On this day in 1969, the British Government sent troops into Northern Ireland in what it said was a 'limited operation' to restore law and order. It followed three days and two nights of violence in the mainly Catholic Bogside area of Londonderry. Trouble also erupted in Belfast and other towns across Northern Ireland. It came after a speech by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, Jack Lynch, regarded by many as 'outrageous interference' when he called for a United Nations peace keeping force to be sent to the province. He also called for Anglo-Irish talks on the future of Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Major James Chichester-Clark, responded by saying neighbourly relations with the Republic were at an end and that British troops were being called in.
The British Home Secretary James Callaghan was in a plane on his way to talks with Prime Minister Harold Wilson in Cornwall when he received a radio-telephone call asking for troops to be deployed. Shortly after 1700 hours local time, 300 troops from from the 1st Battalion, Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire, occupied the centre of Londonderry, replacing the exhausted police officers who had been patrolling the cordons around the Bogside. They had been on standby for the past couple of days.
The trouble had begun three days earlier during the annual Apprentice Boys march, which marks the 13 boy supporters of William of Orange who defended Londonderry against the forces of the Catholic King James II in 1688. The Royal Ulster Constabulary were forced to use tear gas - for the first time in their history - to try to bring the rioting under control.
The army's warm welcome was short-lived, as was the British Government's intention to pull out the troops within days. British troops were destined to be in Northern Ireland for far longer than anyone could possibly imagine.