1978 Crossmaglen Ambush

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1978 Crossmaglen Ambush
Part of The Troubles
Date 21 December 1978
Location Crossmaglen, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
54°7′55.72″N 6°34′57.10″W / 54.1321444°N 6.5825278°W / 54.1321444; -6.5825278Coordinates: 54°7′55.72″N 6°34′57.10″W / 54.1321444°N 6.5825278°W / 54.1321444; -6.5825278
Result Provisional IRA victory
 United Kingdom IrishRepublicanFlag.png Provisional IRA (South Armagh Brigade)
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Cpt. Graham Duggan IrishRepublicanFlag.png unknown
Units involved
Flag of the British Army (1938-present).svg.png British Army unknown
8 soldiers 4 IRA members
Casualties and losses
3 killed none
Crossmaglen is located in Northern Ireland
The site of the IRA ambush.

On 21 December 1978, three British soldiers were shot dead when the Provisional IRA's South Armagh Brigade ambushed an eight-man British Army foot patrol in Crossmaglen, County Armagh, Northern Ireland.[1]


Since the Troubles began, the South Armagh area—especially around Crossmaglen and other similar republican strongholds—was one of the most dangerous places for the British security forces, and the IRA's South Armagh brigade carried out numerous ambushes on the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). This included the 1975 Drummuckavall ambush[2] and the 1978 downing of a British Army Gazelle helicopter which led to the death of one British soldier and four others being seriously injured.[3][4]

A number of British security force members had been killed in Crossmaglen during 1978. On 4 March, British soldier Nicholas Smith (20), 7 Platoon, B Company, 2 Royal Green Jackets,[citation needed] was killed by an IRA booby trap bomb while attempting to remove an Irish flag from a telegraph pole in Crossmaglen.[5] On 17 June, William Turbitt (42) and Hugh McConnell (32), both Protestant RUC officers, were shot by the IRA while on mobile patrol near Crossmaglen. McConnell was killed at the scene, but Turbitt was kidnapped. The next day, a Catholic priest (Fr. Hugh Murphy) was kidnapped in retaliation but later released after appeals from Protestant clergy.[citation needed] The body of Turbitt was found on 10 July 1978.[6]


When the patrol was near St Patrick's Church, a red Royal Mail-type van fitted with armor plating drove just ahead of the patrol and came to a sudden stop. IRA members opened fire from the back of the van with an M60 machine gun which was fitted down on to the floor in the back of the van and three other IRA volunteers armed with AR-15 rifles opened up on the patrol. The British soldiers returned fire but did not claim any hits. Christmas shoppers scrambled for cover. Three soldiers at the front of the patrol were fatally wounded. They were taken to Musgrave Park Hospital but were declared dead on arrival.[7] The soldiers killed were Graham Duggan (22), Kevin Johnson (20) and Glen Ling (18).[8]

See also


  1. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1978". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-29. 
  2. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. 
  3. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. 
  4. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: Chronology of the Conflict 1978". cain.ulst.ac.uk. 
  5. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. 
  6. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. 
  7. ^ Bandit Country by Toby Harnden, Coronet Books, 2010; ISBN 0-340-71737-8, p. 84-86
  8. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-29. 
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