The men of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment are apparently being trained in riot control. This, I understand, is in anticipation another summer of riots in the United Kingdom. And yes, I know last summer’s riots were all in England. Many will remember when British units posted to Northern Ireland they were trained to fulfill their duties in “support of the civil power”. And of course before police forces were introduced, riot control was one of the British Army’s main functions. Before and during the First World War it was not unheard of for armed battalions to march through areas hit by strikes if trouble was expected.
My point is, the British Army has a long record of appearances on the streets of Britain. I remember sharing a flat with a fellah from Yorkshire. His father and brothers were all miners. A friend of one of his brothers was on the picket line in Yorkshire during the Miners’ Strike in 1984-85. There was a heavy police presence at the pit. But it could be that there was an army presence too. My Yorkshire pal says his brother’s friend had a brother in the Army. The Army brother was supposed to be in Northern Ireland. But he was seen clad in police riot gear facing off against the pickets, or so my Yorkshire pal’s story goes. So, the Army’s experience in dealing with riot and dissent may be even greater than has been admitted.