1st Royal Hampshire was deployed eight times to the Province of Northern Ireland during the period 1969 to 1991. Six of these tours were short, or emergency, tours of 4 months and 2 were Garrison tours of 18 to 24 months. Locations varied over the period from Belfast to South Armagh, Fermanagh and Londonderry.
The Battalion was required to operate in both an Urban and Rural environment. While there were essential differences between the two especially in terms of number of soldiers available to control an area, the requirement for good, basic infantry skills remained the same. A particular feature of the campaign was the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the rifle section commanders, the Corporals or even Lance Corporals, who necessarily were given the freedom to exercise their initiative – their professionalism was key to the reputation of the Battalion. It is for this reason that the campaign has been referred to as ‘A Corporal’s War’.
The dangers faced by soldiers deployed in Northern Ireland included hostile crowds, sophisticated booby traps, sniper fire, rocket and mortar attacks and even ambush. But a particular threat in rural areas was the culvert or roadside bomb, frequently remotely controlled, which detonated after the Security Forces had been lured into the vicinity on some false pretext.
What cannot be understated is the fundamental importance of good Intelligence in the conduct of Low Intensity Operations. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) with its Special Branch, had the prime responsibility but Army units played a major role in the collection and collation of information gained from routine patrols and contacts with the local population and observation.