Shortly before Bloody Sunday, I'd seen them confronting a crowd of angry Protestants just off the Shankill Road. The "Prods" had blocked the street, set fire to some tyres; they were protesting at the lack of security. So the local British battalion in the Ardoyne called up the reserves and the first thing we saw was an Army "Pig" – a big armored vehicle with a wide-bodied snout over the engine – come roaring round the corner, knocking a youth clean off the road on to the pavement. It drove straight into the burning tyres and the paratroopers jumped out of the back with wooden cudgels and got to work on the street lads.
There were howls of rage and curses from the Brits and eventually the Prods cleared off and the soldiers of 1 Para stood in the street looking bored. Then a door opened and out came a man in his fifties. A Belfast Protestant, hair greying, he sort of hobbled on to the street as if he'd been hurt badly years ago and he walked right up to a group of Paras and plunged his hand into his pocket. He brought out an old Army red beret with a metal badge of parachute wings fixed to it and a tatty old regimental tie.
The soldiers watched him, bemused. Then he began to tear the beret to pieces, right there in front of the soldiers, and ripped up the tie. The man was shouting 'Bastards, bastards," over and over again at them and he dropped the ruined beret and tie at his feet and stomped on them. The soldiers laughed. And the man kept shouting "bastards" and he was crying and then he shouted at the soldiers: "I was at Arnhem."