Death of a Soldier

Captain Robert Nairac GC

The moment Captain Robert Nairac was beaten and abducted by at least seven men in a pub car park in Drumintee, South Armagh a number of things would have went through his mind.

Firstly he would have been looking for a means of escape before he was taken to an area he did not know. Secondly his training to resist interrogation would have kicked in and he would have been vigorously sticking to a cover story in an attempt to create doubt in the minds of his captors. Thirdly he would have been contemplating the inevitable – that he would be murdered and his body dumped on a border lane to be recovered – as was the modus operandi of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA).

Having been savagely beaten, Captain Nairac was driven the relatively short distance across the border to Ravensdale Woods, County Louth in the Irish Republic. Once there he was brutally tortured once again in an attempt by his captors to gain information from who they now knew was a British intelligence officer.

Although weakened by torture and the relentless beatings Captain Nairac never divulged any information that would be of use to PIRA. A gunman was finally summonsed to the spot where Captain Nairac was being held to murder the unarmed and vulnerable captive.

Had this been a war this would have been a war crime in the same way the abduction, torture, murder and burial of the other disappeared would have been a war crime.

When I was an Instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst I use to pass by the portrait of Captain Robert Nairac hanging on a wall of the Old College Headquarters stairwell. By this stage the officer, who was murdered in 1977 at the age of 28, had been awarded the George Cross (GC) posthumously for his exceptional courage and devotion to duty.

The parents and sister of Robert Nairac receiving his George Cross

I use to wonder about those last moments of his life; although he would have felt fear and isolation the fact remains he never gave up the fight and had tried – although weakened by his ordeal – to escape on numerous occasions. I wondered about those who had tortured and finally murdered him; did they feel a sense of pride in what they had done to this defenceless unarmed prisoner.

Captain Nairac GC was buried at an unknown spot and his body is yet to be given a Christian burial. Those who tortured and murdered him know exactly where his body was hidden because the capture of a British military intelligence officer was not a usual event – it was highly unusual.

The very top of the PIRA chain of command would have known and given clearance for this murder and the subsequent hiding of the body. Indeed members of those who committed this atrocity went on to become trusted members of Sinn Fein, others have began new lives in the US oblivious to the hurt they continue to cause his family.

Maybe they will never divulge the location of his body because if it was to be found the signs of torture would be all too evident and that would not be good for the Sinn Fein public relations machine. Maybe it is just the callousness of the republican movement that will not allow this brave British Soldier the Christian burial he deserves.

In thinking about the short life of Captain Robert Nairac GC I think about the suffering of the families of all those who were murdered and dumped in unmarked graves – probably one of the most disgraceful acts of the Troubles.

To forget about these human rights violations by terrorists and a political party in Sinn Fein who continue to promote, endorse and excuse them is to forget about men like Robert Nairac.

It is time his body was returned to his family and until he is those responsible and their cheerleaders should be ostracised by society even as they try to portray themselves at human rights champions.

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