BBC Panorama – The Spy in the IRA – Review


The Spy in the IRA, a BBC Panorama production, examines the role of Freddie Scappaticci as a British Military Intelligence informant operating at the heart of the IRA’s informant assassination team. Code-named “Stakeknife” by the Military Intelligence, his direct role in at least 18 murders is currently subject to a police investigation. The British state’s role in these murders is implicitly under scrutiny, for Scappaticci was their “golden egg” in the IRA.

Ian Hurst, a former British Military Intelligence employee, who features in the documentary, leaked the role of “Stakeknife” and, then, the identity of Freddie Scappaticci. It is thanks to Hurst that this aspect of likely British state collusion in IRA murders has reached the public, though Scappaticci is now protected from media contact by a court order.

The former Head of Special Branch in Northern Ireland, Ray White, presented in the documentary, acknowledges that his team had to, on “rare” occasions, play God. That is, to sit and watch torture and murder of an individual going ahead in order to preserve their informants in the IRA – and to save other lives.

Yet, how many lives were saved by this policy used by both Special Branch and Military Intelligence and how many sacrificed remains unknown. The IRA assassinations of Mike Kearney, Vincent Robinson and Joseph Fenton are directly addressed by the documentary. Kearney, a 20 year old alleged to have disclosed the location of an IRA explosives dump to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was shot in the head. Vincent Robinson’s body was brutally beaten and dumped. Joseph Fenton, who was paid by Special Branch to provide bugged properties to the IRA, was allegedly interrogated directly by Freddie Scappattici and, eventually, shot in the back and the head.

The documentary claims that Scappattici’s Army handlers were informed of the IRA’s internal security unit or “Nutting Squad’s” planned interrogations and murders and, yet, in the main, did nothing to protect men who were also in the pay of the British intelligence services. In the case of Sandy Lynch, highlighted in the documentary, an intervention was made and he was rescued from the IRA.

“This is the story of how far the intelligence services compromised their peace-time values in an effort to beat the IRA – a story, some have been determined, should never see the light of day,” is how reporter, John Ware, introduces the documentary.

Yet, the story is incomplete. When John Stevens, now Lord Stevens, was first brought in to conduct a police investigation into the undercover war, he was told that Military Intelligence had no agents in the IRA. He also found that related documents had been destroyed as part of normal procedure.

Moreover, Military Intelligence was working for MI5 and, the role of that agency remains unknown. “I think Scappattici has the potential to pull the roof down – on all sorts of people, whether at the top of the Republican leadership or whether in the intelligence community and beyond. And, I’ll be amazed if we get to that point,” Barney Rowan, a former BBC correspondent says.

An ongoing police investigation, known as Operation Kenova, lead by Chief Constable John Boutcher from Bedfordshire Police, is examining the role of Stakeknife and the surrounding circumstances. Many of the sources in the documentary are anonymous. It is likely that more people like Ian Hurst will be needed to come out with evidence for justice to be done.

British state collusion in paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland involved paying and, even, arming informants and culpability for murders and cover ups continues to be argued.


New Home for War Museum (The Observer, July 1936)


Observer article, July 1936

On the opening of the Imperial War Museum at its new home on Lambeth Road, in July 1936. The Observer, Sunday, by “our special representative.”

The relics of the last war in the air, the battered and flimsy-seeming surviving bombers and fighters and seaplanes of the Great War, have been locked away for thirteen years.

We, who have had the words “war in the air” brandished over us for the past few years, who have watched the aeroplane become a deadly streak of armoured strength and speed, may ponder over these first, frail fighting ancestors once again, on and after Tuesday next.

On that day the Imperial War Museum opens at its new home, the Old Bethlem Hospital in the Lambeth Road. The wings of the hospital have been pulled down. Green lawns have taken their places. Its quadrangle has been covered over, making wide galleries for the world’s greatest collection of war memories, from howitzers to the paintings of Orpen and Sargent and Lavery.


Under the dome of Old Bethlem are ranged the sixty thousand books, the quarter of a million photographs, the maps, coins, posters, and documents which draw students and research workers from all over the world.

In one corner of the long library of war volumes stands the safe containing documents too precious to be openly displayed – the war diary, recently presented, of the Prince of Wales, now King Edward, Nurse Cavell’s last letter.

Much of the collection has been seen in the cramped galleries at South Kensington during the past thirteen years. Since the Imperial War Museum left Crystal Palace in 1923 however, the records of the war in the air have been phographs and models. Now the actual aeroplanes, taken from their storehouse at Cardington, are hanging just above the heads of visitors to the War Museum’s new galleries.

Anonymous bombers and fighters are there, representing their types. But stronger in memory are the battle-honoured aeroplanes, the Sopwith Camel which Lieut. Culley was flying when he brought down a Zeppelin in the North Sea, the papery looking, fragile seaplane which was the only British aircraft flown at the Battle of Jutland.


An hour’s stroll round its galleries is sufficient to show the design and intention of the new War Museum, to reveal the skilful lighting which removes all blurring of reflection from Orpen’s war portraits of Sargent’s water-colours, to appreciate the new spacing which enables the howitzers, “Mother” and “Barking Kate,” and the famous L. and E. Battery guns, and the naval gun served by Boy Cornwall, V.C., at the battle of Jutland, to rest in their galleries without confusion.

But to explore the War Museum thoroughly would take weeks. “You could spend,” as Mr H. Foster, the Museum’s librarian says, “a month of eight-hour days looking through the photograph library” – so detailed that a man could probably find the very trench he served in.

The library of war volumes does not stop at sixty thousand. Some five hundred a year are being added by Mr Foster. Even the hundred or so grey-bound rolls of honour recording a million British war dead, three or four lines to each, are not complete. Many records have still to be made.

The French official war history, already over fifty volumes, is not yet finished. The American and Canadian war histories have not even been published.


Private war memoirs occupy more space than any other type of war book, more even than the war histories of all the combatant countries, although German regimental histories alone run to four hundred volumes. No possible documented aspect of the Great War is forgotten, from the autographed works of President Wilson and Mr Churchill to the adventures of the dog “Rags,” American regimental mascot, autographed with his paw.

The spaciousness of the War Museum’s new home is, however deceptive. By no means all of the Museum’s five thousand works of art, Mr Foster is careful to point out, can be shown at one time. An economic arrangement of bays allows more to be shown than in the ordinary art gallery wall arrangement, but “we have to ring the changes even now.”

As for the future, apart from students and research workers (one German girl is at present using the Museum for her thesis on war propaganda), a different public is expected. “We had 300,000 visitors a year at South Kensington,” says Mr  Foster. “On some days we had more than the British Museum, although we could have tucked ourselves into one of the British Museum’s corners. Now we have moved away from our other museum competitors, and although we are south of the river, we are actually nearer Whitehall than we were at South Kensington.”

Journey to Justice: US Civil Rights Movements and Modern Legacy – Morley Art Gallery

If you’re visiting the Imperial War Museum London, you have a week – until Friday 3 February  – to catch the free travelling civil rights exhibition, Journey to Justice, on display in Morley Art Gallery, across the road from the Imperial War Museum. The exhibition has already been displayed in Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Tower Hamlets.

“It wasn’t about wonderful chats and sitting round planning the revolution or saying, ‘C’mon let’s vote!’ It was quiet conversations and absolute determination.” Marcia Heinemann Saunders, US voter registration volunteer and campaigner.

This quotation very much sums up the approach of Journey to Justice in presenting the US civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s and its impact on the UK. The free exhibition takes the audience through key moments and movements in the US civil rights campaign, starting with the August 1955 abduction, torture and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, in Money, Mississippi, for allegedly flirting with a married white woman.

Through a series of ‘bus stops’ the exhibit takes the viewer through to 1968 and the assassination of Martin Luther King, as well as the Poor People’s Campaign. The modern legacy of the US civil rights movement in the UK is told, with contemporary campaigns for social justice in London highlighted in the form of films about the Ritzy Living Wage campaign by cinema workers and the Save Cressingham Gardens council estate campaign in Lambeth.


The exhibition is participatory in nature, with opportunities for the visitor to contribute to the exhibition by providing feedback or adding a note at the ‘lunch counter’ about their own experiences. Moreover, the exhibition has been constructed with participation of the public. London schoolchildren’s poems inspired by Ruby Bridges feature in the exhibit. Bridges was the black school girl who ran the gauntlet of hate and threats every day and found herself in class alone for attending a formerly all-white school in New Orleans.


Poem by Gabrielle K, London schoolgirl, inspired by Ruby Bridges

Throughout Journey to Justice, the impact of the US civil rights movement and its legacy in the UK feature. Three films tell the campaign of British-Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp and others to send a ‘Battle Bus’ around London and on to Nigeria to reveal and protest the impact of the international oil industry on the Niger delta and, in particular, upon the Ogoni people. The bus carried the name of Ken Saro-Wiwa, commemorating Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni Eight who were executed in 1995 by the Nigerian military regime for their protests against the oil industry devastation of the Niger Delta.

The exhibition goes on to cover desegregation of schools with the story of Ruby Bridges carrying the weight of the desegregation of the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, New Orleans – and, Barbara Henry, her white teacher. We get an insight into Ruby Bridges’ experience of facing baying crowds to and from school through audio testimony of the child psychologist Robert Coles, who volunteered to provide counselling to Bridges for her first year.

Notably, Coles’ reports that Bridges seemed unperturbed by the daily hostility she faced and even wished her adult abusers God’s forgiveness. Coles identifies Bridges’ illiterate parents as having conveyed real wisdom and moral education to their young daughter.

Through Journey to Justice, we get a sense of the ordinary people whose names may not have gone down in history but who made real sacrifices for the movement.  We know the names of the first students who commenced the Greensboro lunch counter boycotts, but only the mass movement of students who endured vicious violence and other repercussions made it effective.

The exhibition takes the visitor to the voter registration campaign of 1964, which Marica Heinemann Saunders took part in, to overcome violence, intimidation and bureaucratic obstructions to help register black people for the vote and on to the Birmingham 1963 children’s crusade which lasted three days and resulted in young people, such as 16 year-old, Janice Wesley, being arrested and detained.

In the UK, the Bristol bus boycott campaign to pressure the Bristol Omnibus Company to end its discriminatory policy of not recruiting non-white conductors or drivers is covered. This stands alongside the story of Malcolm X’s first visit to the UK and the story of the stained-glass window of a black Jesus designed by Welshman John Petts for the rebuilt 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama. The church had been bombed in September 1963 in a racially-motivated attack that killed four young black girls.

Finally, the exhibition ends with the 1963 March, of some 250,000 people, on Washington, the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike, the National Welfare Rights Organisation (NWRO) through the voice of an unmarried mother of three, Jean Stallings, who demanded recognition of mothers in the civil rights movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.

In people like Jean Stallings, as well as the “unknown hero” Bayard Rustin, gay, pacifist and a former Communist who organised the 1963 March on Washington – and the sanitation workers who rose in protest following the deaths of two colleagues in the back of their compressor trucks where they sheltered from the rain amongst rubbish and maggots, the exhibition highlights the many strands and elements of any successful movement.


Drawing by London schoolchild inspired by Ruby Bridges

The exhibition will continue touring the country, moving on this year to Nottingham, Hull and  Bristol.

Further information about UK-based campaigns featured in Journey to Justice

Homes Under the Sledgehammer – trailer of film Save Cressingham Gardens – council homes scheduled for demolition by Lambeth council.

Ritzy Living Wage Campaign meet Jon Snow and Channel 4 – interview about campaign for London Living Wage for cinema workers.

Film of memorial event for Ken Saro-Wiwa and others executed by Nigerian military regime in mid-90s for their campaign against environmental damage to Ogoniland and Niger Delta by oil companies, such as Shell – featuring artist, Sokari Douglas Camp’s, Battle Bus.


Winter 2016 at the Imperial War Museums – A Portrait

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Some winter images taken by visitors to the Imperial War Museums, including, IWM North (Manchester), IWM Duxford (Cambridgeshire), HMS Belfast, Churchill War Rooms and Imperial War Museum London. Images have been credited to owners. For corrections or comments please contact us.

Fashion on the Ration: The story of clothing on the home front during World War Two | IWM North

Laura Clouting, curator of the Imperial War Museum exhibition Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style, talks about rationing, utility clothing and fashion on the home front during World War Two. Fashion on the Ration is currently showing at IWM North, Manchester, until May 1 2017.

Source: Fashion on the Ration: The story of clothing on the home front during World War Two | Culture24