25 November 2008

The Last Watchtower not in Northern Ireland

I am charting the former locations of military checkpoints along the Border for The Map of Watchful Architecture. I went on to the Ministry of Defence website to seek the co-coordinates of these facilities. I used the Freedom of Information Act to request the information. I also asked for the former locations of military watchtowers, several were built on hilltops during the last deployment. Watchtowers that were reasonably close to the Border will also go on the map. There was a concentration of them in South Armagh but over the last few years all these towers have been dismantled.

While on the MOD website I discovered the demolition of one watchtower that did not make it into Northern Irish newspapers, a tower in England that was used for training soldiers soon to be deployed here. These English towers were put up in the 1970s. They simulated the conditions soldiers went on to experience. The final training tower was pulled down at Stanta Training Area in Norfolk on 6 February 2008.

A retired Lieutenant Colonel, who served with the first resident battalion in Londonderry in 1970 was there and was quoted:

These towers were built to simulate the conditions that soldiers met in the Northern Ireland campaign and enabled the soldier to received the training they needed. It was a very restrictive and confined space with up to 20 soldiers in each of the towers. Their key responsibility was observation but there were risks as well as you never knew when a sniper attack might come. This is a very important full stop at the end of a very long and significant campaign for the British military in Northern Ireland.