I was told this story by a reliable source within hours of its occurrence but bound to secrecy at the time.

But thirty eight years have passed and I think if ever a truth and reconciliation body is established, it would make a good footnote, not to mention reflection on the claim that Ulster is as British as Finchley.

It was the Summer Term in a school in Mrs Thatcher’s constituency and the careers master had the bright idea of inviting a party of Her Majesty’s forces to give a recruiting spiel to the Sixth Formers.

So a Ferret scout car, or such light armoured vehicle and a party of soldiers under the command of a young Lieutenant  drove up to the school.

They were met there by boys who welcomed them with raised fists, hoots and hostile imprecations.The subaltern had the good sense to make an orderly retreat. Many of the schoolboys involved ad at least one Irish parent.

The Headmaster was probably too engrossed in routine  work to realise that there was a war on in Ireland and a republican hunger striker had been chosen to represent a large constituency and had died in prison, and that many of his pupils’ sympathies were far from those of Mrs Thatcher or the British Army.

Some of the pupils visited  the  local  Recruitment Office and confronted the Lieutenant. He explained

“I’m a soldier, an if ordered to drop my trousers and dump in the middle of the street, I’ll do what I’m told.”

I must admire his honesty, and his common sense in not making a disaster out of the Career Master’s blunder.

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