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  • Christina Drummond

Corporal Robert Bankier, 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1971, Corporal Robert Bankier, 1st Battalion, Royal Green Jackets, was killed while on patrol in Belfast, in what was a well-prepared ambush. He was the first soldier the Official IRA admitted to killing.

He had been in charge of a patrol which was ordered to Cromac Street in the Markets area, near Belfast city centre, as youths were throwing bottles and stones at army and police personnel. Corporal Bankier’s patrol followed the youths to Cromac Square then into Lagan Street, where Corporal Banker got out of the vehicle. A rifleman who was on the patrol said at the inquest: "As soon as he alighted, we were fired upon from the front of Lagan Street. I saw three or four men at the corner of Lagan Street and Verner Street and saw three or four muzzle flashes from among the men at the corner. Corporal Bankier fell to the ground as he tried to report the ambush on the radio." Corporal Bankier’s widow was told that he had been shot in the leg and tumbled out of the vehicle, dragging the wires from his patrol’s radio, which meant they could not immediately call for medical help, and that he therefore bled to death at the scene. The man responsible for the killing was the then-leader of the Official IRA, Joe McCann, who was himself shot dead the following year. Corporal Bankier’s family had been with him in Northern Ireland, but he felt the situation there was worsening so he had sent them back to England the previous week. The minister at his funeral said: "He was helping to maintain law and order, to safeguard the lives of ordinary people and their children, and as a result he died."

Robert, from Ipswich, was 24 years old and married with two children.

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