By James Kinchin-White and Ed Moloney
The British government has released quite a few files to the Kew archive on the case of Ranger Louis Hammond, the Belfast-born British soldier who defected to the IRA and was then recruited as an agent by the MRF, first as a so-called ‘Fred’ and then as a leading participant in an ambitious and successful psyop designed to undermine and sully the IRA leadership in Belfast.
The files shed very little light on the truth of the case, not enough to make a definitive judgement on the true role that he played: whether he was, as he claimed, a double agent who stayed loyal to the IRA even while on the MRF’s books or if, in the wake of the exposure of other MRF agents, he decided to throw his lot in with the British.
The only thing that can be said with certainty is that Hammond was lucky to come out of the affair alive. He agreed to participate in the British psyop, confirming to two Sunday Times’ journalists an allegation that IRA chiefs had siphoned off the proceeds of robberies to enrich themselves, was effectively identified in the article that they published and was then abducted, interrogated and shot by the IRA.
The IRA seems to have had few doubts about whose side he was now on. Lured to a house in the Markets district of Belfast and questioned for three days, Hammond was shot three times in the head and once in the stomach, then dumped on a nearby street. Miraculously he survived the wounds but was left partially paralysed and blind in one eye.
The key questions remain unanswered in any of the documents released by Kew: what made Hammond participate in the British pysop? Did the IRA’s disappearing of fellow MRF agents at this time, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, scare him into throwing in his lot with the British? Or did British military intelligence persuade him to change sides, and if so how?
We don’t know where Louis Hammond is these days or even if he is still alive. What we do know is that he played a key role in one of the most successful dirty tricks operations of the Troubles, one that labeled the IRA’s leaders as criminal ‘Godfathers’, providing the British with a damaging propaganda bonanza to use at home and abroad.
An undated photo of Louis Hammond
The best part of half a century separates today from the events that surrounded Louis Hammond and there are very few people alive today who met or knew him.
One former soldier who did know Hammond has, however, written about his contact with the MRF/IRA spy and his recollection, rather than the Kew documents, forms the bulk of this posting.
Harry Beaves, who was born in Wiltshire, England, had joined the British Army, as had Hammond, as a teenager and had enlisted in the Royal Artillery. During the summer of 1972, in the wake of Operation Motorman, he was stationed in Casement Park in Andersonstown, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in the city. The stadium had been taken over by the military following Motorman.
Beaves met Louis Hammond at a time when the MRF was sending its IRA agents out on patrols with regular military units to identify fellow IRA members. The double agents were dubbed ‘Freds’, apparently after a popular English newspaper cartoon dog called ‘Fred Basset’.
Last year Beaves published an account of his life in the British Army. Called ‘Down Among The Weeds‘, he devoted part of one chapter to his dealings with the MRF’s ‘Freds’, and all of another to the story of Louis Hammond.
What follows are the extracts that deal with the MRF, the ‘Freds’ and Louis Hammond. After that we have isolated three sets of documents that add to the story.
One is the British Army logsheets that record Louis Hammond’s arrest in Belfast, some three months after he had deserted his British Army unit.
A second document is the central part of a British government paper explaining the Hammond affair to the then Northern Ireland Secretary, William Whitelaw. The author is not named and the document is not dated.
It is clear from that paper that there was an extraordinary – some might say disturbing – level of co-operation between The Sunday Times and the British military authorities in the preparation of the interview with, and article detailing Louis Hammond’s alleged knowledge of corruption in the IRA.
The document makes it clear that The Sunday Times passed on the full text of its reporters’ interview with Hammond to the military and the implication is that this was the quid pro quo for receiving the story about IRA corruption from the British Army.
This aspect of the affair raises one of two key questions: aside from Hammond, who was under the control of British military intelligence, what other source(s) did the Times have to validate the story about IRA corruption? Or was Hammond their sole source?
The other question is this: why did The Sunday Times effectively name Hammond as their source by identifying his rank and unit (intelligence officer for E Coy)? The paper must have known this was tantamount to a death sentence.
The third document provides confirmation that the British Army did have a psyops policy, aimed mostly at influencing media coverage of the Troubles, which was given the cover name ‘Information Policy’.
Finally, an outside intelligence expert – from Britain’s closest ally, the United States – gives his assessment of the Louis Hammond affair.
But first, Harry Beaves’ introduction to Louis Hammond, as one of the MRF’s ‘Freds’.
Louis Hammond – Part One:
The Fred Basset informers were run by the Military Reaction Force (MRF), an intelligence-gathering unit made up of soldiers from all regiments and corps. It was a highly sensitive organisation based at Palace Barracks, Holywood and one of their tasks was recruiting and running a network of informers and agents.
‘Fred Bassets’ had proved very successful for N Battery, who most often took them on patrol in vehicles. The informer with an escort from the Intelligence Service and a Patrol Commander from the Battery would travel in a Saracen, looking out through the weapon slits. ‘Fred’ would point out wanted men to the Patrol Commander as the vehicle passed by. He would radio the description to a snatch squad in a second vehicle who would get out at top speed and apprehend the suspect who would be thrown in the second vehicle and taken away for questioning. It was a very effective technique and netted many on the ‘wanted’ list who would have passed by a normal patrol unidentified. The IRA became used to the method as two armoured vehicles cruising slowly through the housing estates raised their suspicion so, frequently, the wanted men would be running before the snatch squad had de-bussed. On occasions a suspect would loiter on the street as bait for the two vehicles and when the snatch squad pursued him, he would lead them into an ambush. By the time 28 Battery arrived vehicle patrols with Fred Basset were infrequent as they had outrun their effectiveness and were very risky.
Despite this we made several Fred Basset mobile patrols, but with limited success, so we began taking informers on foot patrol, an even more dangerous tactic. All intelligence operations are highly sensitive and cloaked in secrecy. In this case security was particularly important, not just because an informer would be a high-value target for the IRA should they discover him, but also, because having betrayed one side, it was always possible an informer could do so again and set us up for ambush by the Provos. The cover of darkness was essential for us to be able to move safely on foot with Fred Basset. Fred and his ‘handler’ would arrive from Palace Barracks by military vehicle and disembark in Casement Park, close to the entrance to the stand, only after the main gate had been closed. They would be ushered into the Int Office and be seen by as few people as possible. Fred would wear a combat jacket and beret, usually above his jeans and Doc Martens. His handler would be in uniform with a sub-machine gun.
The patrol was never less than eight men strong, usually staggered on both sides of the road. The Patrol Commander would be number one, number two would be on the opposite side of the road and Fred with his handler by his side would be at number three, behind the Patrol Commander. When the Patrol Commander met an approaching pedestrian he would greet him and, in a polite and friendly manner, ask him his name. He would then repeat the name in a clear voice as if to confirm it. Fred and his handler would by now be well hidden behind a wall or hedge. If the person was clear, Fred would whistle twice and we would let the person continue on his way. If he was a suspect Fred would give one long whistle. The Patrol Commander would then tell the suspect we would like to take him back for further checks and call up on the radio. From then on it was vital that everything happened at top speed so that there was no risk of compromise to Fred Basset.
When a Fred Basset patrol was out two vehicles were kept in Casement Park ready, engines running, with a section of soldiers on board. When the call was received they would crash out, the first vehicle picking up the suspect; the second, Fred Basset and his handler. They would be taken to 19 Regiment’s Int Cell at MPH where Fred would tell exactly who the suspect was and what he knew about him and questioning would begin. The patrol would return to the stadium on foot. Patrols like this were incredibly risky; the biggest danger was attracting a crowd who might create a disturbance or riot that could put the informer at risk. Fortunately we always managed to avoid this and used Fred Basset to great effect.
We had several different informers with different handlers during our time, but one was particularly successful. He was short and slim with very blue eyes, a typical sparky little Irish lad with a minder who was a tall, silent officer in the infantry. We were supposed to have no social contact in order to minimise any chance of compromise, but I always pulled Fred’s leg about his long dark hair. I got the impression he lived close by, but outside Andersonstown, and he seemed to know enough about military things to suggest he had been a soldier. I worked with him more than any other Fred Basset and he laid the finger on an enormous number of suspects for us, but as the weeks went on he became less good-humoured and more nervous and jumpy. His hair was cut short and he even began wearing camouflage cream on his face (another hint of military experience). I thought perhaps he was beginning to think that the IRA was getting close to him and as I said ‘Farewell’ after another successful patrol he replied, ‘You’ll soon be seeing less of me I hope.’ His silent minder added, ‘Yes, he’s not far off retirement.’ But there was another patrol, then just one more and another… Each time Fred arrived looking more pale and nervous. In any other circumstance I would have felt sorry for him, but I could only worry that if he reached the tipping point he might just set us up for an ambush by the IRA. Then one day I realised we hadn’t seen him for a while. Fred Basset patrols continued, but with different informers. I just hoped and assumed the highly successful old Fred was now enjoying his pension and not lying anonymously in a bog, a victim of IRA retribution.
I was, however, wrong on both counts. Our ‘favourite Fred’ was involved in very much more and is part of another remarkable tale……..
Harry Beaves, went on MRF ‘Fred’ patrols with Louis Hammond
Louis Hammond – Part Two:
Over the years, whenever I found information about people or events relating to my Northern Ireland tour in 1972 I added it to my scrapbook and diary.
In April 1973 I was enjoying a bachelor Sunday morning, reading the papers, when my eye was taken by a headline about an IRA informer who had been found shot in Belfast. The story in the Sunday Times was written by Chris Ryder and Paul Eddy and as I read it I became convinced it was our favourite ‘Fred Basset’, so I added the story to my scrapbook.
I also had a cutting from the Sunday Times by the same two journalists dated 13th May 1973, this time about the alleged misappropriation of the proceeds of robberies, by members of the IRA. The article particularly interested me because it involved E Company who operated in Riverdale and it named Tommy Gorman as one of those involved, which supported our opinion that many of the IRA ‘heroes’ were as much thugs and criminals as political idealists.
I re-read the articles when I was preparing Chapter 20 of this book and checked facts on the internet. I found myself following a fascinating trail of intrigue surrounding the activities of a shadowy organisation known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF), an informer named Louis Hammond and an elaborate sting operation by British intelligence. My internet research led me to read Martin Dillon’s book The Dirty War which tells the story behind the two newspaper cuttings. Dillon includes in his book a photograph of Louis Hammond who I can positively recognise as our favourite ‘Fred’.
The MRF was a covert intelligence-gathering unit of the British Army, based at Palace Barracks, Holywood between 1971 and 1973, conducting plain-clothes patrols around the city, running agents and debriefing informants. The ‘Fred Basset’ informer network was one of their operations. The MRF was always controversial and although it contributed much valuable information to the intelligence picture there is little in the open about those who served in the unit or the events with which they were involved. Today the MRF is a largely discredited organisation, mainly because much of what it did is believed to have fallen well outside the British Army’s Rules of Engagement at that time.
I knew four senior NCOs from 19 Regiment who returned to Ireland and served with the MRF after our 1972 tour. The first, who I knew particularly well, told me that he had worked with Louis Hammond during that time. He also confirmed in broad detail that the MRF had operated hit squads, essentially assassinating known IRA offenders, the kind of unlawful activity of which they have often been accused. The second of the SNCOs from 19 Regiment was returned to unit not long after his arrival as, I believe, he was involved in an incident which threatened the security of the whole organisation. The other two stayed on and did several tours of duty with the MRF or other covert units until, eventually, they just ‘disappeared’ from the Army organisation and probably became formally employed in one of the national intelligence gathering bodies, probably MI5.
Louis Hammond’s story is full of controversy and contradiction. There is the British Military version, the Provisional IRA version and areas in between that have been clouded by misinformation and disinformation. This is what I have been able to piece together.
Louis Hammond was born in 1954, grew up in Andersonstown and joined the British Army in 1970, serving with the Royal Irish Rangers. When he was sent home on leave in 1972 he failed to return and was posted ‘absent’, as is the normal practice. Some months later he was picked up on one of the barricades protecting the Republican ‘no-go’ areas. He was arrested and faced a lengthy spell in prison not just as a deserter, but also as an IRA activist. Instead he was told that nothing more would be said, provided he gave British Military Intelligence information about the IRA in his area. He seemed happy to do what was asked and, once he had accepted and become an informer, there was no turning back. One of the newspaper articles by Ryder and Eddy gave him credit for putting a huge number of wanted IRA men behind bars and seriously reducing the effectiveness of the IRA in West Belfast. It is fair to assume that it was his activities on Fred Basset patrols with units like 28 Battery that achieved this.
* * *
The Four Square Laundry was one of the well-known operations mounted by the MRF. ‘Four Square’ offered a laundry service to the Catholic estates with energetic promotions undercutting the local opposition. A box-bodied van would visit twice a week to collect and deliver laundry, driven by a young man, accompanied by a young woman. Both were plain-clothes soldiers. In the void above the cab of the laundry van a third soldier was concealed so that he could take photographs through slits in the vehicle. Clothes collected by the Four Square Laundry vehicles were taken back and forensically checked for traces of explosives, as well as blood or firearms residue, then processed through the standard military laundry service. They were also compared with previous laundry loads from the same house –the sudden presence of different-sized clothes could indicate that the house was harbouring an IRA member, for example. It had become an extremely valuable intelligence-gathering operation.
The IRA had become suspicious of one of the ‘Freds’ named Seamus Wright and apprehended him for questioning. Wright tried to buy his life by giving the IRA information on the MRF and also naming Kevin McKee, another ‘Fred’. When questioned by the IRA, McKee revealed the activities of the Four Square Laundry and other MRF operations. On 2nd October 1972 a Four Square Laundry van was ambushed in the Twinbrooks estate and the plain-clothes military driver was killed. Twinbrooks was the responsibility of 5 Battery and, despite bordering 28 Battery’s Riverdale area, had been relatively quiet until then.
The time at which the Four Square Laundry was ambushed coincides roughly with the time in my log when we noticed that our favourite ‘Fred Basset’ had his hair cut short and was becoming very jumpy. Despite the constraints, occasional conversations with him and his handler did happen and I remember the handler telling me how untrustworthy the ‘Freds’ were and how one had tried to set him up with the IRA. On another occasion I remember Louis Hammond talking about how another ‘Fred’ had been discovered by the MRF trying to pass information to the IRA and had since disappeared, I believe this was Seamus Wright.
All of this fits loosely with stories I have read of that time. I suspect Louis Hammond felt very vulnerable lest he was betrayed by someone else in the informer network, which would help to explain his nervous state during his last patrols with us. He probably outlived his usefulness as an informer and, if he was not ‘retired’, I suspect that he was stood down for a while and probably sent to a safe house in England while the dust settled.
Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright had hoped to buy their lives by becoming double agents for the IRA, but they were never seen again. They IRA have admitted that they were executed as informers in accordance with IRA rules, it is said, by Jim Bryson and Thomas Tolan (both now dead), but their bodies have not been found. They are listed among the ‘Disappeared of Northern Ireland’, those who are believed to have been abducted, killed and buried in unmarked graves by Republican paramilitaries. Their story was told on the BBC4 documentary The Disappeared by Darragh MacIntyre on 5th November 2013.
Afternote. The bodies of Wright and McKee were found in a bog in County Meath in June 2015, forty-three years after their disappearance.
* * *
In his book The Dirty War Martin Dillon claims, in a fascinating story, that Ryder and Eddy’s article in the Sunday Times on 13th May 1973 concerning the misappropriation of robbery money was a clever and very successful psy-ops operation on the part of the British Intelligence Services.
The IRA had historically committed robberies to obtain money to buy weapons and otherwise fund their activities and it had long been suspected by both the IRA and the security forces that not all of the stolen money was being handed to the IRA hierarchy. The security forces had helped increase suspicion within the IRA by, on occasions, by deliberately inflating the sums stolen when issuing press releases on robberies.
The sting itself claimed that a secret document, purported to be from a senior IRA member being held in Long Kesh, had been intercepted by the security forces. It was addressed to the IRA’s Belfast Commander, Seamus Twomey, and named IRA members who had been misappropriating funds. The security forces leaked details of the document to the two journalists, Chris Ryder and Paul Eddy.
Chris Ryder, pictured at around the time the Louis Hammond stories were published
Now Louis Hammond comes into the story. Ryder and Eddy had been approached separately by Hammond who told them that he had once been the Intelligence Officer of E Company in Riverdale, but was at that time acting as a British informer. They spoke to Hammond several times, initially seeking information on Wright and McKee and the MRF. When they pressed him for information on IRA embezzlement Hammond corroborated the facts contained in the alleged intercepted document, claiming that he was doing so because he had become disillusioned by what had been going on. The suspicion is that Hammond was brought out of retirement as a ‘Fred’ and deliberately used by the security forces to feed Ryder and Eddy information to support the sting operation concerning the misappropriated robbery proceeds.
Such information from Hammond, an IRA insider, seemed to confirm the credibility of the story so Ryder and Eddy went ahead and published the article in the Sunday Times quoting as their source an unnamed ‘former Intelligence Officer from E Company’. From this the IRA were in no doubt who had betrayed them and the article led to the eventual shooting of Hammond.
The Sunday Times article told that in 1971– 72 there were 1,368 armed robberies in Ulster, the majority of these committed by E and F Companies of Belfast’s 1st Battalion, who specialised in staging bank robberies to raise funds for the IRA. It was alleged that at least £ 150,000 had been siphoned off by senior members of the 1st Battalion. The article named seven prominent members of the IRA who were being accused of misappropriating IRA funds. In consequence, the Provisionals’ High Command suspended military activities by E (Riverdale) and F Companies because of these financial irregularities.
Co-author of the article on Louis Hammond, Paul Eddy. A former Sunday Times ‘Insight’ reporter, he turned to fiction writing later in life. He died in 2009.
The publication of the article in the Sunday Times caused chaos within the ranks of the Provisional IRA and caused immense damage to the organisation. There was enough truth in the story to fuel the suspicions and make the additional ‘embroidery’ and downright lies so plausible that the accusations could not be ignored. However, few of the accusations could be substantiated as the original document was purported to have been smuggled out of Long Kesh and intercepted by the security forces before it reached its destination, so, probably, only the author knew the contents and the author himself (if he existed) was unknown. There was paranoia within the IRA over who the author might be and what the actual contents were. The hierarchy suspended a large part of the Provisionals’ active membership for some time whilst investigations were made. Distrust and suspicion were so strong that it resulted in a split between the ‘old guard’, who were close to accepting a negotiated political settlement, and a group (including Adams and McGuinness) who were willing to pursue a protracted war in which the military and political campaigns were fought side by side. Key to the whole operation had been Louis Hammond, our favourite ‘Fred Basset’.
At some stage Hammond was taken back to Liverpool by one of the Senior NCOs with whom I had served in 19 Regiment and told to lay low, but he was homesick and could not settle. The IRA had been watching out for Hammond and picked him up when he returned to his father’s house in Belfast. Hammond’s bullet-ridden body was found in an alley near the Ormeau Road. He was shot several times in the head and in the body, but miraculously survived. In the book Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland, Greg Harkin and Martin Ingram claim that his attacker was Brendon Davidson, himself an IRA informer who was subsequently murdered by Protestant paramilitaries. Gerry Adams was a pall bearer at Davidson’s funeral.
Brendan Davison’s funeral – Freddie Scappaticci on the left (with moustache) and Davison in the coffin were both IRA informers
Hammond’s name appears in a number of publications on the Troubles, but, except for his activities as a ‘Fred’ his true role is unclear. From these stories, I believe the following is likely: he and the IRA claim that he was a double agent passing information to the IRA. At the time when Wright and McKee were informing the IRA of the Four Square Laundry etc, it is probable that Hammond was interviewed by the IRA. He may or may not have offered information, but he did not feel under threat from them and when he was ‘pensioned off’ by the British security services, he felt relatively safe from both the British and the IRA.
Unfortunately, he had outlived his usefulness for the British because, through his association with Wright and McKee, he could no longer be trusted. When he was used to support the embezzlement sting the British saw him as expendable. British intelligence would have known that revealing in the press that information had come from a ‘former Intelligence Officer from E Company’ identified Hammond to the IRA and effectively signed his death warrant.
The story of my connection with Louis Hammond had an interesting postscript. In 1975 I was part of the Royal Artillery force serving in Oman during the Dhofar Campaign, deployed for weeks on end in Observation Posts in the jebel about two miles north of RAF Salalah. One lunchtime a group of officers were in the bar of the Officers’ Mess of RAF Salalah seriously ‘re-hydrating’ after a particularly difficult and dangerous spell of operations. One of them, a tall slim man wearing the uniform of a Captain in the Sultan’s Armed Forces, seemed strangely familiar. We exchanged glances and a few minutes later he walked up to me, a bottle of Heineken in his hand.
‘We’ve met before,’ he said.
‘Yes,’ I replied.
‘Casement Park ’72. We were always pleased to go out with you.’
It was Fred Basset’s silent minder, then serving on secondment to the Sultan’s Armed Forces. He returned to his friends and I was buoyed by the compliment, wishing he was free to answer my many questions, in particular, about Louis Hammond, of whom, at the time, I knew nothing.
Some weeks later he was involved in the Shershitti Caves operation, one of the major concluding conflicts of the Dhofar campaign. He showed great bravery rescuing several men under intense enemy fire and was awarded a Sultan’s award for bravery.
A remarkable person. The same man features as one of the lead characters in Ranulph Fiennes’s book The Feather Men, which was made into the film Killer Elite, starring Robert de Niro.
The Arrest of Louis Hammond:
In the early hours of May 13th, 1972, Louis Hammond, along with five other local men, was manning a barricade set up in the Slievegallion area of Andersonstown.
Loyalists were beginning to launch forays into Andersonstown at that time, but there had also been incursions by other, unknown gunmen and some shootings. It was only later that it emerged that these other incidents were carried out by motorised MRF patrols (see here).
The barricades had been erected to protect local people but that night a British Army patrol surrounded the Slievegallion barrier and arrested six vigilantes manning it. The troops also discovered a ‘brand new’ Armalite rifle dumped behind a nearby hedge, one of the first of those weapons to be smuggled into Belfast from the United States.
A message confirming the arrests and weapon find was recorded in the log sheet compiled by the military’s Belfast headquarters and a copy sent to the Thiepval Barracks HQ of the British Army in Lisburn, just west of Belfast. The names and addresses of those arrested was also sent to HQNI, including that of Louis Hammond.
Six hours later a further message was sent to HQNI stating that Hammond had deserted from the Royal Irish Rangers three-and-a-half months before.
The third log sheet below (see Serial 61) also records that a copy of this message was forwarded to ‘Int’, i.e. military intelligence. The presumption must be that this was the point at which Louis Hammond’s fateful career with the MRF effectively began.
The British Army’s Psyops Policy:
An Intelligence Assessment of the Louis Hammond affair.
In September 1999, a US Navy Intelligence officer by the name of Mark L Bowlin published his Masters degree thesis on British intelligence operations in Northern Ireland. Titled ‘BRITISH INTELLIGENCE AND THE IRA: THE SECRET WAR IN NORTHERN IRELAND, 1969-1988’, Bowlin devoted a section to the Louis Hammond affair. The thesis can be accessed here. The relevant section reads:
The articles by Eddy and Ryder proved very damaging to the IRA and helped establish the reputation of the Provisionals as racketeers and gangsters. The interesting thing about the case of Louis Hammond and this aspect of the British sting was that although the participation of the IRA in criminal activities has been well established, it appears that the embezzlement of IRA funds (at least this incident) was fabricated by British intelligence. This was facilitated by the British practice of creatively reporting on the amount of money stolen from banks robbed by the IRA. Every time the IRA robbed a bank to fund their operations, the British announced to the press that an amount slightly higher was taken than actually was. Desmond Hamill wrote that frequently the effects of this policy could be seen immediately, “Very often the Army found that soon afterwards, sometimes even the next day, there would be a number of kneecappings. It was not good for IRA recruiting.” Neither was the incident involving the hapless Louis Hammond.
Assessing the former operation first, British intelligence formed a lasting public image of the IRA as gangsters and common criminals, yet it is important to remember that that image is not entirely a British concoction. The IRA funded its operations through bank robberies, protection rackets and a whole range of illicit businesses, yet the British were successful in painting a portrait of criminals that were so corrupt that they would steal from the cause as well as for it.
Moreover, the MRF portrayed Louis Hammond, and the media furthered the portrayal, as a loyal Republican whistleblower who was nearly killed by his own for speaking “the truth.” To the IRA and their sympathizers, it is one thing to rob a bank to fund IRA operations, but it is something else altogether to steal from the movement.
The Embezzlement Sting was a clever operation that brought confusion to the ranks of the enemies of British intelligence, yet it was not without cost. Undoubtedly, Louis Hammond was not a choirboy. He was a deserter from the British Army and was an active member of a terrorist organization.
Nevertheless, Hammond paid a pretty dear price for his participation in the Sting, more so, one would argue, than had his British handlers. There is a strong argument that the war in Ulster was what is referred to there as a “big boys’ game” and that Hammond knew the risks. He could have opted to serve his time in prison instead. Yet his was a fate that was common to the Freds. Tony Geraghty wrote of the ex-terrorists, “It was a lethal, complex and bewildering game of cat and mouse and not many of the Freds survived to enjoy the freedom promised them after MRF service.
Another disturbing aspect of the Embezzlement Sting was the manipulation of the media. This was not the first nor the last time that the media was used by the British intelligence services. It is not against the law in the United Kingdom for the government to lie to the press, but the net result of having repeatedly done so was that the credibility of the government was always in question. In a long war, such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the government’s campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people is made infinitely more complex when government officials are rightfully viewed as inveterate liars and official statements as propaganda.
And finally that report on the Louis Hammond affair prepared for Willie Whitelaw: