David Rowlands: Military Artist
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The Derryard Action, County Fermanagh, 13th December 1989   The Derryard Action, County Fermanagh, 13th December 1989

On a dark winter evening, the Permanent Vehicle Check Point (PVCP) north of Rosslea, close to the border with Monaghan, was manned by 8 soldiers commanded by Corporal Robert Duncan. In response to a threat to the border locations an additional 4-man team commanded by Corporal Ian Harvey was on external patrol. From the direction of the border a specially armour-plated lorry, with about twelve terrorists intent on destroying the base stopped, and as Private Houston checked the back of it, automatic gunfire opened up from Armalite and AK47 rifles. Grenades were thrown into the base, and a flame-thrower was aimed at the command sangar. Two RPG7 Rockets were fired at the observation sangar. Heavy suppressive fire continued as the lorry reversed and smashed its way into the compound. Two soldiers were killed.

The truck drove out of the devastated PVCP, and a red transit van drove in, laden with explosives. Fortunately only the booster charge exploded. As the patrol came up rapidly, firing at the terrorists, the truck drove off at speed, its two machine-guns mounted on the rear firing, its driver intent on escape. It was found abandoned at the border with a 210 kg bomb on board. The scale and type of this attack had never been seen before in Northern Ireland. Every soldier involved acted with exemplary courage and the determination to defeat the enemy. The conduct of Corporals Duncan and Harvey was in the highest traditions of conspicuous gallantry. Each received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The events of the Derryard Action are a landmark in the modern fighting history of the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

I was phoned soon after the action. I flew to Belfast and was driven to the location. In order to paint the action it was important to see the PVCP in its scarred condition, before it was repaired. The lonely, isolated building put me in mind of the beleaguered little forts which dotted this part of Ireland in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The soldiers took up the positions they had fought in, while I sketched them in their Tam-o'-shanters. Corporal Ian Harvey is in the foreground with Pte Maxwell. Cpl Robert Duncan kneels in the road beside his dying comrade.

The painting was commissioned by 1st Battalion The King's Own Scottish Borderers.

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Printed image size(s): B2 only (58 x 38 cm)

Owner: The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland

Price(s): 65