We have a number of objects in our collection that don’t seem to be related to the army at all, and when you wander around the museum you wonder why it’s on display!
One such object is our church model which is in our post-war case. It is made entirely of matchsticks, is beautifully lacquered, and is even wired up on the inside to have lights turn on and off!
So why do we have it?
This church model was made during the Northern Ireland Conflict in the Maze Prison near Lisburn, NI, by a Unionist who had been arrested and imprisoned for making bombs. The model was based on a church that he could see out of his cell window. When he was released he gifted it to one of the MPSC guards who in turn donated it to the MPSC Association who are kindly loaning it to us.
The Maze Prison was created on an RAF base to house prisoners during The Troubles, and both unionists and loyalists were imprisoned there. The prison saw many protests, riots, hunger strikes, and breakouts attempts over the years it was in operation, and was often in the news due to this and became one of the most infamous prisons of its time. It was finally closed in 2000 following the release or relocation of all its prisoners.
The Troubles, also known as the Northern Ireland Conflict, was a conflict during the latter half of the twentieth century between a number of factions, paramilitary groups, and the British Government over the relationship of Northern Ireland to Ireland and the United Kingdom. Irish Nationalists and Republicans worked to secede Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland, whilst Loyalists and Unionists wanted to remain within the United Kingdom. The conflict was long and bloody, and was the longest running conflict that the British Army has been a part of to date. Of the AGC’s antecedents and post-1992 branches, the RMP, MPSC, and WRAC were all heavily involved on the ground in this conflict, with the RMP operating on their first-in-last-out tradition and as well as supporting the civilian police along with the WRAC Provost who were attached to the RMP.
The conflict officially ended in 1998 with the signing of the Belfast Agreement (aka the Good Friday Agreement), which amongst other things called for a ceasefire, the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons, a reform of the police, and the withdrawal of the British Army from Northern Ireland’s streets.