British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland


British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland

Photograph of the three British soldiers killed in an ambush in Ligoniel on the outskirts of Belfast. They are John McCraig 17 (L) his brother Joseph, 18 (R) and Dougald McCaughy,23.
Date: 11/03/1971
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The 1971 Scottish soldiers' killings took place in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. It happened on 10 March 1971, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army shot dead three unarmed British Army soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Fusiliers. Two of the three soldiers were teenage brothers; all three were from Scotland. They were murdered off-duty and in civilian clothes, having been lured from a city-centre bar in Belfast, driven to a remote location and shot whilst relieving themselves by the roadside. Three British soldiers had been killed prior to this event; all had been on duty and killed during rioting.

The deaths led to public mourning and protests against the Provisional IRA. Pressure to act precipitated a political crisis for the government of Northern Ireland, which led to the resignation of Northern Ireland Prime Minister James Chichester-Clark. The British Army raised the minimum age needed to serve in Northern Ireland to 18 in response to this incident. In 2010 a memorial was dedicated to the three soldiers near to where they were killed in north Belfast.

Brothers John and Joseph McCaig from Ayr and Dougald McCaughey from Glasgow in Scotland (ages 17, 18 and 23) were privates serving with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, stationed at Girdwood barracks in Belfast. The shootings occurred on 10 March 1971 after the three soldiers had been granted an afternoon pass which allowed them to leave their base. McCaughey's younger brother was serving in the same unit but was on duty and unable to join them. The three soldiers were off-duty, unarmed and in civilian clothes. They were drinking in "Mooney's", a Belfast city centre bar in Cornmarket, one of the safer areas of the city for soldiers at this stage in "the Troubles". The three previous shootings that year had occurred in different circumstances, during rioting. One report said that the three Scottish soldiers were enticed into a car by Republican women who promised them a party. The three were taken to the White Brae, Squire's Hill, off the Ligoniel Road in North Belfast. There they were murdered by Provisional IRA members; two were shot in the back of the head and the other in the chest.

No one has been convicted of the killings. The Daily Mirror reported in November 2007 that three Provisional IRA men were responsible for the deaths: Martin Meehan (died 2007)- Meehan was questioned over the killings but was never charged; Patrick McAdorey- McAdorey was shot and killed in August 1971 during a gun battle in the Ardoyne area of Belfast. He was also suspected of the fatal shooting, hours before his own death, of Private Malcolm Hatton of the Green Howards. and a third unnamed man.

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Northern Ireland Conflict
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