Colin Wallace

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For other people named Colin Wallace, see Colin Wallace (disambiguation).
Colin Wallace
Born 1943
Randalstown, Northern Ireland
Allegiance British Army
Rank Captain
Unit Psychological operations
Battles/wars The Troubles
Other work Management consultant
Colin Wallace (left) with Field Marshal Lord Alexander of Tunis

John Colin Wallace is a former British soldier and psychological warfare specialist who was one of the members of the intelligence agency-led 'Clockwork Orange' project, which is alleged to have been an attempt to smear various individuals including a number of British politicians in the early 1970s. He also attempted to draw public attention to the Kincora Boys' Home sexual abuse scandal several years before the police finally intervened.

Early life[edit]

Wallace was born in Randalstown, Northern Ireland, in 1943 and educated at Ballymena Academy. He joined the Territorial Army in 1961, and later was a marksman in the Ulster Special Constabulary, or 'B Specials'. A former officer cadet in the Irish Guards, in 1972, he was commissioned into the Ulster Defence Regiment and was immediately granted the rank of captain. He was seconded to the New Zealand SAS before working for the Intelligence Services as a psychological warfare officer. During the early 1970s he ran the British Army's free fall parachute display team in Northern Ireland, taking part in a variety of 'Hearts and Minds' projects throughout the Province. Several members of that team were also members of the Special Air Service (SAS) or the Intelligence Corps. In 1969, The Irish Guards Association Journal carried this reference to Wallace: "He is a great training enthusiast and is never happier than when he is on top of one 3,000-foot peak busily engaged in plotting his hop to the next one. He will eventually achieve great fame as he will, no doubt, be the first Brigade officer to visit RHQ without getting salute at the main gate - as knowing him, he will surely parachute in."[1]

Information officer[edit]

Wallace joined the Ministry of Defence on 15 March 1968 as an assistant information officer for the British Army at its Northern Ireland headquarters at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn. He became an established information officer from 14 December 1971, and a senior information officer with effect from 27 September 1974, having first held this latter post on temporary promotion from 1972.[2]

As well as carrying out overt information work for the British Army, Wallace was also working for 14 Intelligence Company as a member of the ultra-secret Army Psychological Operations unit (Information Policy), covertly attempting to undermine and control paramilitary groups.

In the years following his appointment to the Information Policy unit, Wallace received high praise from the senior staff at Thiepval. In 1971, his Annual Confidential Report concluded: 'This is an officer of the highest calibre. Totally dedicated to the Army, he demonstrates this by a devotion to duty that is truly remarkable.' The counter-signing officer scribbled underneath: 'I heartily agree.' In 1972, the Chief of Staff recorded that enthusiasm and dedication were not his only virtues. His abilities were just as remarkable: 'Continues to demonstrate that his talents are of the very highest standard.'[3] Wallace’s former boss, Major Tony Staughton, confirmed that by 1973 he had twice recommended Wallace for the MBE, and could not understand how and why the recommendations were turned down. "I've never known such a deserving case," he told journalist Paul Foot.[4]

Clockwork Orange[edit]

In 1973 and 1974 Wallace was involved with an operation called Clockwork Orange. Wallace alleges that this involved right-wing members of the security services in a disinformation campaign aimed not at paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland, but at British MPs. He was supported by a covert specialist military troop (possibly an SAS unit made up from specially-trained Northern Ireland personnel). This group was shrouded in secrecy. Journalists from foreign news organisations would be given briefings and shown forged documents, which purported to show that politicians were speaking at Irish republican rallies or were receiving secret deposits in Swiss bank accounts.

People named by Wallace as having been targeted in this manner include Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Merlyn Rees, Cyril Smith, Tony Benn and Ian Paisley.

After HQNI[edit]

Colin Wallace resigned from the Ministry of Defence in 1975 in order to avoid disciplinary action, ostensibly for privately briefing journalists with classified information. Wallace always claimed that this action was consistent with his secret job duties as a member of the Intelligence Services and that the real reasons for his dismissal were related to his refusal to continue working on the 'Clockwork Orange' project in October 1974, and his exposure of a child abuse scandal at the Kincora boy's home. He claimed his allegations were blocked because the leading perpetrator was both a leading member of a loyalist paramilitary group and an undercover agent for MI5.

In the 1980s, to support his claims, Wallace produced a collection of documents, including a series of handwritten notes which he made from Intelligence-supplied material as part of the 'Clockwork Orange' project. The notes were later subjected to an independent forensic analysis by Dr Julius Grant, and the results were consistent with the notes having been made contemporaneously during the 1970s.[4]

Wallace was, indeed, one of the first members of the Security Forces to attempt to draw public attention to the sexual abuses of children at the Kincora boys home in Belfast. In 1973 he gave several journalists the name of the paramilitary leader running the home, together with his address and telephone number. None of the newspapers he briefed published the story and the abuse of children continued unabated for a further seven years before the police were finally forced to take action following revelations in the Irish Independent."[4]

After the Kincora story was initially exposed in the press, the Northern Ireland Secretary, James Prior, asked Sir George Terry, the Chief Constable of the Sussex Police, to carry out an investigation into the affair. Sir George Terry’s full report was never shown to Parliament. In a summary of the report, Terry said: “Military sources have been frank, and I am satisfied there is no substance to allegations that Army intelligence had knowledge of homosexual abuse at Kincora.”[4]

This inexplicable conclusion almost certainly misled the British Parliament. Moreover, Terry failed to inform Parliament that MI5 had refused to allow one of their senior officers, who had blocked prior military investigations into Kincora, to be questioned by his investigators.[5]

It was, therefore, no surprise that Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly ridiculed the report. John Cushnan, a spokesman for the non-sectarian Alliance Party, was indignant: he found one of the most disturbing aspects of Sir George's conclusions was the complete dismissal of any possibility that military circles knew about the scandal. He then referred to a number of people as having been interviewed by British Army people for British military Intelligence about McGrath and Kincora. Mr Cushnan concluded by saying that it was misleading and blatantly dishonest for Sir George Terry to claim that the whole matter had been fully ventilated.[6]

In 1974, Wallace’s Army Annual Confidential Report described his performance in Northern Ireland as “outstanding” and said that he had made “one of the most effective personal contributions of any to the standing and reputation of the Army in these troubles.” The Report was signed by the Commander Land Forces, Northern Ireland, Major General Peter Leng.[7]

Later that year, Wallace was promoted to Senior Information Officer and, shortly afterwards, he wrote a lengthy memorandum to his Intelligence superiors complaining that no action was being taken to stop the sexual abuse of children at the Kincora Home. A few weeks later he was removed from his job on the grounds that his life “was in danger”, and posted to an Army HQ in England.[4]

Former BBC journalist, Martin Dillon, who has written several best selling books on the Northern Ireland conflict, says: “One of the ghastly aspects of what became known as ‘The Kincora Scandal’ was that McGrath and McKeague (another Loyalist paramilitary paedophile), as Intelligence assets, were agents of the State. What Wallace was unaware of what that McGrath and McKeague had virtual immunity from prosecution because of the information they were supplying to their Intelligence bosses. According to Chris Moore’s (another BBC journalist) investigations of McGrath, MI5 was the organisation that recruited and funded his political activities. They were fully aware of contacts he made with Rhodesian and South African Intelligence in order to acquire arms for Loyalists.”[8]

Chris Moore summed up the situation succinctly:

“McGrath made it obvious to all those who heard him speak that he was acting on Intelligence. There was a higher authority; McGrath was not alone. Figures like John McKeague spring to mind, and there are other documented episodes like the Colin Wallace affair and the case of Brian Nelson to suggest strongly that British Intelligence had penetrated and was manipulating the loyalist paramilitary underground from the early 1970s onwards. Where was the democratic control over all this unquestionably illegal activity? Why have elected representatives, including MPs from Northern Ireland itself, been so reluctant to become involved in uncovering the truth?”[9]

In 1980, David McKittrick of the Irish Times, reported how he had been briefed by Wallace “many times” during the 1970s:

“It was clear that he had access to the highest levels of intelligence data. He had a encyclopaedic memory, which he occasionally refreshed with calls made on his personal scrambler telephone to the headquarters intelligence section a few floors above his office.”[10]

Peter Broderick, Head of the Army Information Services at HQ Northern Ireland in 1973, said:

“To my knowledge, he (Wallace) worked at least 80 hours a week: coming to his desk every day. He lived in the Officers Mess and regarded himself as always on duty. On my arrival, I found that he had taken virtually no leave for six years. He had a knowledge of the Irish situation which was totally unique in the Headquarters and surpassed that even of most of the Intelligence Branch. As time progressed, he was not only the main briefer for the press, but also the adviser on Irish matters to the whole Headquarters and - because of his personal talents - contributed much creative thought to the Information Policy Unit. In order to do his job, he had constant and free access to information of the highest classification and extreme sensitivity."[4]


In 1980, a few months after the Kincora story appeared in the press, Wallace was arrested and subsequently convicted of the manslaughter of the husband of one of his work colleagues. It was reported that Wallace had beaten antiques dealer Jonathan Lewis to death before attending a dinner party with the dead man's wife. Later that night, Wallace was alleged to have dumped the body in the river Arun.[11]

The conviction was quashed in 1996 in the light of new forensic and other evidence. During the appeal hearing, a Home Office pathologist, Dr Ian West, admitted that some of the evidence that he had used at Wallace's trial had been supplied to him by "an American security source". The journalist Paul Foot, in his book 'Who framed Colin Wallace', suggested that Wallace may have been framed for the killing, possibly by renegade members of the security services in a bid to discredit his allegations about the Kincora scandal, and the fact that members of the intelligence community had attempted to rig the 1974 general election after which Harold Wilson came to power with a minority government.

As the controversy over the Kincora affair gathered momentum, Alex Carlile QC (now Lord Carlile) the Alliance Part’s Legal Affairs spokesman, issued a statement saying: “It is clear that Colin Wallace, a principled man, knew too much about the Kincora Boys’ Home scandal.”[12]

Two weeks later, Mr Carlile was quoted in the Sunday Today newspaper saying:

“I believe there are many people in high places and within the security services who feel ill-will towards Wallace for exposing their activities. The question is that if MI5 was prepared to kill to get even with Wallace, why not kill him? It may be that Wallace's allegations about MI5 officers being involved in activities verging on the treasonable were widely known - so if any harm came to him the finger would point directly at them. I have tried repeatedly in the House to get an adjournment on the conviction and will continue to do so.”[13]

In 1987, a former senior Ministry of Defence official, Clive Ponting, was quoted on Channel 4 News about high-level meetings he had taken part in with MI5 officers regarding Wallace’s case. “There was never any suspicion that Wallace was making these stories up or that it was totally unfounded and very easy to rubbish. It was very much a matter that, OK the story was being contained at the moment because he was in jail, but that in a few years' time he would be back out again and could be expected to start making the allegations again and then that would be a serious problem.”[14]

After Dark[edit]

In 1987 Wallace appeared on the first programme of the Channel 4 discussion series After Dark alongside Clive Ponting, T. E. Utley, Peter Hain and others.

Government re-examination[edit]

In the House of Commons, in 1990, the Government admitted that Ministers had "inadvertently misled" Parliament over Wallace's role and confirmed that he had been involved in disinformation activities on behalf of the security forces and that he had been authorised to supply, on occasions, classified information to journalists.

In a letter to Terence Higgins MP on 30 January 1990, the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, referred to earlier statements made by Government Ministers about the Wallace case and said:

“I regret to say that a re-examination of departmental papers has brought to light information which shows that there were a number of statements in my letters, and in other Ministerial statements and official correspondence, which were incorrect or require clarification.” [15]

Later that day, the Armed Forces Minister, Mr Archie Hamilton made an extraordinary statement to the House of Commons admitting that several key allegations consistently made by Wallace were in fact true.

“Papers which have now come to light indicate that, when the case was made to establish Mr. Wallace's post, it was proposed that its duties should include responsibilities for providing unattributable covert briefings to the press ; and it was stated that the incumbent would be required to make on-the-spot decisions on matters of national security during such interviews. It seems that, in the event, the arguments for including these responsibilities in Mr. Wallace's job description were made orally rather than in writing to those who approved the establishment of the SIO post. But presumably Mr. Wallace was told what duties he was expected to carry out; and indeed it would appear that he had already been undertaking unattributable briefing activities of this kind, which may have included disinformation.”[16]

A government inquiry set up by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and undertaken by Sir David Calcutt QC confirmed that Wallace had, indeed, been working for the Intelligence Services during the 1970s and that his enforced resignation from the Ministry of Defence had been made on the basis of a false job description designed to conceal his covert role in psychological warfare. Sir David Calcutt also found that members of the Security Service (MI5) had manipulated the disciplinary proceedings taken against Wallace. In the light of the Inquiry's findings, Wallace was awarded compensation by the Government.

Wallace's solicitor, Jim Nicol, referred Sir David Calcutt's report to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, on the basis that the conclusions indicated that Security Service officers who manipulated the proceedings had attempted to defraud Wallace. The Metropolitan Police referred the matter to the DPP for guidance. The DPP concluded that it would not be in the public interest for the police to pursue the matter.

Despite the findings of the Calcutt Inquiry, the Ministry of Defence refused to allow the Defence Select Committee to have access to Wallace's secret job description. In a letter dated 11 February 1991, the Ministry of Defence said that Wallace's job description contained "sensitive information relating to the security and intelligence matters" and that the provision of such papers, even under the conditions relating to the Committee's access to classified information, "would be inconsistent with the conventions"[17]

Dublin bombings inquiry[edit]

Evidence from Wallace was used by the Barron Report, an Irish government inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

A letter from Colin Wallace to Tony Stoughton, the Chief Information Officer of the Army Information Service at Lisburn, on 14 August 1975 noted the connections between UVF loyalists and intelligence agencies of the Army and of the RUC Special Branch:

"There is good evidence the Dublin bombings [see Dublin and Monaghan bombings] in May last year were a reprisal for the Irish government's role in bringing about the [power sharing] Executive. According to one of Craig's people [Craig Smellie, the top MI6 officer in Northern Ireland at the time], some of those involved, the Youngs, the Jacksons, Mulholland, Hanna, Kerr and McConnell were working closely with SB [Special Branch] and Int [Intelligence] at that time. Craig's people believe the sectarian assassinations were designed to destroy [then Northern Secretary Merlyn] Rees's attempts to negotiate a ceasefire, and the targets were identified for both sides by Int/SB. They also believe some very senior RUC officers were involved with this group. In short, it would appear that loyalist paramilitaries and Int/SB members have formed some sort of pseudo-gangs in an attempt to fight a war of attrition by getting paramilitaries on both sides to kill each other and, at the same time, prevent any future political initiative such as Sunningdale."[18]

In a further letter dated 30 September 1975, Wallace revealed that MI5 was trying to create a split in the UVF in order to foment violence:

"because they wanted the more politically minded ones ousted. I believe much of the violence generated during the latter part of last year was caused by some of the new Int people deliberately stirring up the conflict. As you know, we have never been allowed to target the breakaway UVF, nor the UFF, during the past year. Yet they have killed more people than the IRA!"[19]

In December 2003, The Irish Parliament’s Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights, published the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings which took place in May 1974. The Inquiry was led by a former Irish Supreme Court Judge, Mr Justice Henry Barron. Judge Barron interviewed Wallace on a number of occasions during the Inquiry and comments:

“In person, Wallace comes across as intelligent, self-assured, and possessed of a quiet yet unwavering moral conviction. Though he has reasons enough to be bitter - the abrupt and unjust ending of a promising career in Northern Ireland, five years spent in prison on a conviction which has since been quashed - he displays no outward signs of resentment towards individuals or institutions. He remains intensely loyal to his country and to the Army: insofar as he has a quarrel, it is with individuals rather than the institutions concerned. He says he believes that much of the propaganda work undertaken by Information Policy was justifiable in the interests of defeating subversives and promoting a political solution to the Troubles. When speaking of matters directly within his own experience, the Inquiry believes him to be a highly knowledgeable witness. His analyses and opinions, though derived partly from personal knowledge and partly from information gleaned since his time in Northern Ireland, should also be treated with seriousness and respect.”

Judge Barron also refers to what calls “the dubious nature of his (Wallace’s) conviction for manslaughter in 1981", and points out that the “conviction was quashed on 21 July 1996."

There now seems little doubt that Wallace was a victim of the internal rivalries that existed at that time between MI5, MI6, the RUC Special Branch and the Army.

In his book, ‘Inside Intelligence’, former MI6 officer, Anthony Cavendish, confirms that he knew Wallace and says that his story is “frightening and disquieting, but one which ties in with many events to which I have been privy”. Cavendish sent Wallace a first edition of his book which contains the following inscription: "Colin - a great help and a true friend."

Cavendish, a close friend over many years of Sir Maurice Oldfield, former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, says that Wallace’s assertion that Oldfield was the target of a black propaganda campaign by MI5, “match closely details which were told to me privately by Maurice.”

"The black propaganda campaign against Maurice started in 1972, increased the year later when he became Chief of MI6 and was reinforced with a vengeance in 1979 when it became known that he was to be the new Security Supremo for Northern Ireland."

“In Maurice’s view it was undoubtedly the pressure of increasing in-house rivalries and the danger it was causing which caused Mrs Thatcher to ask him to come out of retirement and reorganize from scratch the whole intelligence empire in Northern Ireland.”

The Intelligence world in which Wallace operated in Northern Ireland was graphically described by Lord Stevens, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Lord Stevens had presided over an external police inquiry into allegations in Northern Ireland of collusion between the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and loyalist terrorists in the murders of Irish nationalists. In May 2011, he gave evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Detention of Terrorist Suspects (Temporary Extension) Bills and said:

“When you talk about Intelligence, of the 210 people we arrested, only three were not (Intelligence) agents. Some of them were agents for all four of those particular organisations (Army, MI5, MI6 and Special Branch), fighting against each other, doing things and making a large sum of money, which was all against the public interest and creating mayhem in Northern Ireland. Any system that is created in relation to this country and Northern Ireland has to have a proper controlling mechanism. It has to have a mechanism where someone is accountable for what the actions are and that has to be transparent."[20]


To this day, Wallace's full role remains a mystery. Former members of the Special Forces admit that Wallace worked with them as far afield as Berlin and the Oman during the Cold War, but the Ministry of Defence and the Intelligence Services still try to distance themselves from what Wallace was doing in Northern Ireland. The true nature of his work there is clearly still a very sensitive matter. He had been part of the Army team preparing for the Widgery Tribunal into the Bloody Sunday killings of protestors in Derry, and in 2002, he testified at the Saville Inquiry into the events.[21]

One of Wallace's close friends in the Army described him as follows: "I played golf with the General. That was an accident. Colin was needed by the General. Everyone needed him. They just could not do without him."

Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Yarnold, who worked with Wallace in Northern Ireland, said: "Let's face it, Colin was the lynchpin of the whole operation. He was terrific - way ahead of us all in his knowledge and his readiness to work. Everyone wanted him all the time, and somehow he was always available."

A former Ministry of Defence Chief Information Officer commented: "For loyalty and dedication to the Army, Colin Wallace was in a class of his own. I just cannot conceive of any situation in which he would act maliciously against the interests of the Crown or the Army."


  1. ^ Irish Guards Association Journal, February 1969, page 35
  2. ^ Commons statement on Wallace
  3. ^ Extracts from Wallace's Annual Confidential Reports released by the MOD in 1975)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Foot, Paul (1989). Who Framed Colin Wallace. Macmillan, London. ISBN 0-333-47008-7. 
  5. ^ 'The Kincora Scandal' by Chris Moore
  6. ^ The Irish Times, 10 November 1983
  7. ^ Documents released by the MOD at Wallace's disciplinary hearing in 1975
  8. ^ 'The Trigger Men' by Martin Dillon
  9. ^ 'The Kincora Scandal
  10. ^ Irish Times 21 March 1981
  11. ^ The Guardian; Man gaoled for killing, 21 March 1981
  12. ^ Alliance Party News Release, 2 March 1987
  13. ^ Sunday Today, 17 May 1987
  14. ^ Channel 4 News, 25 June 1987
  15. ^ letter from Margaret Thatcher to Terence Higgins MP dated 30 January 1990
  16. ^ House of Commons Hansard Debates for 30 Jan 1990
  17. ^ MOD letter D/S of S/PS/20/229J dated 11 February 1991
  18. ^ Death Squad Dossier, Irish Mail on Sunday by Michael Browne, 10 December 2006, see also, Irish Daily Mail, 30 November 2006 for further information
  19. ^ Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings
  20. ^ Minutes of The Joint Committee on the Draft Detention of Terrorist Suspects (Temporary Extension) Bills, 3 May 2011
  21. ^ Paul Foot (2 October 2002). "The Final Vindication". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2007. 

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