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  • Robin Horsfall

A day on the streets.

A day on the streets.

Soldier murders innocent bystander in the street.’(Andersons Town Herald. March 23rd 1973)

At 0500 a section of ten men leave the relative safety of their camp in two armoured vehicles. As the ‘PIGS’ rumble along the streets with metal shutters down the sound of stones striking the outside can be heard.

‘Don’t those sods ever sleep’ someone says from the dark interior. They have been up most of the night patrolling, protecting the local population from bombers and gunmen. Now with only four hours of sleep they are tasked to take part in a cordon. They will help a larger group seal off an area allowing no one in or out while search teams enter the buildings and check for weapons. The vehicles stop and the heavy metal doors swing open ‘Right out you get.’ Each man dismounts and runs into cover, rifle held at the ready to return fire. The doors of the PIGs clang shut and they drive away to park at a the end of the street.

The corporal places his men and speaks into his radio.

Hello Sunray. This is 9 Charlie. In position over. –

There is a crackle of static and an acknowledgment into his earpiece.

Right! In five minutes the cordon is set. Once that happens no one gets in or out got it? –

They nod their heads from the shadows and watch the surrounding flats scanning the windows hoping to see an attacker before a shot is fired. The minutes pass until a voice says ‘Cordon set’ now they stand and expose themselves to sniper fire preventing all movement in or out of the five story tenement blocks. They constantly move from side to side in a motion they call ‘ballooning’ it’s an attempt to make themselves a harder target. It’s a cold, wet morning so the opportunity to move isn’t completely unwelcome.

A group of young, local men begins to exit from a door close by


Sorry guys, you have to stay inside the area is sealed off for a couple of hours. –

The men are agitated and explain that they have to go to work. An argument ensues until reinforcements arrive in the guise of two armed RUC policemen. The group return inside the building seriously disgruntled.

It’s 0800 they have been on the ground for three hours. Half are allowed to sit on the cold pavement while the other five stand watch. It’s quiet, word has got around that the cordon is in place, the search teams are inside lifting floors and tapping walls.

A voice is heard from the shadows.

Christ I’m f**king cold - Shut up Collins – Just saying –

A loud crash and the soldiers take cover, rifles are cocked, and 7.62 bullets enter the chamber ready to shoot. No one is tired now, hearts are beating fast, eyes searching for the cause of the bang.

Bastards, f**king bastards. You two, watch that roof. They just dropped a f**king fridge down from the top –

The broken shell of a refrigerator sits crumpled on the pavement.

See anything up there? – No nothing – Keep an eye on the top –

They scan to rooftops pointing their rifles upwards. There won’t be another fridge but this is a sign that it isn’t going to be an easy day. A flood of liquid appears in the sky and disperses in the air.

Aargh! It’s f-ing piss –

Hello Sunray this is 9 Charlie. We have been attacked from the roof with a heavy object and there is continuing movement. We need someone up there, over. -

1200 hours there is a crowd gathering. Sunray is talking to them at the end of the road. A soldier stands behind him watching his back. The crowd moves and Sunray and his trooper are swallowed up by the people.

There is a sound in the corporal’s earpiece.

Right you four follow me! –

He sprints towards the crowd and four men follow. Three shots ring out BANG! BANG! BANG! The corporal falls, the crowd start to scream and run. A soldier is pointing his rifle toward the flats he thinks he has seen a gunman and shoots. The echoes of his shots reverberate off the walls. Is it more gunfire or echoes.

Collins runs towards his corporal.

Are you hit? – No I fell over – Come on let’s get into cover –

Bang! Another shot or is it? Petrol bombs start to fall from the rooftops exploding in burning showers onto the road. The troops move away to the other side of the road. The rules of engagement state that they aren’t allowed to open fire on petrol bombers.

I thought we had someone up there. - Where’s the boss? - He’s all right, they left him alone when the shooting started. - Okay run! –

Collins takes a few steps and falls - his rifle already cocked and ready hits the concrete road and explodes. A single round leaves the barrel and skitters down the road towards the dispersing crowd.

F**k! – Never mind,

come on. -

They run to the side of the road the section catch up, position themselves in all round defence, and wait for instructions.

A wail erupts from the crowd. As they watch a woman’s body is stretched out on the floor. A soldier tears off a field dressing and places it on her chest. Sunray calls for support.

Collins knows for him the hell is just beginning.

©Robin Horsfall 2017. Fiction.

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