In Memory of Martha Campbell
Shot Dead on 14th May 1972
The Murder of Schoolgirl Martha Campbell (13)
Martha Campbell was 13 years of age when she was shot dead in Springhill Crescent, Belfast on 14th May 1972.
Her family and local witnesses have long believed that the British Army shot Martha, having directed fire at her from a position in the flats of Moyard Park, which overlooked the area.
Another girl with her and a local man were lucky not to be injured or killed in the same bursts of fire.
There had been intense fighting in the area following the Kelly’s Bar bomb attack the evening before between the British Army, Loyalists and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The shooting had stopped for a while, though, and Martha, her friend and local man were the only people on that stretch of the road beside the waste ground to the back of Divismore Park.
In other words, the sniper targeted the unarmed civilians – two teenage girls and local man – deliberately.
No organisation ever claimed the killing although open sources material alleged that a Loyalist gunman of Ulster Volunteer force (UVF) killed Martha.
There was no police investigation into Martha’s murder and she would have become another forgotten victim of the conflict except for the prodigious campaigning and research work of her family.
In its [YEAR] report into Martha’s murder, the Historical Enquiries Team alleged it had accessed “the only remaining Army records” relating to the incident. It recorded that it could not :
“From the papers supplied by the [British] Army to the HET review process and examination of the open source material, there is no evidence to place the Army in Moyard Park at the time that Martha was shot.” (p. 23)
These are not the only remaining British Army records and those discovered by Paper Trail prove that the family was correct and the British Army targeted people in the same area and at the same time that Martha was murdered. The British Ministry of Defence lied, and police and the HET failed again.
Over the last number of years and in related investigations for families, Paper Trail has secured unredacted British military Brigade and Headquarters Northern Ireland files. Buried deep within these secret files is proof that a British military unit was indeed positioned in Moyard and recorded shooting at a target in the area, at the time of Martha Campbell’s killing.
At 2010 (8:10 pm) the Commander of Land Forces (CLF) informed 39 Brigade Commander (Bde Comd) that the Chief of General Staff (CGS) and Secretary of State had approved an operation which we now know involved 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment enforcing dominance of Ballymurphy area following the violence which erupted after the bombing of Kelly’s Bar the day previously.
Orders were that the operation “must be represented as a ‘looking both way’ op” – allegedly not discriminating between Catholic and Protestant communities.
HQNI files later record the sweep of 1 Para through V2, which is a British military unit call sign – first into New Barnsley. From there, 1 Para moved into New Barnsley Parade, New Barnsley Park and the north side of Springfield Road. 1 Para unit B1 then pushed through Divismore Crescent and into Ballymurphy to secure the Bullring.
At 2030 (8:30 pm), 1 Kings Regiment reports to Brigade that one of its units, Call Sign V2 was “now firing for some minutes” in the Ballymurphy area.
Martha Campbell was shot dead some time between 8:15 pm and 8:30 pm.
At 2034, 1 Para reported that Call Sign U14 [it was awaiting] was with it and that the planned operation was at V2’s location.
The British military operation then began and 1 Para units B1 – B4 pass through V2’s location and reported the reaction of the local residents as 1 Para moved through and secured New Barnsley, across Springfield Road, through Divismore and into the Bullring.
A retrospective report of at least 17 minutes (2052+ report of incident at 2035) from 1 Kings for 2035 (8:35 pm) alleges 11 high velocity shots at a gunman, Grid Reference (GR) 303748. Research shows that this is C Company 1 Kings alleging firing from its units at Corry’s timber yard and a hit north of Ballygomartin Road judging by the GR.
A report at 2110 (9:10 pm) reported that V2 fired 2 x High Velocity rounds at a target on the Springmartin Road from Moyard Park.
This tells us that V2 is a 1 Kings unit and call sign and the unit is indeed in the Moyard area. Note that there are no reports that shots were “returned” by the British Army – that is the British Army was not fired upon but shooting at alleged targets.
There followed a retrospective report from Kings at 2115 (9:15 pm) alleging that V2 fired 23 rounds between 8:30 – 8:55 pm at a gunman in Divis Park [sic] waste ground from Moyard Parade.
V2 had reported at 8:30pm that it had been firing “for some minutes” before that report.
Divis Park is military shorthand for Divismore Park and on the other side of the waste ground is the area of Springhill Crescent where Martha was killed.
This is damning proof that V2, 1 Kings admitted firing shots from Moyard at an alleged gunman in the exact area and time that Martha was murdered.
The British Ministry of Defence failed to admit this to the original inquest or subsequent investigation by HET.
1 Kings then reported to Brigade at 2120 hours (9:20 pm) that the 13-year-old girl who was previously reported as 6 years of age, was called Martha Campbell, that she was shot at 8:30 pm but “circumstances not known”.
This information is then transmitted from Brigade to Headquarters Northern Ireland at 9:17 pm.
A Situational Report (Sitrep) written the following morning clarifies that the 23 high velocity rounds were fired from Moyard Park but no hits claimed.
It may stand to reason that V2 was a static Observation Post at Moyard Park overlooking the whole area and protecting the flank of 1 Para as it moved through V2’s area, into New Barnsley and into Ballymurphy, rather than an armed patrol firing from Moyard Parade as 1 Para passed through.
Nevertheless, the alleged shooting by V2 from 2030 – 2055 needs further examination as neither 1 Kings nor 1 Para (which is then in the vicinity) report any shooting as we would expect.
Paper Trail knows which files we should interrogate to flush that information, which will be retained by MoD.
Later a [Lt] Colonel Thomas and Royal Military Police reported information regarding the victim, which was then passed to HQNI. The “Col” abbreviation can be Colonel or Lt. Colonel.
A Lt. Colonel JF Thomas (Army No. 346187) served as Assistant Provost Marshall in HQNI from April 1970 to July 1972. This may be him and may therefore be important information due to his rank and parent regiment.
It should be noted that MoD/HET denied any RMP SIB investigation, which should be activated in every British Army shooting, but these records at least prove that RMP files should have information relating to the killing especially if a soldier of such high ranking was tasked personally.
Paper Trail Conclusions [bullet points]
•British Army was located in Moyard Park at the time of Martha’s killing
•V2, 1 Kings specifically in Moyard reported at 830 pm that it had been shooting for some minutes around the time of Martha’s killing
•There are reports of alleged gunmen but none of gunmen firing at British Army positions in the area.
•1 Para grouped at V2 location before setting off on operation to dominate New Barnsley and Ballymurphy
•Retrospective report recorded Call Sign V2 shooting 23 high velocity rounds from Moyard (Parade, then Park clarified) at area of the waste ground between Divismore Park and Springhill Crescent
•This proves that V2, 1 Kings admitted it is fired shots into the very area and at the very time that Martha is killed.
•1 Kings does not claim Martha’s murder in these files but the subsequent failure to investigate by RUC/RMP and even admit British Army presence and targeted shooting in the exact area is obviously very suspect.
•The Coroner at the original inquest was not given this critical evidence
•Either MoD gave HET false/incomplete information; or HET failed to interrogate the information correctly.
•These files substantiate the witness accounts and the great research by the Campbell family. Specifically, the British Army was located in Moyard Park and fired high velocity rounds at a target in the area when Martha was murdered. The same British Army units alleged gunmen in the area but, importantly no gunfire from said gunmen – ie. Only the British Army fired.
•Paper Trail knows where further information will be located although that information is retained by MoD and not in Public Records repositories
•1 Kings then killed a number of teenagers including a young girl a few weeks later during the Springhill Westrock Massacre.
•If the British state had investigated Martha’s unlawful killing and held the British Army to account, 1 Kings may not have killed civilians in the area in the subsequent weeks, including teenagers in Springhill
•Paper Trail is dealing with a number of families from both sides of the community impacted by 1 Kings murders and subsequent cover-ups around the same time.
Paper Trail – Legacy Archive Research, 028 95 818 575
Ashton Centre, 5 Churchill Street, Belfast, BT15 2BP
Circumstances around Martha’s death
Martha Ann Campbell, a 13-year old Catholic schoolgirl, lived with her mother, Elizabeth and father Oliver in the family home at 71 Ballymurphy Road, Belfast. Martha was one of eight brothers and sisters, namely Anthony (‘Tony’), 14 years, Oliver 11 years, Brian 10 years, Eilish 7 years, Ann 6 years, Thomas 5 years and Teresa 4 years. Tony Campbell is the family point of contact.
Paper Trail Report