As we enter the season of remembrance, a poignant and significant event is set to take place in Kilkeel from November 7th to 9th. The “We Will Remember Them” Operation Banner exhibition stands as a powerful testament to the recognition of Home Service Regiments, particularly the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and the Royal Irish Regiment Home Service, whose members selflessly dedicated themselves to safeguarding their communities during one of Northern Ireland’s most turbulent periods.
The Operation Banner exhibition not only highlights the contributions of these regiments but also pays solemn tribute to the 197 UDR members who were murdered by terrorists. Among them were four unarmed female UDR soldiers, who became known as the “Greenfinches.” Their stories, as well as those of their comrades, serve as a stark reminder of the sacrifices made during the Troubles.
The UDR, established in 1970, played an essential role in supporting the police in Northern Ireland in their fight against terrorism. Despite facing immense danger, they worked tirelessly to maintain peace and protect their fellow citizens. The Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) also played a crucial part in upholding the security and stability of the region. This exhibition offers an opportunity to reflect on the unwavering commitment of these brave men and women, who put their lives on the line every day.
The ‘We Will Remember’ exhibition is more than a historical display; it is a platform for remembrance, providing an occasion to honour all those who have served their country. As Armistice Day approaches, we must remember the sacrifices made through all conflicts, both at home and abroad. This exhibition serves as a reminder that the cost of peace is often paid in blood and tears.
The name “Greenfinches” symbolises the bravery and determination of the female UDR soldiers who faced grave dangers. These women, like their male counterparts, displayed extraordinary courage in the face of adversity. Their sacrifice is a testament to the indomitable spirit that has defined the UDR and the Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) throughout their service, as this year marks 50 years since their formation.
In a broader context, remembrance is not confined to a particular regiment or era. It encompasses all those who have given their lives in the service of their country. It reminds us of the futility of war and the need for peaceful solutions. As we approach Armistice Day, we should reflect on the global significance of this day, which marks the end of World War I and symbolises a commitment to lasting peace.
The ‘We Will Remember’ exhibition is an opportunity to unite the community in remembrance and to educate younger generations about the sacrifices of those who came before us. It is a chance to pay tribute to the fallen, to appreciate the resilience of the UDR and the Royal Irish Regiment Home Service, and to express our gratitude for their service.
To really bring the enormity of what was faced to life, we have the privilege of having the first hand experience of UDR Veteran Glen Espie who had not one but two assassination attempts on his life during the course of the Troubles. Glen has bravely before presented his experiences at the hands of terrorists and his narrow escape from republican gun men. Once again Glen is stoically retelling his story so that truth of the past is not lost, in support of this exhibition.
In closing, the “We Will Remember” The Operation Banner exhibition is a powerful and necessary event that allows us to reflect on the sacrifices made in the pursuit of peace. It serves as a reminder that the legacy of the UDR and the Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) will never be forgotten. As we come together to remember their service and sacrifices, let us also strive for a world where peace prevails, and such sacrifices are no longer necessary.