• November 18, 2016

‘Ulster investigation shines focus on murder gang strategy used in Malaya, Kenya and the North of Ireland’

With today’s announcement that the body of an unarmed civilian man shot in the North of Ireland in 1972 is to be exhumed it seems that at long last a judicial spotlight may be shone on the activities of the British Army Military Reaction Force (MRF) a murder gang that operated during the early days of the troubles (link):


It has been known for years that the use of gangs and counter gangs was part of the counter insurgency mantra of the British Army it was particularly honed by Brigadier Frank Kitson (later) and was used in Kenya and Malaya before being exported for use in Ulster.

Last year in an assessment for another article Celtic League were writing we cited the work of John Newsinger’s work ‘British Counter-Insurgency; From Palestine to Northern’ in which he says

“Kitson (Brigadier Frank Kitson) was also responsible for developing the use of covert operations in Northern Ireland. This was hardly a new development but was a feature of every British post war counterinsurgency campaign. Certainly the activities of the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF) and other similar detachments were effective at fighting the IRA with its own methods. Robin Evelegh actually laments the fact that during his tours in Northern Ireland he was not allowed to put more than 20 per cent of his battalion into plain clothes and argues that 50 soldiers in civilian dress were more effective that 400 in battledress.
Nevertheless, covert operations have their own inherent drawbacks. As historian Charles Townshend has pointed out, this ‘mimetic process’ holds considerable dangers with an inevitable tendency for the army’s counter- or pseudo-gangs to run out of control and resort to assassination”

Kitson went on from N. Ireland to Commandant of the British Army Staff College at Camberley. His book ‘Low Intensity Operations’ and other papers he wrote are part of the ‘cultural DNA’ of the British Army.

Just what a ruthless ‘cold fish’ Kitson was is illustrated by another author Fred Holroyd.

Holroyd was a former Army Intelligence officer with knowledge of the British Army murder gangs.

In his book ‘War without Honour” (page 29) Holroyd writes about a lecture Kitson gave at the British Army base at Ashford (The Joint Services Intelligence Training Centre) in 1973. Speaking of Kitson he says:

“He was rightly considered the top man in his field. Kitson spoke very clearly and very slowly, almost as if he was addressing a crowd of schoolchildren; and I realised the tactical philosophy he was expounding was rather different from that normally associated with the British Army. The logic of the use of infiltration, pseudo-gangs and deep interrogation, to defeat terrorist opposition was nonetheless compelling. I was yet to see how it worked in practice – and just how it could involve breaking the law and imitating terrorism to achieve its ends.”

It remains to be seen where the latest police investigation will go but the pressure is on to resolve a number of controversial execution type murders carried out by the British Army and pseudo-gangs of loyalists employed by them on both sides of the Irish border

Related links;



British Counter-Insurgency; From Palestine to Northern Ireland (John Newsinger) ISBN 0-333-79385-4 (Publisher: Palgrave)

War Without Honour (Fred Holroyd) ISBN 1-872398-00-6 (The Medium Publishing Co).

Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping by Frank Kitson (ISBN: 9780571271023)

Image: ‘A cold fish’: Brigadier Frank Kitson in the early days of the troubles. He wrote the British Armies ‘bible’ on counter insurgency ‘Low Intensity Operations’ which advocates the use of pseudo-gangs.

Public Relations Officer Mannin Branch

Issued by: The Mannin branch of the Celtic League.



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