March 19, 1988: British corporals executed in Northern Ireland

On March 19, 1988 the IRA killed two British corporals in Belfast whom they mistook for Irish Loyalists.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – There were enough deaths during ‘The Troubles’ in Ireland: it is sad that a pair of them were a case of mistaken identity.

Do you ever get that feeling when you see someone at a distance, are sure it is someone you know, and go up and say ‘Hi ___’, only to realise that you are the victim of mistaken identity? You usually feel pretty foolish after, don’t you?

Luckily, the consequences of getting this wrong are negligible. But what if it turns out more badly?

Wait, who are you again? (Photo: By John Simmons – Sotheby’s, New York, 04 May 2012, lot 72, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1988

Two corporals in the British Army, David Howes and Derek Wood, were stabbed, beaten and finally shot dead by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) in Belfast after having been mistaken for Irish Loyalists. Three days earlier a Loyalist had killed three PIRA terrorists at a funeral procession. PIRA believed that the two British soldiers were intent on repeating a similar action: the two had driven into another funeral march for yet another a dead PIRA member.

Our volunteers forcibly removed the two men from the crowd and, after clearly ascertaining their identities from equipment and documentation, we executed them.

IRA statement

If I were a conspiracy theorist, which I am most certainly not, I would say the two corporals were there with nefarious intent. Whatever their purpose, is not condemnatory that the IRA beat, stabbed and eventually shot unarmed men?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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