Returning from a brief visit to Birmingham yesterday on Saint Patrick’s Day, I flew into Belfast International Airport. I was at the funeral of a former colleague at BBC Radio Birmingham, now Radio WM, Ken Dudeney. I then remembered that 39 years ago in 1976 I had flown into Aldergrove airport as it was then known as a BBC Radio Birmingham reporter on a very different mission. I had been tasked to do a programme about a British Army regiment doing a tour of duty in the North, the Birmingham Gunners. Their correct title was 39 Medium Regiment Royal Artillery. They had been deployed there for four months on December 4th 1975 and served on that occasion until April 6th 1976. The BBC local radio station had been offered the opportunity by the British Army to meet and record interviews with some of the squaddies an their officers. During that tour of duty, H Battery was on duty securing the perimeter of the Maze prison near Lisburn. 132 Battery was on the border at Aughnacloy, manning the checkpoint on the main Dublin to Derry road. A third section 176 Battery covered Lurgan and Criagavon. Thus it was that on St Patrick’s Day in April 1976 I spent the night at the British Army base at HMP Maze. More of this story later.

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