14 May 1977: The strange death and disappearance of Captain Robert Nairac on this day

Catalpast

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14 May 1977: The strange death and disappearance of Captain Robert Nairac on this day. In one of the most bizarre and deadly incidents of the Conflict in the North in the 1970s this British Officer (in Mufti at the time he was armed with a 9mm Browning pistol ) was set upon in the carpark of The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that he was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA.

At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the and taken across the border into the Republic near Ravensdale Wood in Co Louth. Here he was set upon and brutally interrogated but would admit to nothing. When he knew the game was up and he going to be executed his last words were ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned’.


Nairac was an experienced Intelligence Officer who began his military career with the Grenadier Guards before switching to Intelligence duties. He was used to taking chances - indeed he was known for taking exceptional risks to gather information on the IRA.


Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.

Ghost Force by Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor



His disappearance trigged a huge manhunt North and South of the Border when news of his abduction broke. But despite the best efforts of the Crown Forces and An Garda Siochana his remains were never located.


Was there a darker side to Captain Robert Nairac? He has been linked to some of the more murkier operations that happened at that time along the Border and it was known he was prepared to countenance taking on the IRA ‘at their own game’. But nothing has ever been substantiated and with the passage of time probably never will.


He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1978. In part the Citation reads as follows:


Captain Nairac's exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

To this day he is counted amongst the Disappeared whose bodies have never been found.
 


GDPR

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No. Please. No.

We have heard all the grey-hound jokes a million times before.

This non-entity commands eternal loyalty and fascination on Pie.

Its like going to a gay website and finding them still drooling over Vivian Vance.
 

Catalpast

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No. Please. No.

We have heard all the grey-hound jokes a million times before.

This non-entity commands eternal loyalty and fascination on Pie.

Its like going to a gay website and finding them still drooling over Vivian Vance.
Its 40 years ago today - that's why I posted it up.

It was a bit of a sensation at the time and stood out from all the other killings going on at the time. Other people died this week 40 years ago as well

- but today their names are only recalled by their loved ones.....
 

Catalpast

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I have always thought that Capt Nairac was a bit of a Walter Mitty. Sad.
Well perhaps but rightly or wrongly his name has been associated with some seriously nasty stuff

- could be all pizz & wind

- or he might have been deep in the s.hit up there

Who knows for sure....?
 

GDPR

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Its 40 years ago today - that's why I posted it up.

It was a bit of a sensation at the time and stood out from all the other killings going on at the time. Other people died this week 40 years ago as well

- but today their names are only recalled by their loved ones.....
Have some respect then and stop trailing this old tale around Pie. What new brilliant insights are you going to bring to bear?
 

picador

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I seen him hitching a lift in Ravensdale earlier today.
 
D

Deleted member 45466

Connor's book is good, but I found the story about two uniformed SAS officers entering a bar in Armagh for a sing song hard to believe.

Does anyone know if they would have risked wearing their parade dress in a covert war?

(Tony Geraghty's book The Irish War has a photo of uniformed SAS troopers in a land rover, in Northern Ireland taken sometime in '69 or '70, before they were officially deployed).

As for Nairac, Dark side? Hmmm...like a psychopath? I think intelligence operatives have to be a little bit mad to do that kind of work.

I doubt his remains will ever be recovered. I think his parents are dead, but he's got two sisters, who I'd imagine are desperate to give him a Christian burial.

As rainmaker has said, he's become something of a bogeyman on these forums. A rational discussion about intelligence operations in NI, and Nairac's role in them would be quite fascinating, but as d'udder thread has shown, that's not going to happen on here.
 

SideysGhost

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I have always thought that Capt Nairac was a bit of a Walter Mitty. Sad.
Total fantasist and seriously mentally unbalanced IMO.

The teenage fanboi rapt admiration and idolisation of Nairac in the British press and by drooling gimps on p.ie is just plain daft. Just look at the OP with all its pathetic gushing

Here he was set upon and brutally interrogated but would admit to nothing. When he knew the game was up and he going to be executed his last words were ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned’.
Anyone with two brain cells to rub together should be able to spot that this sort of guff is almost certainly pure fantasy from the Victor/Warlord school of investigative journalism. The blunt truth is that Nairac was a fecking eejit that would parade himself around pubs in South Armagh claiming to be all sorts of fictional IRA characters and telling tall tales of impossible derring-do. As the locals in S Armagh have it, he was notoriously bad at his job, everybody and his dog knew he was Brit Intel, but everyone thought he was so laughably, obviously, bad at it that they considered him a fairly harmless eccentric and enjoyed winding him up.

There are multiple versions of what actually happened to cause his death from the mundane (messing around with the wrong man's wife) to the ridiculous (stumbling across a major IRA operation in planning in a petfood factory, whereupon he was fed to the mincers) but basically the guy was a bit of a fantasist, a loose cannon, almost certainly never actually accomplished anything of use in terms of the conflict, and certainly does not deserve his absurd mythical status.

TBH my own personal theory is that some locals wound him up in a pub about some major IRA operation being planned in a nearby forest, the bold Nairac disappears off into the night full of p1ss and bravado to investigate, slipped and banged his head, goodnight Irene. It could actually be that simple, and all the rest is wild-eyed speculation by the jingoistic British media fuelled by mad rumours started by the people of South Armagh themselves, purely to take the p1ss..
 
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Total fantasist and seriously mentally unbalanced IMO.

The teenage fanboi rapt admiration and idolisation of Nairac in the British press and by drooling gimps on p.ie is just plain daft. Just look at the OP with all its pathetic gushing



Anyone with two brain cells to rub together should be able to spot that this sort of guff is almost certainly pure fantasy from the Victor/Warlord school of investigative journalism. The blunt truth is that Nairac was a fecking eejit that would parade himself around pubs in South Armagh claiming to be all sorts of fictional IRA characters and telling tall tales of impossible derring-do. As the locals in S Armagh have it, he was notoriously bad at his job, everybody and his dog knew he was Brit Intel, but everyone thought he was so laughably, obviously, bad at it that they considered him a fairly harmless eccentric and enjoyed winding him up.

There are multiple versions of what actually happened to cause his death from the mundane (messing around with the wrong man's wife) to the ridiculous (stumbling across a major IRA operation in planning in a petfood factory, whereupon he was fed to the mincers) but basically the guy was a bit of a fantasist, a loose cannon, almost certainly never actually accomplished anything of use in terms of the conflict, and certainly does not deserve his absurd mythical status.

TBH my own personal theory is that some locals wound him up in a pub about some major IRA operation being planned in a nearby forest, the bold Nairac disappears off into the night full of p1ss and bravado to investigate, slipped and banged his head, goodnight Irene. It could actually be that simple, and all the rest is wild-eyed speculation by the jingoistic British media fuelled by mad rumours started by the people of South Armagh themselves, purely to take the p1ss..
How did he bury himself?
 

Vega1447

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Yesterday's SBP had a feature on Nairac. Will read tonight.
 

SideysGhost

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How did he bury himself?
How do you know he was buried?

People die in accidents in wilderness areas all the time, and frequently their bodies are never found, or are found by accident decades later.

There is actually zero evidence for the whole elaborate abduction/interrogation/torture/shallow grave scenario. It might have happened like that, it may have been completely different. We don't know. What we do know is that the whole dramatic tale of torture and last words and murder is, much like the man's life's work, a total fantasy.
 
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How do you know he was buried?

People die in accidents in wilderness areas all the time, and frequently their bodies are never found, or are found by accident decades later.

There is actually zero evidence for the whole elaborate abduction/interrogation/torture/shallow grave scenario. It might have happened like that, it may have been completely different. We don't know. What we do know is that the whole dramatic tale of torture and last words and murder is, much like the man's life's work, a total fantasy.
Oh, I know that there is always a tendency to myth-make in these events. Propagandising events is also almost inevitable. If he had been subject to interrogation it would also suit the IRA's purposes to hint that he had told them nothing. I recall hearing of one incident when in claiming responsibility for a death there was a hint that a volunteer was to be reprimanded for killing the victim before he had been properly debriefed. Something along those lines.

Basically, saying to the Brits: "Arr, we learned nothing from him about your networks, your informants, or planned actions. Carry on as before."

I doubt that would carry much credibility.
 
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How do you know he was buried?

People die in accidents in wilderness areas all the time, and frequently their bodies are never found, or are found by accident decades later.

There is actually zero evidence for the whole elaborate abduction/interrogation/torture/shallow grave scenario. It might have happened like that, it may have been completely different. We don't know. What we do know is that the whole dramatic tale of torture and last words and murder is, much like the man's life's work, a total fantasy.
There was a pretty intensive search for him at the time and subsequently.
 

rainmaker

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Oh, I know that there is always a tendency to myth-make in these events. Propagandising events is also almost inevitable. If he had been subject to interrogation it would also suit the IRA's purposes to hint that he had told them nothing. I recall hearing of one incident when in claiming responsibility for a death there was a hint that a volunteer was to be reprimanded for killing the victim before he had been properly debriefed. Something along those lines.

Basically, saying to the Brits: "Arr, we learned nothing from him about your networks, your informants, or planned actions. Carry on as before."

I doubt that would carry much credibility.
All fair points during the troubles.

But there is no need for Towson to maintain a cover story decades later, time served, troubles over & PIRA no longer in existence. If he had talked there would also have been the circumstantial evidence of a sudden surge of informants dealt with in that area after the killing.

I believe the Nairac case has become far too over thought down the years.
 

Jezza15

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As the locals in S Armagh have it, he was notoriously bad at his job, everybody and his dog knew he was Brit Intel, but everyone thought he was so laughably, obviously, bad at it that they considered him a fairly harmless eccentric and enjoyed winding him up.

There are multiple versions of what actually happened to cause his death from the mundane (messing around with the wrong man's wife) to the ridiculous (stumbling across a major IRA operation in planning in a petfood factory, whereupon he was fed to the mincers) but basically the guy was a bit of a fantasist, a loose cannon, almost certainly never actually accomplished anything of use in terms of the conflict, and certainly does not deserve his absurd mythical status.

TBH my own personal theory is that some locals wound him up in a pub about some major IRA operation being planned in a nearby forest, the bold Nairac disappears off into the night full of p1ss and bravado to investigate, slipped and banged his head, goodnight Irene. It could actually be that simple, and all the rest is wild-eyed speculation by the jingoistic British media fuelled by mad rumours started by the people of South Armagh themselves, purely to take the p1ss..
All sounds a bit odd. Bearing in mind what we know of his actions, I find more likely the version where one IRA unit were watching him to see what they could find out from him, but then he fell in to the hands of a less well-run group of hangers-on who had been drinking.
 


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