A little-known story has come to light of how a British soldier was awarded a medal for bravery after possibly saving the life of a suspected IRA member just weeks after he witnessed a comrade killed by the terrorist group.
Staff Sergeant Michael Rattigan served with 2 Platoon, ‘A’ Company of the Royal Green Jackets, in Northern Ireland in 1972, at the very height of the ‘Troubles’. In August that year he was a Lance Corporal on a foot patrol in a dangerous area of Belfast which came under attack from an IRA sniper. The gunman fatally wounded LCpl. Rattigan’s section commander, Corporal Ian Morill, with a volley of shots.
After making sure medical assistance was given to the mortally wounded soldier, LCpl. Rattigan took command and led the pursuit of the sniper.
Two months later he was on another patrol when he became suspicious of three men stood at a bus stop. He searched the first man, a Protestant, and found a loaded Luger pistol. The gunman turned out to be a member of a loyalist assassination squad and his target had been a Catholic man, stood next to him.
The citation for LCpl. Rattigan’s bravery medal actually recognised that the suspected member of the IRA owed his life to the soldier’s alertness.
The chilling account has come to light now after SSgt. Rattigan’s Distinguished Conduct Medal group was put up for sale for £30,000.
David Kirk, of London auctioneers Morton and Eden, said: “The reason for the high price is that there were very few DCMs awarded for Northern Ireland, just 16, compared to about 25,000 in the Great War.
“We believe this to be one of just two DCM awards made to his regiment for Northern Ireland and Rattigan’s group also includes a British Empire Medal, making it a very scarce combination… The official citation for his DCM is also very detailed, which gives a real insight into the specifics of his service at that time.”
SSgt. Rattigan served in the Royal Green Jackets and was 27 when he deployed to Northern Ireland for four months in 1972. After Cpl. Morrill was shot while searching a civilian, Rattigan repeatedly exposed himself to rifle fire to locate the sniper. The 18 man patrol returned fire, believing they had seen the killer in a bakery but it is thought that he got away.
Later that evening LCpl. Rattigan was on another patrol when the men became involved in yet another gun battle with two armed men seen on a school roof. Fortunately there were no injuries in that skirmish, largely thanks to his ‘excellent fire control orders’.
The citation for his DCM was published in the London Gazette and stated: “In addition to specific acts of leadership in difficult and dangerous situations LCpl. Rattigan was first class in his dealings with the local population.
“As a result he was held in very high regard as a tough, able but also reasonable and courteous NCO by both the Catholic and Protestant communities.”
Thirteen years later SSgt. Rattigan was awarded the British Empire Medal for helping in the training of the Sultan of Oman’s land forces. He was discharged from the army in 1985 and died in Folkestone, Kent, in 2008 aged 63.
His medal group will be sold on 28 Thursday June, with an estimate of between £20,000 and £30,000.