#OTD in 1972 – Operation Motorman | Prior to the military operation, 4,000 extra troops were brought into the north of Ireland to take part in the dismantling of barricades of ‘no-go’ areas.

Bloody Sunday failed in its objective to terrorise the no-go area. Stormont fell in March and direct-rule from London was re-instated. Free Derry remained. Support for republicanism grew. The conflict continued to escalate. In six months after 30 January, 15 people were killed in the Free Derry area. 

In July, the British Army began ‘Operation Motorman’ to smash Free Derry and other no go-areas in the north of Ireland: 21,000 troops, supported by tanks and bulldozers, invaded nationalist working class areas. 

The IRA had been forewarned that they would be facing an overwhelming military force, and had quietly left the no-go areas, offering no resistance. By daylight Free Derry was under armed occupation. The British Army set up camps around the area, and for the next 22 years, Free Derry was one of the most militarised areas in western Europe.

Two people, a Catholic teenager and a member of the IRA, were shot by the British Army during the operation in Derry. The number of house searches and the number of Catholics interned were to increase over the coming months.

Operation Motorman involved approx 21,000 troops and would be the biggest military operation in Ireland since the Irish War of Independence. Barricades became a common sight. Irish nationalists built barricades to protect their communities from attacks by Loyalist mobs and the RUC.

To this day, the gable wall of Free Derry corner still stands in the Bogside and is still a monument for Civil Rights.

Sources |

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