Ben Wallace at the National Memorial Arboretum with veterans for Operation Banner commemorations 140819 CREDIT MOD
Northern Ireland

Defence Secretary Attends Event Marking 50 Years Since Start Of Op Banner

Ben Wallace attended a commemorative event at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Ben Wallace at the National Memorial Arboretum with veterans for Operation Banner commemorations 140819 CREDIT MOD

The event was hosted by the Royal British Legion (Picture: MOD).

The Defence Secretary has paid tribute to the fallen soldiers who served during Operation Banner.

Ben Wallace attended a commemorative event at the National Memorial Arboretum on Wednesday.

It marked 50 years since British troops were deployed in Northern Ireland.

Mr Wallace, who is also a veteran of the 38-year campaign in Northern Ireland, told Forces News it was a success that saw the "British Army doing what it does best".

He added: "When I came back in 1994, the first cease-fire happened, there was talk of decommissioning even then and what would the IRA do in the future.

"That's what I remember today and I remember my soldiers and the soldiers I worked with who lost their lives on those tours.

"I think that's what today is about - it is about celebrating the most successful post-war Op Banner deployment we had."

Watch: Ben Wallace - 'I remember all the very good people who didn't think violence was the solution'

Operation Banner was the longest continuous military campaign in UK history

Northern Ireland's government at Stormont had urged the UK to deploy troops after sustained violence wore out police officers.

It involved thousands of troops, 722 of whom were killed in paramilitary attacks.

Soldiers were on the streets, at checkpoints or in vehicles on patrol in support of the police.

They provided a ready target for a nascent Provisional IRA which was pre-eminent amongst the republican factions.

Attendees included current personnel and veterans who deployed in Northern Ireland, as well as their families (Picture: MOD).

In some parts, like South Armagh, it became so dangerous that soldiers had to confine much of their travel to helicopter.

Members of the Army have been under investigation for high-profile cases of alleged wrongful killing - Bloody Sunday in Londonderry is the best-known - leading to calls from some MPs for them to be granted immunity.

On the other side stand the victims of state killings seeking justice for the deaths of loved ones.

Watch: veterans and families remember the years of the campaign