In Belfast, a patrol of British soldiers is just coming off duty. It's a chance?
In Belfast, a patrol of British soldiers is just coming off duty. It's a chance to grab a cup of tea and slip out of the regulation flak jacket. But even during cat-naps, these soldiers have to keep their rifles strapped the their arms, ready for any emergency.
They've faced emergencies in plenty during the latest flare-up of violence. But the purpose of this feature is to take a look at the routine behind those well-headlined explosions of violence. A routine that has become all the more danger us since the snipers took over in the streets of Belfast.
Cameraman Bob Turner went out on patrol with soldiers from the Royal Green Jackets. First a brief respite during a tea-break and letter distribution. Then checking weapons and putting on flak jackets, the soldiers set off on a patrol through the Belfast streets. They travel in two Land Rovers for mutual protection.
On the surface it's routine. But the tension is continuous when you're patrolling embattled streets like the notorious Falls Road, where every moment brings the threat of a sniper's bullet. The Green Jackets have already lost two men killed and another 10 seriously wounded. The chief lifeline on these hazardous sorties is radio contact with Headquarters. On this patrol, the Green Jackets' information room sent the soldiers to check out reports of a sniper near a closed nightclub. But on this occasion the guns stayed silent and a routine patrol turned out to be just that.
SYNOPSIS: A welcome cup of tea for the men with just about the toughest job in embattled Belfast. They are soldiers of the Royal Green Jackets Regiment and they are billeted in an old and decaying mill just off the notorious Falls Road -- scene of the worst fighting in the Northern Ireland capital. It's so dangerous in this sector of the city that the soldiers are no longer allowed out of the mill -- except when they're on patrol.
During a respite there's a chance to set aside the regulation flak-jacket. But even during cat-naps, these soldiers have to keep their rifles strapped to their wrists, ready for any emergency. The troops have tried to make their mill more lived-in. There's even a bar -- thought it sells only soft drinks, tea and coffee. Alcohol's not allowed.
When the letters from their wives and families arrive these soldiers can realise with a jolt just how far away home is. The fact that they're still in Britain only makes matters worse.
And it's another jolt for British confidence when you have to load and check your rifle before venturing out in the streets -- knowing the chances are good you may have to use it to save your life.
When the Green Jackets patrol these street they always set out in at least two Land Rover -- sometimes in three -- for mutual protection. The area covered by these men on their four-to-six hour patrols extends from the flower Falls Road to the equally dangerous Market Place, taking in the city centre and the so-called peace line built between the Roman Catholics and Protestants.
This is probably the most dangerous job in Britain today. When the soldiers face a riot, they can at least see their adversaries. But on patrol, they're sitting ducks for a snipers' bullet -- with only the radio as a lifeline to headquarters and help.
On the surface, it's routine.
But the tension is continuous when you're patrolling embattled streets like this one -- the Falls Road -- where every moment brings the threat of a sniper's bullet. That's been the big change during the last couple of weeks when the shooting war really started in the Belfast streets. The Green Jackets have suffered as much as any army unit. Two of their man have already been killed and another ten seriously wounded.
On this patrol, the Green Jackets' information room sent the patrol to check out reports of a sniper holed up in an area near a closed night club. It was also in the vicinity of the ironically named Peace Line.
The soldiers went in with the new caution instilled by events of the last few days. But this time they failed to make contact. Either the reported sniper had made his getaway or it had been a false alarm. In either case, mobility is at a premium for the petrol -- and they don't hang around presenting a target to any further gunman who may be in the neighbourhood.