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  1. ITV Report

Sunderland veterans and families attend Operation Banner service

Operation Banner Memorial Photo: ITV News

Sunderland veterans and families have attended a memorial service at the city's cenotaph to remember servicemen who died during Operation Banner in Northern Ireland.

It is the 50th anniversary since British troops were deployed to Northern Ireland in August 1969.

The Army named the deployment 'Operation Banner' and it lasted until 2007, costing hundreds of lives.

More than 20,000 soldiers were in Northern Ireland at the peak of deployment.

At least six servicemen from Sunderland were killed in Ulster while British troops were deployed in the province between 1969 and 2007.

When you look at the figures of how many were actually killed, there's a lot more afterwards, who have died through heart disease or they've committed suicide through depression and whatever, and we're here to try and highlight that and also the families of those who were killed, and also served over there, because PTSD doesn't just affect that person. It affects the families. So the Veterans in Crisis team in Sunderland are there to help and assist in any way, shape or form, even if it's just a cup of tea and talk about what's going on. That's what we're trying to highlight.

– Alex Bonallie, Service organiser
Operation Banner Memorial Credit: ITV News

Darren Robertson's father, Gunner (Private) Brian Robertson of 4th Field Royal Artillery Regiment, was killed by a bomb explosion on the 2 June 1972 in Rosslea, Northern Ireland. He was aged just 22.

Mr Robertson told ITV News Tyne Tees the memorial in Mowbury Park makes him feel proud about his father's service in the military.

It makes us feel better that other people are obviously thinking of him on a yearly basis. Although mine is daily, their's is possibly yearly, and it makes us feel really good that the togetherness in the human being gives us the opportunity to come together like this... I'm really proud of this because they paid the ultimate sacrifice, as did the people of Ireland as well, to carry that for so many years, but we'll continue to carry that for many years yet. Situations like this are absolutely wonderful and it's a really nice togetherness for the people that are here and it just shows you the nice side of the human being, unlike the reason we're here.

– Darren Robertson

Wreaths were laid at the war memorial and Private Robertson’s name was read out along with five other soldiers from the city who were killed during Operation Banner, including:

  • Corporal Thomas Taylor, 26, May 1973
  • Captain Robert Nairac, 28, May 1977
  • Private Ron Stafford, 20, July 1979
  • Private Stephen Humble, 19, August 1981
  • Rifleman David Mulley, 20, March 1986