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Operation Motorman

At 4 am on 31st July 1972, British forces moved into the No-Go Areas established in Belfast and Londonderry in the aftermath of internment the previous year. It was a delicate operation fraught with the danger of heavy casualties if the Provisional IRA decided to stand and fight. Thus, although the intention to carry out the operation was widely broadcast, the exact timing was kept secret and deployment of the troops was disguised. The aim was to go in hard and clear the barricades as quickly as possible, establishing an armed presence before the local population woke up.

Operation Motorman was a success. By 31st July over 21,000 troops had been concentrated in Northern Ireland, large numbers of which threw cordons around the No-Go Areas, that were gradually tightened as H-Hour approached. In Londonderry, Royal Engineers Centurion bulldozers advanced into Rossville and onto the Creggan Estate, supported by infantry from four separate battalions. A gunman and a petrol-bomber were shot dead, but by 7am the areas were secure.

Troops in riot gearIn Belfast, the operation was far more elaborate, involving 11 battalions that moved into Ligoniel, Ballymurphy and Whiterock, Andersonstown, the Ardoyne, New Lodge, City Centre and Markets, Beechmount and Falls Road. Not all were No-Go Areas, but the heavy army presence prevented any outbreak of trouble. In some cases local people helped the Royal Engineers to dismantle the barricades. Some arrests were made, but no gunmen or bombers were engaged. Smaller operations were carried out in Lurgan, Armagh, Newry and Coalisland. By the end of the day, the security forces, having suffered no casualties, had reasserted their right to go anywhere in the province.

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