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  • Christina Drummond

Corporal Jeremy James Gaulder, Corps of Royal Engineers

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in the year 2000, Corporal Jeremy James Gaulder, Corps of Royal Engineers, died while on operations in Lisahally, Northern Ireland. He had been assisting the Royal Navy with a boarding operation and security check on a coal-carrying vessel from Colombia.

It was determined before the vessel’s arrival that Army personnel would be conducting the search, which was unusual at that time, as such searches were carried out by Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel. The Northern Ireland Squadron was informed - the Squadron was established in 1969 to intercept the importation of illegal arms and support anti-terrorist operations. At a meeting involving the Navy, Royal Marines and a specialist Army search team, the experienced search team leader gave his opinion that what they were searching for was unlikely to be stowed in the holds, which would be deemed off-bounds. Official documents did not make clear whether the search would be for arms, people or drugs. The captain of the vessel was informed that the search was being undertaken under Prevention of Terrorism legislation. Those on the search team were told that emergency escape kits, along with confined space and oxygen testing equipment, were to be used, and that they were not to enter the holds.

One of the sappers did not know how to use his emergency breathing set, yet followed Sapper Naivalura (who had neither heeded the warning nor pre-tested the atmosphere) into the hold. Both men lost consciousness, help was called for and Corporal Gaulder, going into the hold to rescue the men only to be overcome by lack of oxygen and the high level of carbon dioxide. When the three men were removed from the hold, only the sapper who had followed Sapper Naivalura survived.

The search was abandoned, but there were questions asked as to why it didn’t continue or be resumed, given its importance at the outset. The Senior Naval Officer in Northern Ireland assumed the RUC would complete the search. A report on the tragedy referred to the “high profile” the operation was given: “If the operation was important enough to involve a specialist search team, it was also important enough to be completed.” It is not known if the vessel contained anything of interest, and it continued running coal shipments in and out of Londonderry. The report also pointed to problems with the military operation: the search party were ill-equipped, ill-trained and inexperienced. It was felt that a properly-trained specialist army marine search team was needed, in order to prevent such tragedies: “Despite the instructions contained in the army operational manual, the staff sergeant had not been given sufficient information or guidance, nor had the naval search team leader fully appreciated the lack of marine knowledge experience of the army search team. Both the army and the navy had a mutual respect for each other’s professionalism, and therefore neither explored the other’s knowledge or capability. The army’s failure to provide Working in Confined Spaces training to all members of the team was due to an operational command decision.”

Jeremy, from Plymouth, was 30 years old and married.

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