The Army commander who ordered the Parachute Regiment into Londonderry on what became known as Bloody Sunday has died aged 91.
A veteran of the D-Day landings, General Sir Robert Ford became Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland in July 1971. Within weeks he would be organising the military response to the upsurge in violence that followed the introduction of internment without trial – and experiencing the sharp deterioration in relations between his troops and the Catholic community. His first years in the post were some of the bloodiest in almost four decades of conflict.
Thirteen civil rights protestors were shot and killed by the Paras in Londonderry on January 30, 1972, with a fourteenth dying of his injuries months later. A total of 497 people would lose their lives before the end of the year.
Robert Cyril Ford was born at Yealmpton, Devon, on December 29, 1923. He attended Musgrave’s College, Gateshead and was commissioned into the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in June 1943 following officer training at Sandhurst.
Around the time of this retirement in 1981, and for a number of years afterwards, Ford held honorary senior ranks in a number of regiments, including Colonel Commandant of the Royal Armoured Corps (1980-1982) and Colonel Commandant of the SAS (1980-1985). He also served as chairman of the Army Benevolent Fund and as vice-chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (1989 to 1993). He was appointed MBE in 1958 before being advanced to CBE in 1971. He was knighted six years later and appointed GCB in 1981. He married Jean Claudia Pendlebury, who predeceased him, in 1949. He was also predeceased by his second wife, Caroline Margaret Peerless, in 2003. He died on November 24.