KOSB brothers in an emotional reunion

A very special KOSB reunion took place in Coldstream last month, nearly a quarter of a century after an IRA attack on a British army compound.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 27th February 2014, 5:32 am
KOSB reunion for those in the Derryard IRA attack, 1989, held in Coldstream Royal British Legion
KOSB reunion for those in the Derryard IRA attack, 1989, held in Coldstream Royal British Legion

Organised by Coldstream resident Vince Davidson and held at the town’s Royal British Legion, the occasion brought together soldiers who were involved in the attack on the Derryard checkpoint on the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border in December 1989.

The attack began when 11 IRA operatives, stopped at the checkpoint in a large truck, started shooting at the soldiers carrying out the check.

The firefight saw grenades and nail bombs land in the compound. Meanwhile, a van loaded with a 400lb bomb was driven into the small compound. It failed to detonate as planned.

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The attack was finally repulsed by KOSB soldiers from another nearby checkpoint. It left two soldiers, Private Jim Houston and Lance Corporal Michael Paterson, dead. The checkpoint was eventually dismantled in 1991.

Vince, now 48 said this week: “The impact on all who were there was unimaginable and it has taken nearly 25 years for some of those in the support company to get back together and even to start to talk about the events of that day.

“Most have locked it away, not daring to think about it.”

That was until Vince signed up to Facebook to contact old friends. He now says he has heard from nearly everyone.

“It was good to see everyone,” he said. “We still recognised each other. It was as if we’d said goodbye on a Friday and met up again on the Saturday.

“We’re just brothers.”

“Some of us are still involved in close protection, some of us are waggon drivers.

“Some of us were just...I’m not sure how to say it, just’ lost’.

“It was a constant hell. You can imagine, living with each other, all of us, in such a small group, in an atmosphere like that, day in, day out, for the six months you were in Ireland.”

Vince has experience of dealing with the aftermath of combat. He went on to serve in the first Gulf War, and after leaving the army, he worked for the MOD as they looked into post traumatic stress disorder and Gulf War Syndrome.

That work, he feels, contributed to a culture where ex-soldiers are encouraged to stay silent about their experiences.

He eventually found himself wanting something different: “We could have gone to the Minden Day celebrations, of course, with other guys from the KOSB, but then, that’s so big.

“Everybody there would want to talk, and we would never have the chance to go through what happened quietly, by ourselves.

“Doing it this way, keeping it small, I could just put these guys up in my house.

“I think it was a better way to come to terms with it, because we are such a small group - there were only eight to a team.”

Vince added: “It’s important, I feel, for the families of people who serve, as well.

“And we shouldn’t forget that this is still going on.

“I was in the first Gulf War, but there are still people going abroad, to the same old places.”

The group of veterans say that their aim now is to have small get-togethers through this year.

They hope that by December, when the anniversary of Derryard comes round, they will all have met up, and they will be having a 25 year remembrance reunion.