Bloody Sunday: Key soldiers involved


Although most of the Bloody Sunday Tribunal evidence was heard in Londonderry, the soldiers who were there on 30 January 1972 appeared in London amid security concerns.

Soldiers who were on the ground at the time of the shootings gave evidence anonymously. They were not granted immunity from prosecution; only immunity from self-incrimination.

Colonel Derek Wilford: In charge of 1 Para

Colonel Wilford was directly in charge of the soldiers who went into the Bogside to arrest rioters. It was his job to run a successful operation to round up trouble-makers, protect the public and get his troops back to base unharmed.

Image caption,
Derek Wilford was in charge of the Parachute Regiment on the day

But Saville concludes that the soldiers only went into the Bogside because the colonel went further than his orders from Brigadier MacLellan. His superior wanted to avoid running battles that would make it impossible to distinguish between rioters and peaceful marchers.

"Colonel Wilford either deliberately disobeyed Brigadier MacLellan's order or failed for no good reason to appreciate the clear limits of what he had been authorised to do," said Saville.

"Colonel Wilford decided to send Support Company into the Bogside because at the time he gave the order he had concluded (without informing Brigadier MacLellan) that there was now no prospect of making any, or any significant, arrests in the area he had originally suggested, as the rioting was dying down and people were moving away.

"In addition it appears to us that he wanted to demonstrate that the way to deal with rioters in Londonderry was not for soldiers to shelter behind barricades like (as he put it) "Aunt Sallies" while being stoned, as he perceived the local troops had been doing, but instead to go aggressively after rioters, as he and his soldiers had been doing in Belfast.

"What Colonel Wilford failed to appreciate, or regarded as of little consequence, was that his soldiers… would almost certainly be unable to identify anyone as a rioter."

Col Wilford was exonerated by the Widgery tribunal and six months after the event he was awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen.

The soldiers who shot

The Saville inquiry found that one soldier, Lance Corporal F killed Patrick Doherty, Michael Kelly, Bernard McGuigan and possibly also William McKinney and James Wray.

The report says: "Lance Corporal F did not fire in a state of fear or panic. We are sure that he fired either in the belief that no-one in the area into which he fired was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or not caring whether or not anyone there was posing such a threat."

Other soldiers who definitely killed were R, G, U. In other cases it is too difficult to work out who exactly was responsible.

"With the exception of Private T [and another soldier in one specific incident], none of the firing by the soldiers of Support Company was aimed at people posing a threat of causing death or serious injury."

"We have concluded, for the reasons we give, that apart from Private T many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing."

General Sir Robert Ford: Set the strategy

In early 1972, the general was commander of land forces and increasingly concerned that the army had no control over a large part of Derry. He wanted to see rioters dealt with swifty.

The inquiry learnt of the existence of a memo, written by Sir Robert in January 1972, in which he suggested shooting (but not killing) some of the ringleaders of the rioting, known as the "Derry Young Hooligans". In the general's mind the army was "virtually incapable" against these gangs, because they operated under the cover of snipers.

Lord Saville's report said the panel were "surprised" that the general should have seriously considered such a plan and did not believe it had been adopted.

But the inquiry said he could not be criticised for deploying soldiers to arrest rioters, although he had probably sent the wrong unit.

"In our view his decision to use 1 PARA as the arrest force is open to criticism, on the ground that 1 PARA was a force with a reputation for using excessive physical violence, which thus ran the risk of exacerbating the tensions between the Army and nationalists in Londonderry.

"However, there is to our minds a significant difference between the risk of soldiers using excessive physical violence when dispersing crowds or trying to arrest rioters and the risk that they would use lethal weapons without justification."

The inquiry concluded the general had no reason to expect the tragedy that then unfolded. It accepted his denial in evidence that he sent 1 Para in to provoke republican gunmen to confront them in the street.

Brigadier Pat MacLellan: In operational charge

Brigadier MacLellan had the power to launch arrest operations against rioters during the day - and the inquiry accepted that he delayed launching that plan until he believed there was sufficient separation between their targets and the marchers.

Saville concluded he had no reason to believe that lives were at stake if the team led by Colonel Wilford went in. The inquiry said that his proposed arrest operation did not include storming the Bogside.

"We have concluded that Brigadier MacLellan does not bear any responsibility for the deaths and injuries from the unjustifiable firing by soldiers on Bloody Sunday."

Other commanders

Major Ted Loden

Saville exonerates Major Ted Loden, the commander in charge of soldiers following orders issued by Lieutenant Colonel Wilford. Families said the major could have stopped the soldiers from firing.

The report says that events moved so fast "after the soldiers disembarked in the Bogside that Major Loden had no idea what was actually going on; he assumed that his soldiers had come under attack from republican paramilitaries and were responding.

"At the time the casualties were being sustained, Major Loden neither realised nor should have realised that his soldiers were or might be firing at people who were not posing or about to pose a threat."

Captain Mike Jackson

General Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British Army, was a Parachute Regiment captain on the day and the second in command of 1 Para.

Image caption,
General Sir Mike Jackson was a Parachute Regiment captain at the time

In the aftermath of the shootings, he wrote up what became known as the "Loden List of Engagements".

This was a brief account of what soldiers had told Major Loden about why they had fired. Sir Mike told the inquiry that the list was simply an operational record of shots fired - not an investigative document. He had simply transcribed what he had been told.

Families said that the document was an attempt to conceal the truth by presenting each victim as a bomber or gunman. The list was referred to by senior officers in press briefings in the hours after the killings.

Saville said that the circumstances under which the list was compiled were "far from ideal".

But the report added: "We accept Captain Jackson's evidence of the purpose for which the list was initially prepared; and find nothing sinister in the fact that it did not include details such as the names of the soldiers and the number of rounds fired.

"However, the list did play a role in the Army's explanations of what occurred on the day."