Special Reconnaissance Unit
|Special Reconnaissance Unit|
|Part of||39th Infantry Brigade|
|Headquarters||RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland|
|Engagements||Operation Banner (The Troubles)|
The Special Reconnaissance Unit, also known as the 14 Field Security and Intelligence Company (internally "The Det") was a part of the British Army Intelligence Corps involved in plain-clothes operations in Northern Ireland from the 1970s onwards. The unit conducted undercover surveillance operations against suspected members of Irish republican and loyalist paramilitary groups. Its troops were recruited from line battalions and trained in an eight-week course by the Special Air Service (SAS). An initial deployment of 120 men took place in November 1972. Many allegations of collusion with loyalist paramilitaries were made against the unit. The unit was amalgamated with the Special Reconnaissance Regiment or SRR in 2005.
"Special Reconnaissance Unit" is the term appearing in official documents from the 1970s. An April 1974 briefing for Prime Minister Harold Wilson states:
- The term "Special Reconnaissance Unit" and the details of its organisation and mode of operations have been kept secret. The SRU operates in Northern Ireland at present under the cover name "Northern Ireland Training and Advisory Teams (Northern Ireland)" - NITAT(NI) - ostensibly the equivalent of genuine NITAT teams in UKLF and BAOR.
- Main Det (Headquarters), RAF Aldergrove
- East Det, based at Palace Barracks, Belfast
- North Det, based at Ballykelly, County Londonderry
- South Det based in Fermanagh
Selection and training of personnel from all arms of the British Armed Forces was conducted in a number of locations in Great Britain. Candidates, both male and female, volunteered for special duties for periods of 18–36 months, before being returned to a parent unit. Trained surveillance operators could volunteer for re-deployment after a period with the parent unit, with potential opportunities to serve in command, staff or training roles within the organisation or higher command structure.
14 Intelligence was accused of acting in collusion with loyalist paramilitaries by former intelligence personnel Fred Holroyd and Colin Wallace in regards to the death of senior Provisional Irish Republican Army member John Francis Green, the Miami Showband killings and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
- 14 April 1974: Captain Anthony Pollen was shot dead in Derry while carrying out undercover surveillance on a Sinn Féin event. He was shot twice in front of a crowd of more than 150 people.
- 15 May 1977: Captain Robert Nairac kidnapped and shot by the IRA.
- 14 December 1977: Corporal Paul Harman was shot dead by the IRA in west Belfast. Harman was undercover when he stopped his red Morris Marina on Monagh Avenue. An IRA unit approached the car and shot him in the head and back and torched the car.
- 11 August 1978: Lance Corporal Alan Swift was shot dead while undercover in the Bogside area of Derry City. Two IRA members fired into the corporal's car with automatic rifles.
- 6 May 1979: Sergeant Robert Maughan was shot dead outside of a church in Lisnaskea
- 21 February 1984: Sergeant Paul Oram was killed in an incident whereby he and a colleague were surprised in the dead of night by two terrorists armed with automatic rifles. Sgt Oram and his colleague drew their pistols and engaged the two two terrorists killing them both. Sgt Oram however was killed in the incident and his colleague was seriously wounded, but team-members stationed nearby assisted, survived and continued to serve with distinction and some renown, with the unit.
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- Dr Huw Bennett, The reluctant pupil? Britain’s army and learning in counter-insurgency, Royal United Services Institute, 11 October 2009.
- 14 Company - 'The Det' - UK Elite Forces
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