Police grill hero Chelsea Pensioner, 75, for FOUR hours over an IRA firefight which took place in 1972
- The Chelsea Pensioner is being hounded by investigators over his role in 1972
- He was interviewed for four hours over the death of an IRA terrorist in Belfast
- The former Royal Marine, now 75, fired at the armed man in the heat of a battle
A Chelsea Pensioner is being hounded by investigators over his role in a firefight in Northern Ireland more than four decades ago.
The former Royal Marine was quizzed for four hours by Northern Ireland officers at the famous Royal Hospital Chelsea over the death of an IRA terrorist in an Army ambush in Belfast in July 1972.
The veteran, who is now 75, fired at the armed man in the heat of a battle as 'bullets rained down in all directions'.
He said he had been thrown into a 'Catch-22 monstrosity', in which he either tried to kill the man or watch his comrades be murdered.
A Chelsea Pensioner is being hounded by investigators over his role in a firefight in Northern Ireland more than four decades ago (stock photo)
Three years after the firefight, he was awarded a 'certificate of appreciation' by the commander of Northern Ireland operations, praising him for his 'good service' and 'devotion to duty'.
But last night the decorated war hero said he had been 'chased' over the incident by detectives.
He is the first known Chelsea Pensioner to be targeted by detectives dragging up historical cases from the time of Troubles.
Now the terrified veteran – who completed six tours of Northern Ireland during the height of IRA terrorism – spends his days fearing another knock at the door. He said he had been 'left to grow old' fearing prosecution. The pensioner, who also served in the Army, does not want to be named because he fears he could be attacked at his home in London.
Speaking to the Daily Mail from the hospital, he said: 'I am now under suspicion. My case is an example of how far these people are willing to go.
'Are they going to look for 95-year-old Normandy veterans next?
'It does not matter if you've served for 22 years in the Army and in the Marines, these people are still going to chase you. It does not even matter if you live in a castle in Scotland, a council estate in England, or a magnificent place like the Royal Hospital Chelsea, these people will still want to find you.'
Details of his plight came after it emerged a new unit has been set up to investigate every Army killing during the Troubles.
Up to 1,000 men in their 60s and 70s face being put through the 'witch-hunt', which has been condemned by MPs and military chiefs as 'disgraceful'.
Two ex-paratroopers are being prosecuted for murder over the killing of an IRA commander more than 40 years ago. The former soldiers, who had twice been assured they would not be hauled before the courts for gunning down Joe McCann, are the surviving members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment patrol that opened fire in 1972. The men, now 67 and 65, are expected to stand trial next year for the Belfast killing – and face jail if convicted. The Police Service of Northern Ireland's taxpayer-funded Legacy Investigation Branch is set to re-open 238 'fatal incidents', which led to 302 deaths.
The former Royal Marine was quizzed for four hours by Northern Ireland officers at the famous Royal Hospital Chelsea (pictured)
Speaking about the incident in 1972, the Chelsea Pensioner said he had fired at a terrorist holding a rifle in 'attack mode' towards his comrades. He does not know if his bullets killed the man.
He said: 'My company commander put me in the situation to ambush and if necessary kill an enemy who was trying to kill us.
'An ambush includes calamity never written about in any training manual. I fired at him but I don't know where my rounds landed. After 45 years, I still don't know. When I looked through my rifle scope I saw a man in the attack mode with a weapon.
'He was pointing his weapon toward my main gate where I knew there were other marines on sentry duty. I could have killed a man in July 1972, a man who was trying to kill Royal Marines that I was in a covert ambush to protect. I was acting under orders.
'This is a Catch-22 monstrosity but the act of ambush is legal in the eyes of our defence laws.'
In 1975, he received a letter from the commander and director of operations of Northern, Ireland praising him for his heroic service.
LOYAL SERVICE REWARDED
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was founded by Charles II and designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century to provide a home for veterans who had given loyal service to the nation.
Any former Army soldier over the age of 65, who is facing spending their advanced years alone, can apply for residence as a Chelsea Pensioner.
There are currently around 320 places – less than the number of applications – so the veteran’s Army service record is taken into account.
Although they are known for their scarlet uniforms, the pensioners wear an alternative navy blue uniform on a daily basis. This is worn with a dark ‘shako’ cap bearing the initials RH.
Chelsea Pensioners surrender their Army pension in return receiving board, lodging, clothing and full medical care.
Women were admitted for the first time in 2009.The letter, seen by the Mail, says: 'I am authorised to signify by the award to you of this certificate my appreciation of the good service which you have rendered. I have given instructions that a note of your devotion to duty shall be made on your Record of Service.'
The Chelsea Pensioner said he had 'no doubt' that he was going to get another letter through the door from investigators.
He said: 'These people are going to get back to me but I don't know when. I'm worried because I'm certain they are going to jump on me.'
But he said he had taken part in a 'lawful ambush' in which 'you are there to kill and when they turn up with that weapon your job is to blow them apart'.
He added: 'For 45 years I have stood alone on this event with no offer of investigative explanation from any authority.
'Our services never needed more support than they do today.' He said the investigations were 'destroying morale' and serving as 'comfort to the enemy'.
The former soldier, who never married, decided to become a Chelsea Pensioner seven years ago.
Normally a Royal Marine cannot become a Chelsea Pensioner but because he served in the Army for six years, he was allowed to move into the famous hospital.
He said: 'As I got a bit older I knew it was a very safe and secure place for pensioners and an ideal place to spend the last years of my life.'