3 Para found this particularly hard to take in South Armagh, where, for some strange reason, they thought they were there to ‘protect’ the local people. They were billeted in a ramshackle, leaking dump of a building that was rat-infested. One soldier had a brainwave.
Even to this day, people in nationalist areas react to a passing foot patrol of soldiers (or police) by ignoring its existence. No reaction. If a patrol member attempts to draw attention by calling out, or passing the time of day, he receives no response. Even if there are ‘wolf-whistles’ directed at young females, the reaction is studied non-reaction.
He caught a live rat and tied it to a stick by the tail. When they encountered children on the way to school, he dangled this object in front of their faces and demanded that they say ‘Hello to the rat!’
He tried this with one spirited young lad. Cooly and calmly he averted his eyes from the rodent, fixed the soldier in a stony gaze and said,