Attack on Derryard checkpoint
The attack on Derryard checkpoint was a raid carried out on 13 December 1989 by a Provisional Irish Republican Army
Provisional Irish Republican Army
The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

 (IRA) unit against a British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 permanent vehicle checkpoint manned by soldiers of the King's Own Scottish Borderers
King's Own Scottish Borderers
The King's Own Scottish Borderers was an infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Scottish Division.-History:It was raised on 18 March 1689 by the Earl of Leven to defend Edinburgh against the Jacobite forces of James II. It is said that 800 men were recruited within the space of two hours...

 (KOSB). It occurred near the Northern Ireland–Republic of Ireland border at Derryard, near Rosslea
Rosslea or Roslea is a small village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, near the border with County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. It stands on the River Finn and is beset by small natural lakes. Roslea Forest is nearby...

, County Fermanagh
County Fermanagh
Fermanagh District Council is the only one of the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland that contains all of the county it is named after. The district council also contains a small section of County Tyrone in the Dromore and Kilskeery road areas....

. The IRA team withdrew after the rapid reaction of a British Army patrol. A large van bomb left by the attackers also failed to detonate. The action left two British Army soldiers dead and one badly wounded, while another was slightly injured.


According to journalist Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney
Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist and author best known for his coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and particularly the activities of the Provisional IRA. Ed worked for the Hibernia magazine and Magill before going on to serve as Northern Ireland editor for The Irish Times and...

, the IRA Army Council
IRA Army Council
The IRA Army Council was the decision-making body of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, more commonly known as the IRA, a paramilitary group dedicated to bringing about the end of the Union between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The council had seven members, said by the...

, suspecting a large degree of penetration by informers at the grassroots
A grassroots movement is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures...

 level of the organisation, decided to form an experimental flying column
Flying column
A flying column is a small, independent, military land unit capable of rapid mobility and usually composed of all arms. It is often an ad hoc unit, formed during the course of operations....

 instead of the usual active service unit
Active Service Unit
An active service unit was a Provisional Irish Republican Army cell of five to eight members, tasked with carrying out armed attacks. In 2002 the IRA had about 1,000 active members of which about 300 were in active service units....

 in order to mount a large scale operation against a permanent vehicle checkpoint along the border. The idea was to find an effective way to prevent any leak which could result in another fiasco like the Loughgall ambush in 1987.

Moloney maintains that the planning was in the charge of Thomas Murphy, alleged leader of the South Armagh Brigade
Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade
The South Armagh Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army operated during the Troubles in south County Armagh. It was organised into two battalions, one around Jonesborough and another around Crossmaglen. By the 1990s, the South Armagh Brigade was thought to consist of about 40 members,...

, and was to be conducted by East Tyrone Brigade
Provisional IRA East Tyrone Brigade
The East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army , also known as the Tyrone/Monaghan Brigade was one of the most active republican paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland during "the Troubles"...

 member Michael "Pete" Ryan. Journalist Ian Bruce, instead, claims that an Irish citizen who served on the Parachute Regiment
Parachute Regiment
Parachute Regiment may refer to:*Parachute Regiment *Parachute Regiment *Paratroopers Brigade , Israel*44 Parachute Regiment *1st Airborne Brigade...

 was the leader of the IRA unit, citing intelligence sources. The column was made up of volunteers from throughout Northern Ireland.

The unit would be composed of around 20 IRA members, but the action properly was to be the responsibility of 11 IRA members.

The attack

The assault would involve the use of two 12.7mm DShK
The DShK 1938 is a Soviet heavy machine gun firing the 12.7x108mm cartridge. The weapon was also used as a heavy infantry machine gun, in which case it was frequently deployed with a two-wheeled mounting and a single-sheet armour-plate shield...

 machine guns, 11 AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

s, different kinds of grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

s, and a flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

. The bulk of the flying column would be driven to the checkpoint on a makeshift armoured truck. To assure widespread destruction, the column decided to detonate a van bomb
Car bomb
A car bomb, or truck bomb also known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device , is an improvised explosive device placed in a car or other vehicle and then detonated. It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism, or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle,...

 after the initial surprise assault. The chosen target, a vehicle checkpoint at Derryard, near Rosslea
Rosslea or Roslea is a small village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, near the border with County Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. It stands on the River Finn and is beset by small natural lakes. Roslea Forest is nearby...

, was manned by eight soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers regiment and a member of the RUC
Royal Ulster Constabulary
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was the name of the police force in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 2000. Following the awarding of the George Cross in 2000, it was subsequently known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC. It was founded on 1 June 1922 out of the Royal Irish Constabulary...


After launching a number of grenades (either RPGs or home made devices), the IRA members managed to break into the compound using the armour-plated lorry, supported by automatic fire and the flamethrower’s stream of fire, which was aimed at the main sangar. The orange ball of flames was witnessed by a farmer some distance away amid gunfire 'raking the fields'. In the process the IRA men killed two soldiers, Pte James Houston and L/Cpl Michael Patterson. Cpl Law was severely wounded by shrapnel and later airlifted for treatment. Another soldier suffered minor injures. The defenders were forced to seek shelter in sangars, from where they fired into their own base. The IRA unit left inside the complex a van loaded with 400-lb (182 kg) of Semtex
Semtex is a general-purpose plastic explosive containing RDX and PETN. It is used in commercial blasting, demolition, and in certain military applications. Semtex became notoriously popular with terrorists because it was, until recently, extremely difficult to detect, as in the case of Pan Am...

, which failed to explode. The attack was finally repulsed by a Borderers section
Section (military unit)
A section is a small military unit in some armies. In many armies, it is a squad of seven to twelve soldiers. However in France and armies based on the French model, it is the sub-division of a company .-Australian Army:...

 from the checkpoint that was patrolling nearby, with the support of a Wessex
Westland Wessex
The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft , initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force...

 helicopter. The patrol fired more than 100 rounds. The IRA column, at risk of being surrounded, then fled in the truck, possibly toward the border.


There was outrage in Parliamentary and unionist
Unionism in Ireland
Unionism in Ireland is an ideology that favours the continuation of some form of political union between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain...

 circles. A supposedly well-defended army border post had been overrun by the IRA and two soldiers killed. On the other hand, there was also some disappointment among republicans. Indeed, despite the positive propaganda effect, the quick and strong reaction from British Army troops convinced some top-level members that the Army Council was infiltrated by a mole
Mole (espionage)
A mole is a spy who works for an enemy nation, but whose loyalty ostensibly lies with his own nation's government. In some usage, a mole differs from a defector in that a mole is a spy before gaining access to classified information, while a defector becomes a spy only after gaining access...


A senior British military officer, when quizzed about the IRA attack said:
They are murdering bastards, but they are not cowards. This team actually pressed home a ground attack right into the heart of the compound. That takes guts when there are people firing back.

KOSB officers and security sources
realised that the IRA unit involved was not locally recruited, putting the blame instead on IRA members from Clogher
Clogher is a village in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It lies on the River Blackwater, south of Omagh. The United Kingdom Census of 2001 recorded a population of 309.-History:...

, County Tyrone
County Tyrone
Historically Tyrone stretched as far north as Lough Foyle, and comprised part of modern day County Londonderry east of the River Foyle. The majority of County Londonderry was carved out of Tyrone between 1610-1620 when that land went to the Guilds of London to set up profit making schemes based on...

 and South Monaghan, in the Republic. The same sources said that the plan of the attack was executed "in true backside-or-bust Para style."

Two British soldiers, Corporal Robert Duncan and Lance Corporal Ian Harvey both received the Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was an extremely high level award for bravery. It was a second level military decoration awarded to other ranks of the British Army and formerly also to non-commissioned personnel of other Commonwealth countries.The medal was instituted in 1854, during the Crimean...

 (DCM), whilst L/Corporal Patterson received a posthumous mention in dispatches
Mentioned in Dispatches
A soldier Mentioned in Despatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which is described the soldier's gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy.In a number of countries, a soldier's name must be mentioned in...

 for his actions during the attack. The checkpoint was eventually dismantled in 1991.

See also

  • Attack on Cloghogue checkpoint
    Attack on Cloghogue checkpoint
    The attack on Cloghogue checkpoint was an unconventional bomb attack carried out on 1 May 1992 by the Provisional Irish Republican Army against a British Army permanent vehicle checkpoint...

  • Drummuckavall ambush
    Drummuckavall Ambush
    The Drummuckavall Ambush was a Provisional Irish Republican Army attack on a British Army observation post southeast of Crossmaglen, County Armagh, along the border with the Republic of Ireland...

  • Glasdrumman ambush
    Glasdrumman ambush
    The Glasdrumman ambush was an attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army against a British Army observation post. It took place on 17 July 1981 at a scrapyard southwest of Crossmaglen, County Armagh.-Background:...

  • 1990 British Army Gazelle shootdown
    1990 British Army Gazelle shootdown
    On 11 February 1990, an active service unit of the Provisional IRA, East Tyrone Brigade, shot down a British Army Gazelle helicopter, serial number ZB687, along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland near Augher, County Tyrone, close to the Republic's village of Derrygorry...

  • Operation Conservation
    Operation Conservation
    Operation Conservation was a British Army attempt to ambush a large Provisional Irish Republican Army unit along the Dorsey Enclosure, between Cullyhanna and Silverbridge, in south Armagh, during the early days of May 1990...

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