and trace them all and impossible to select the more important, because what was vital yesterday may well be temporarily less important today because the bomber has changed his method of attack. It would be wrong, however, to fail to pay tribute to the courage and great professional skill of the BOD operators and to the effort and enthusiasm of soldiers and scientists on the staffs responsible in CILSA, MOD and the Research Establishments.


45. It could fairly be argued that Training is a heading with little or no relevance to the history of the development of equipment for Northern Ireland. However training is, or should be, closely linked with the introduction into service of new equipment, so a brief word may not be out of place.

46. Because virtually all equipment was developed or bought to meet an existing urgent operational need it was regarded as of overriding importance to get every available piece into the hands of troops on the ground. The effect, of course, was that the troops on the ground had to find out how to use it and often report on its effectiveness in the face, so to speak of the enemy. This was bad enough. but units arriving from BAOR or Army Strategic Command were in the same case having had no access to the equipment for preliminary training before arriving in the Province.

47. During the latter half of 1971 IS Training Packs began to be established in BAOR and STRATCO and the appropriate Training Establishments began to run special courses or to include new equipment in their existing courses. Furthermore it became, in early 1972, HOD policy that whenever possible initial tactical evaluation of new equipment would be done in Great Britain. It could thus be sent to the Province with some tactical guidance as to its capabilities and best methods of use.

48. Although it is easy to understand and less easy to resolve the conflict between the needs of operations and training, there is no doubt that the measures outlined in para 47 above were essential if best use was to be made bf the equipment available, and were sadly overdue.


49. There will never be an end to the need for crisis management and crash programmes during an emergency such as that in Northern Ireland because the initiative is in so many respects with the opposition and its sympathisers. However there can be no denying the fact that the quietly confident boast of Defence and Army Operations and Equipment policy staffs that we are no longer vulnerable to the charge of preparing to fight the last war, though it may be true for general and limited war, would have been totally untrue of the situation in Northern Ireland in 1969. We were barely prepared to do more than fight in the classic IS pattern of India in the pre- and immediate post-war years.

50. The ISSC has sought to pre-empt the N Ireland enemy by arranging to study his possible future tactics and, although not strictly relevant to the Northern Ireland problem, the IS and COIN Equipment Review Committee is producing an Equipment Policy statement for the future needs for IS and COIN Equipment. It remains to be seen whether it becomes Defence Policy to give the provision of such equipment the necessary priority to permit it to be developed.



A. To review and progress the equipment requirements of N Ireland.

B. To ensure all requests for equipment are met as quickly as possible.


Terms of Reference

The committee is to:

A. Review and update equipment requirements for IS and COIN operations.

B. Review priorities for R&D and give guidance on R&D requirements.

C. State requirements from which GSTs, GSRs, QMMRs and QMDRs can be prepared and approve them up to the final draft stage.

The committee will report to ACGS(OR) and through his MGO and VCGS.

The committee is to meet not less than twice a year.



a. To keep under review all procurement requirements for IS and COIN equipment for which DGW(A) is the Approving Authority and thereby to:—

(1) Ensure that there is no duplication of effort between Establishments and HQ Branches.

(2) See that requirements are placed within the establishment best suited to the work involved.

(3) Represent to GER the need for additional resources at an establishment if required.

(4) Examine priorities, monitor progress, and examine costs and timescales.

(5) Monitor the effect of IS and COIN projects on other projects.

(6) See that the requirements for production are anticipated and met and that an adequate provision of finances made.



1. Consider the present and future equipment needs of the Army, and where appropriate the other Services, for IS in cooperation with other Departments concerned.

2. Ensure that all available resources in and outside MOD which could contribute to urgent work in the IS field are harnessed.

3. Maintain a close liaison with other Departments (eg Home Office, Police, Security Services) with a view to coordinating effort in fields of common interest for IS.

4. Review the research programme in relation to longer term needs.