Loughgall Ambush : SAS’ Greatest Operation?

Is the Loughgall Ambush the SAS’ Greatest Anti-Terrorist Operation & Moreover Of All-Time?

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The Loughgall ambush happened on the 8th of May, 1987, in the village of Loughgall in Northern Ireland. This event was part of the overarching conflict known as the Troubles, also known as the Northern Ireland conflict that lasted from the 1960s to 1998.

During this period, there was occasional violence between the British Armed Forces and the Irish Republican Army as the Irish Republican Army was fighting for Northern Ireland to be a part of Ireland rather than the United Kingdom.

Violence from this conflict often occurred in densely populated areas, leading to many civilians to be killed or injured. 

Halfway through the 1980, the county that Loughgall was located in, County Armagh, had become a hotbed of Irish Republican Army. Previous attacks had occurred against the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which were on the side of the British Armed forces. Prior to the attack on the Loughgall constabulary, however, British intelligence had already gotten wind of the planned events. 

The day of the attack.

On the day of the attack, two extra Real Ulster Constabulary officers were placed in the Constabulary, bolstering the total number of officers in the building to five. Six SAS members were also placed inside the building in plain clothes, with an additional eighteen SAS soldiers hidden around the Constabulary. 

The Irish Republican Army’s preparation involved the stealing of a van and a construction digger. The plan was to have two teams—one team would drive the digger with a bomb through the gates of the Constabulary, while a second team in the van would follow and provide support. 300-400 pounds semtex was placed in the bucket of the digger intended to be used after the breaching of constabulary grounds. 

The ambush took place shortly after nightfall.

A scout car having spotted the digger on its way to the constabulary alerted the SAS soldier positioned around the building.

The digger crashed through the security fence of the constabulary, and while the three of the team of five inside the van following the digger hopped out and opened fire on the constabulary with automatic weapons.

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The semtex detonated shortly after, completely destroying the digger and heavily damaging the constabulary.

The eighteen SAS soldiers positioned around the building opened fire on the attackers, riddling the area as well as the van with bullets. Of the total eight Irish Republican Army members taking part in the attack, all eight were killed on the premises. Two Royal Ulster Constabulary were injured in the explosion, as well as a SAS officer in plain clothes due to the shattering of windows during the gunfire. 

Unfortunately, two civilians in a vehicle that drove onto the scene of the ambush were also shot at during the incident. The driver was killed while the passenger was badly injured. It is reported that they were both wearing overalls that made them similar to Irish Republican Army members in appearance.

The re-built Loughgall PSNI base in 2010, just before being sold to a development company

The Irish Republican Army members killed in the ambush became known as the ‘Loughgall Martyrs’ among those that supported the Irish Republican Army. 

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Mural of Loughgall Volunteers.gif
Mural of Loughgall Volunteers
Patrick McAleer

Written by Tony Cao

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