Corporals David Howes and Derek Wood – Lest We Forget

Today marks 36 years since Corporal David Howes and Corporal Derek Wood, two British soldiers serving in the Royal Corps of Signals, were murdered by the IRA after being attacked by a republican hate mob in west Belfast.

The two corporals, serving on “Op Banner”, had the misfortune to run into a IRA/Sinn Fein funeral parade and their car was attacked by republicans, who wrongly believed them to be members of the special forces unit SAS.

It was just three days after loyalist Michael Stone (a volunteer with the UDA) launched his lone attack on the republican funeral at Milltown Cemetery, in West Belfast, killing three and wounding more than 60. The funeral was for the three IRA members killed by the SAS on March 6th in Gibraltar, known as “Operation Flavius”.

As the mob surrounded their car, Corporal Wood drew his pistol but instead of killing as many of the republican mob as he could, he fired warning shots over their heads: that prompted the mob to attack again and he and Howes were dragged from the vehicle.

The republican mob discovered an ID in Howes’ pocket marked “Herford” (where the Signals camp in West Germany was located, and where Howes had been based until the previous week). They mistakenly read this as “Hereford” – home to an SAS base in England.

The two Signals were stripped and beaten by the angry republican mob before being forced into a taxi and driven to waste ground where they were shot dead by an IRA unit.

For many years their was a mural to the two Corporals near the Newtownards Road in east Belfast, which was visited by H&D editor Mark Cotterill in the early 1990s (see photo below). Sadly due to redevelopment of the area the house on which the mural was painted is no longer there.

H&D has ties to the Royal Corps of Signals, with at least three of our subscribers having served with them in the 1970s and 80s.

One former Signal – Jeremy (Jez) Bedford-Turner – spoke at two John Tyndall Memorial Meetings (see photo below) organised by H&D in Preston.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From The Fallen, a poem by Robert Laurence Binyon, published in The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914.

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