Did Jenkins Give NATO a ‘Headache’ That Lasted Long After His Imprisonment?

A lot will be written after the death of Welsh nationalist, John Barnard Jenkins, and it’s fair to say that his legacy and that of MAC will be remembered mainly in terms of the attack on the 1969 investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.

However it is perhaps one of the last actions of MAC which will have given the British Government and certainly its Ministry of Defence even greater concern. This was the attack in 1969 on the South Stack communications relay station on Anglesey critical to communications to the Republic of Ireland but which also carried communications to the MOD and its installations in the six counties.

At that time the troubles were underway the British Army was deployed and MAC and Jenkins saw it more as a show of solidarity with fellow Celts in struggle. The wikipedia entry says:

“Jenkins contemplated leaving the MAC after the events in Caernarfon, despite considering them a relative success. He drafted a letter to Alders, relinquishing the leadership of the group to him which Alders rejected. Jenkins did continue as the head of the organisation and the MAC carried out an attack on the South Stack Relay Station, a communications network which was a direct link between the British authorities and their soldiers operating in Northern Ireland. The attack was planned as a show of protest against the ongoing British actions in Ulster.”

However its less the threat to communications with the embryonic (at that time) ‘security forces’ in the North of Ireland that would have caused concern its the fact that this relay was part of a system that carried signals from the vital NATO Radar station at Bishops Court in the North of Ireland.

Bishops Court was ‘on stream’ to plug a vital gap in UK and NATO air defences across the North Atlantic; it was de facto a British installation but as with many of these facilities it was vital to the US military. The radar facility was a critical cog by the early 1960s as this Pathe newsreel ‘dressed up’ to stress its civil use indicates. By late 1968 construction had already started to expand its role:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/its-safer-by-air-now

It continued the NATO role for almost thirty years before the facility was switched to Prestwick in Scotland.

After the MAC attack the British government built resilience into the system first via new microwave link technology via Enoch Hill, South West Scotland to N Ireland and later via Cumbria, Creg ny baa and Carnagrie in the Isle of Man – on to (Kiliards Point) Bishop Court.

Celtic League stumbled on this while researching applications by the UK Property Services Agency around 1980 on the Isle of Man. We identified that the Bishops Court and other military traffic went from the radar facility to Ballygomartin, Standing Stones Hill to Deadman’s Hill then across the six counties border and on to Mt Oriel, Cappagh and Dame Court then across to Holyhead.

We published a press release on this in the early 1980s which was given a centre spread in the magazine in Dublin. There is also some comment in CARN at the time – part of our military monitoring. Our focus was on the breach of Irish neutrality.

Much of this infrastructure including Bishops Court has gone now; replaced by satellite technology and AEW. John Jenkins probably never realised it but in bombing South Stack Relay he had given the UK a worry that lasted through his years of imprisonment and thereafter.

Image: Older ‘type seven’ radar in use at Bishops Court, Co Down until early seventies – Inset; John Jenkins in military uniform 1960s.

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (18th December 2020)


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