By Eamon Sweeney
Exactly half-a-century ago today saw the beginning of three days of fierce fighting in the heart of Derry that became known as the Battle of the Bogside.
The conclusion of the fighting saw British soldiers return to the city’s street in an official capacity for the first time since the 1920s and remain there for nearly 40 years.
It also saw the establishment of ‘Free Derry’ within the no-go areas of the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan.
Almost unbelievably, there were no deaths on either side, but it is estimated that over 1,000 people were injured.
Moreover, the Battle of the Bogside was the event that set in motion a sequence of events leading to Bloody Sunday, the prorogation of the Northern Ireland Parliament and the appearance of a resurgent IRA that had effectively abandoned physical force after the failure of six-year-long Border campaign in 1962.
In the middle of all of it was a hotchpotch leadership of constitutional nationalists, left-wingers of many shades and veteran republicans faced by the previously seemingly immovable monolith of the unionist state backed by the RUC and its quasi-military wing, the B-Specials.
Today, the Derry News tells in a special 20-page pull-out not just the story of the battle itself but hears the voices of people from both sides of the community who were caught up in the middle of the events of August 1969, their experiences and what they think of it all now 50 years on.
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