Thread: On The Square
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Old 23-11-2012, 02:55 AM   #87
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Exclamation The Four Square Laundry

Lt. Colonel, Welsh Guards Military Intelligence

There was a curious atmosphere prevailing at the time which we have subsequently described as a slightly piratical atmosphere, and I think that that’s not a bad description actually.

TAYLOR: Piratical?

LT.COL: Piratical. I mean there were gaps to be filled and there was no point in sitting back in an ivory tower of any sort and not doing something about it.

TAYLOR: Alan joined the MRF in 1972. The identities of undercover agents in this series are not revealed to protect their personal security.

What did you understand you were being recruited for and to do?

ALAN: I understood that the organisation was a plain clothes military unit which took a rather more robust view of counter terrorist operations.

TAYLOR: What would that rather more robust view entail?

ALAN: Actively seeking out the enemy to do something that was positive to sort the terrorists out once and for all.

TAYLOR: The most novel application of these early piratical ventures was a special laundry service run by the army. The van, that became a familiar sight in Republican areas, was used to spy on the enemy. The enterprise was known as ‘The Four Square Laundry’.

How did the laundry operate?

General Staff Officer HQ, Northern Ireland

Well they operated from a van and collected laundry from certain estates, advertised their wares, as it were, and collected laundry which was then, I presume, checked over for explosives and forensically and then cleaned and returned.

Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley Commander Land Forces, N.I. 1970-71

The Four Square Laundry was one means of going in to get information about who was doing what in areas without them knowing we were observing it.

TAYLOR: The laundry’s cover was finally blown when the IRA interrogated one of its members it suspected of working for the Brits. He spilled the beans and the IRA planned its attack. It was carried out by gunmen from the unit commanded by Brendan Hughes, known as ‘Darkie’.

How was the Four Square Laundry attacked?

Brendan Hughes
Former IRA Commander, Belfast

Two men got out of the car. The car was parked waiting on the van to come. The Driver was there and the driver was shot, and the woman who was collecting the laundry round the doors ran into the house and the people in the house, believing that the van was being attacked by Loyalists, helped the woman get away.. the undercover agent get away.

LT.COL: It was an attempt which partly worked and partly failed with disastrous consequences which we all know. But I suspect, in the way of these things, is rather like the sort of.. you know, the first parachute, somebody’s got to have the notion of a parachute, jump out of an aeroplane and be killed before somebody says well I think we’ve got to design a better parachute.

HUGHES: To me it was a very, very amateurish and very badly run military operation.
The 2nd Battalion would attack the Four Square Laundry van and the office at College Square, while the 3rd Battalion would raid the massage parlour...
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