Family joins memorial service for soldiers murdered 25 years ago

Lt Colonel Matt Munro (centre) with Sergeant Major Stephen Boyle (left) and Sergeant Tam Meighan at Derryard in Co Fermanagh where the IRA attack took place
Lt Colonel Matt Munro (centre) with Sergeant Major Stephen Boyle (left) and Sergeant Tam Meighan at Derryard in Co Fermanagh where the IRA attack took place

The family of a Scots soldier killed in an IRA gun and bomb attack in Co Fermanagh 25 years ago have marked his December 13 anniversary with a memorial service.

Private Jim Houston and Lance Corporal Michael Patterson of the 1st Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers were fatally wounded when an IRA gang opened fire as soldiers manned the checkpoint at an isolated junction.

On Saturday Private Houston’s widow, Shirley, and their son Daniel, joined members of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Association (NI Branch) and soldiers of 1 Scots for the memorial service at Palace Barracks in Holywood.

Afterwards, soldiers from 1 Scots made the journey to Derryard in Fermanagh to lay a wreath at the site of the attack.

Among the group was 27-year-old Sergeant Tam Meighan from Glasgow whose uncle Scott Dunn was among the soldiers who repelled the IRA gang in the attack.

On that fateful day the permanent vehicle checkpoint, located close to the border, was manned by eight soldiers from the 1st Battalion The King’s Own Scottish Borderers and one RUC officer.

The attack took place shortly after 4pm.

During the attack the IRA sealed off roads leading to the checkpoint. A truck was then driven from the border and halted at the checkpoint.

As Private Houston began to check the back of the truck, the IRA opened fire with assault rifles and threw grenades into the compound.

Two rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the observation post while a flamethrower was aimed at the command post.

Heavy shooting continued as the truck reversed and smashed through the gates of the compound.

The IRA also detonated a van bomb after the initial assault.

The attack was finally repulsed by a section of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers that was patrolling nearby.

A Wessex helicopter was brought in for air support and the IRA gang, at risk of being surrounded, fled towards the border.

Their vehicle was later found abandoned with a 210 kg bomb on board.

Sergeant Meighan said: “The attack at Derryard is an important part not only of my regimental history but also for my family.

“It has been a great comfort to be able to pay my own respects not only with the battalion but also personally at the site itself.”

Sergeant Meighan was accompanied to the site by 1 Scots Commanding Officer, Lt Colonel Matt Munro, and by 1 Scots Regimental Sergeant Major Stephen Boyle, 38, from Livingston in West Lothian.

As a veteran of several tours of duty in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner, RSM Boyle said he has been surprised and also hugely encouraged by the changes for the better.

“The contrast over the years is so marked and promises hope now for everyone.

“Over the last two decades the progress has been enormous.

“There was a time when as a serving British soldier I couldn’t make the journey to Derryard this way in order to pay my respects.”