Operation Motorman 50 years on: ‘Derry was saturated... it was a warzone’

The following is an extract from the forthcoming book written by Tony Hassan, former long-standing Sinn Féin Councillor, to be published over the coming months, working title ‘From the Shadows of Bridge Street to the Holy Ground of Shantallow’.

By Tony Hassan
Friday, 29th July 2022, 1:26 pm
Some of the armoury sent into nationalist areas during Operation Motorman on Monday, July 31, 1972. In order: a Saracen, a Ferret Scout Car, and, at the rear, a Centurion tank with large bulldozer blade. Photo: Eamon Melaugh. Author Tony Hassan.
Some of the armoury sent into nationalist areas during Operation Motorman on Monday, July 31, 1972. In order: a Saracen, a Ferret Scout Car, and, at the rear, a Centurion tank with large bulldozer blade. Photo: Eamon Melaugh. Author Tony Hassan.

A friend of mine got married the morning of 0peration Motorman and I was his best man; well, I can tell you it was a handling that morning in getting to the chapel and then to the reception which was in the Broomhill Hotel.

We got over to the hotel, but had to walk back after the reception to the city centre as cars were not allowed over the bridge.

The city was saturated with Brits, their tanks and guns, it was a war zone.

The front page of the Derry Journal following Operation Motorman.

Their big Centurion tanks were that heavy they broke up the ground and the Brits had their guns pointed into your face everywhere you went.

You had to walk over the bridge in single file as the bridge was blocked.

You had to have a pass saying where you came from. It was a terrible day.

One of our closest friends Barney Kelly who attended the wedding was shot dead by the U.D.A. loyalist gang in Annie’s bar later on in December in the Waterside.

People were watching a football match, when the U.D.A. burst into the bar carrying a submachine gun and killed five people including Barney.

It was a terrible night when it came over the news, and very sad for all the families.

Barney was one of our closest friends, we went to dances and drank with him, went on holidays and were devastated when we heard he was shot dead.