A senior soldier who was the British Army’s helicopter observer on Bloody Sunday has died.
In January 1972, Major General Peter Welsh was the Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Green Jackets and had been handpicked for the “eye in the sky” job by Brigadier Pat McLellan, the officer in charge of the British Army’s operation on Bloody Sunday.
Maj. Gen. Welsh passed away at his Limavady home last month. He was aged 80. The former soldier had lived in the Co. Derry town since the early 1970s after marrying a member of the well-known McCausland family.
In his evidence to the Saville Inquiry in 2002, Brigadier Pat McLellan said that Maj. Gen. Welsh would give him “an extra pair of eyes” throughout the march.
He added: “Ultimately, he would be in a position to say that the non-violent marchers were clear and that the hooligans were all that were left.”
Giving his own evidence to the inquiry in January 2003, Maj. Gen. Welsh said he only had a limited view of events.
He said he had problems maintaining a consistent view of what was happening on the ground as he circled at between 2,000ft and 4,000ft above the crowd of civil rights marchers.
He said he was not asked if separation had occurred within the crowd, but added he did not view it as his specific role that day.
Arthur Harvey QC, representing many of the survivors and bereaved relatives, asked the former officer: “If you were specifically put in the air to make or assist brigade in making a determination as to whether or not there was separation, you seem to be singularly ill-used, is that not so?”
Maj Gen Welsh replied that if the Army was relying on him to declare whether there was total separation then “yes, you are probably right.”
He said that it could be viewed that he was not asked often enough if there was separation.
The witness said he had lobbied for local battalions to be deployed on Bloody Sunday instead of 1 Para.
He said they were “aghast” at the bloodshed. However, he added: “I think because we all felt, mainly knew the ground and we knew the Derry people... we would have tackled it differently.”