14 Aug 2022

British PM had RAF on Standby ahead of Motorman

HMS Fearless from Motorman to Islas Malvinas

HMS Fearless from Motorman to Islas Malvinas.

HMS Fearless from Motorman to Islas Malvinas.

The British Prime Minister at the time of Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman, Edward Heath, provided a fascinating insight into the British Government's thinking on the North in 1972 in his autobiography, The Course of My Life.

A Royal Navy gunboat, HMS Fearless, transported the British army's armaments up the Foyle to Derry.

HMS Fearless, was constructed in the Harland and Wolfe shipyard in Belfast. It was later deployed in the Falklands / Las Malvinas conflict and was used in the James Bond film, 'The Spy Who Loved Me'.

In the chapter titled 'The Broken Emerald', Heath revealed: “We had the RAF (Royal Air Force) on standby and the navy offshore, below the horizon (the night before Motorman).”

Interestingly, Heath referred exclusively to Derry. He did not mention Belfast, which would seem to lend weight to the theory that the existence of 'Free Derry' was what Motorman was all about. Clearly something about it irked the British establishment.

Heath also described the night before Motorman as 'one of the worst of my life' and was quite dismissive about the killing of Daniel Hegarty (15) and Seamus Bradley (19).

He wrote: “At dawn on Monday, July 31, the army and the RUC launched Operation Motorman. Its purpose to put an end to the 'no-go' status of the Bogside and Creggan, which were now effectively being run by the Provisional IRA. We were taking a considerable risk. All of us involved in the decision to go ahead with the operation knew that the Provisionals were capable of organising fierce and bloody resistance to the the forces of law and order. I stayed up at Chequers waiting for word of the operations. When Willie [Whitelaw, British secretary of state for Northern Ireland] phoned me on the stroke of 6am, I feared the worst.

“In fact, despite the deaths of two civilians, the operation was successful, and the rule of law was, as far as possible, restored to Free Derry.”

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.

Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.