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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Army NI operation comes to an end
A soldier clears up after a loyalist riot
Soldiers have spent the last 38 years in action in Northern Ireland
The British Army's emergency operation in Northern Ireland comes to an end at midnight on Tuesday after 38 years.

Operation Banner is the Army's longest continuous campaign in its history with more than 300,000 personnel serving and 763 directly killed by paramilitaries.

A garrison of 5,000 troops will remain but security will be entirely the responsibility of the police.

British troops were sent to Northern Ireland in 1969 after violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants.

Catholic civil rights marchers were met by counter-protests by Protestant loyalists and the Army initially arrived as peacekeepers.

But when the Provisional IRA began its bombing campaign the Army increasingly became the targets.

A service of remembrance for the soldiers who have died has taken place at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

'Sacrifice and courage'

The head of the armed forces, Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, was awarded a Military Cross for service in Northern Ireland.

Let us remember with quiet pride and quiet admiration those who gave so much
Lord Eames

The presentation was made by the colonel of the Royal Irish Regiment, General Sir Philip Trousdell.

The former Archbishop of the Church of Ireland, Lord Eames, said the sacrifice made by soldiers made possible a political settlement in Northern Ireland.

He said: "History has now enveloped all that. Life has moved on but in ways which would not have been possible without the sacrifice, courage and devotion of those whose lives were taken.

Soldiers in Northern Ireland
Soldiers have been leaving bases such at Bessbrook, County Armagh

"Let us remember with quiet pride and quiet admiration those who gave so much."

'New era'

Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth said: "1 August marks the beginning of a new era for the UK armed forces in Northern Ireland when, as with other parts of the country, the military will become very much part of the community.

"The impact of the commitment since 1969 has been considerable on both the military themselves and on the MoD civilians supporting them.

"They and the community at large have suffered both death and injury."


SEE ALSO
Last troops pull out of Bessbrook
25 Jun 07 |  Northern Ireland
Last soldiers leave Crossmaglen
31 Mar 07 |  Northern Ireland
Last post sounds for watchtower
13 Feb 07 |  Northern Ireland
Quick guide: Conflict in Northern Ireland
29 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland
Timeline: Northern Ireland's road to peace
27 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland

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