Operation Banner anniversary: Londonderry riots in 1969 led to Army deployment

The News Letter front page on Wednesday, August 13, 1969
The News Letter front page on Wednesday, August 13, 1969
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This week marks 50 years since rioting in Londonderry following an Apprentice Boys parade led to the introduction of troops to the Province, and the beginning of Operation Banner.

On Tuesday, August 12, 1969 the News Letter carried a report entitled ‘Maiden city’s decision day’.

It read: “Ulster’s oldest city was quiet last night as it prepared to face one of its most crucial days in its history.

“For this morning between 10,000 and 15,000 Apprentice Boys will march around Londonderry’s ancient walls.

“If the demonstration goes off quietly, it will prove to the world that Protestants and Roman Catholics can live peacefully together again in the city.

“Since the first civil rights march in Derry last year, worldwide publicity has shown the city to be ripped apart in the name of religion.

“The RUC has a list of known troublemakers who have been visiting sensitive areas of Northern Ireland to try to make local feeling “boil over” into street protests and disorder.

“Some of the troublemakers are members of the IRA and similar “splinter” Republican militant organisations, and often have little or no adherence to the Roman Catholic Church and faith.

“Others are extremist Unionists who are only nominal Protestants, and who do not support the Orange Order’s ideal of civil and religious liberty for all.”

On Wednesday, August 13, 1969 the News Letter published an article ‘The Lost Peace’.

It read: “Violence was raging in Derry and Strabane late last night and there was an uneasy calm in a number of other towns after one of the blackest days in the history of the Province.

“In Derry the peace, for which so many had striven and prayed, was shattered at about 3 o’clock when the Apprentice Boys march through the city was almost over.

“It was then that stones were thrown at the parade.

“The police were the main target for crowds of hooligans who gathered in the Bogside area.

“Casualties on both sides built up steadily as yet another chapter was written into the city’s bloody history.

“The air was heavy with black smoke from burning cars and partially burnt buildings. Police casualties mounted as debris covered riot scarred William Street and Sackville Street.

“In Strabane buses carrying Apprentice Boys and supporters back to Co Tyrone were targets for stone throwers.

“The depleted police force in the town tackled the troublemakers and a spokesman said some arrests were made.”