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‘Welcome to the Irish Republic, Sir!’ A British infantry patrol lost on the border with Northern Ireland, 1988

Timeline: Ireland and the British Army

The British Army has played a central role in the long history of conflict and co-operation between Britain and Ireland. Here we explore some of the key moments in this difficult but fascinating story.

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Soldiers of the East Yorkshire Regiment at Longford, Ireland, May 1921

Irish War of Independence

Fought between 1919 and 1921, this was a guerrilla and sectarian conflict involving Irish republicans, Ulster loyalists and British government forces. It brought about the creation of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State.

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The Battle of the Boyne, 1690

Battle of the Boyne

Fought on 1 July 1690 between the forces of the deposed King James II and his successor, King William III, the Battle of the Boyne was the largest military engagement ever to take place on Irish soil.

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The Battle of Vinegar Hill, 21 June 1798

Irish Rebellion of 1798

In 1798, an underground republican group known as the Society of United Irishmen instigated a major uprising against British rule in Ireland. Although the revolt ended in total defeat for the rebels, it marked a significant watershed in Irish history.

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Lapel badge, War Widows Association of Great Britain, 2018

War Widows Association: Supporting the families of the fallen

Today, the UK government makes financial provision for the spouses and partners of soldiers who have died in the line of duty. But this has not always been the case, and there have been a number of changes along the way.

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British troops taking part in NATO's Exercise Lionheart in Germany, 1984

Active Edge: The Army, Germany and the Cold War

In 1945, British troops occupied Germany alongside their wartime Soviet allies. But growing East-West tensions soon evolved into the Cold War. For the next four decades, soldiers in Germany prepared to face an attack by the Warsaw Pact.

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Civilians gathered around British tanks, Hamburg, May 1945

The Army and the occupation of Germany

Following their victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, the Allies were faced with administering a country in ruins. British soldiers had a leading role in this, helping to hunt war criminals, rebuild industry and help displaced persons.

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Operation Barras, September 2000

Operation Barras

In September 2000, British troops undertook a daring hostage rescue operation in the war-torn West African country of Sierra Leone. They successfully freed five British soldiers who had recently been captured and around 20 civilian prisoners.

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SAS troops storming the Iranian Embassy, 1980

Iranian Embassy siege

One of the most famous counter-terrorism operations in history took place in 1980. Gunmen overran the Iranian Embassy in London and took hostages, but the crisis was resolved when the building was stormed by the SAS.

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The Queen's Gurkha Regiment assist with the construction of NHS Nightingale, 2020

In case of emergency

As soldiers are mobilised to help public services deal with the coronavirus pandemic, we explore how Britain has often had to rely upon the Army at times of emergency.

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Lieutenant-Colonel Randolph Egerton, The King's Troop of Horse Guards, c1672

The Restoration and the birth of the British Army

In 1660, the monarchy was restored when Parliament invited King Charles II to take the throne. Although the military played a crucial role in his return, the King soon established a new force - the British Army.

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Cavalry of the New Model Army, c1645

British Civil Wars

Fought between 1642 and 1651, these wars were primarily disputes between Crown and Parliament about how the British Isles should be governed. But they also had religious and social dimensions, and witnessed the creation of the first national standing army.

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