7 May 1962 – Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote a personal letter to President Ngô Dình Diệm, the dictator of South Vietnam, lauding his murderous regime.

“We have viewed with admiration the way in which your government and people have resisted” attempts to “overthrow the freely established regime in South Vietnam,” adding “We wish you every success in your struggle.”(1)

The Diem regime was far from being “freely established” as it had been forced to rig elections in October 1955 and April 1961 to gain and then retain power while the population increasingly sympathised with the insurgents of the People’s Liberation Army (referred to derisively by officials as the Viet Cong).  By July 1961, even the Foreign Office had recognised that the Diem government was “a clumsy and heavy-handed dictatorship which is conspicuously lacking in popular appeal.”  It maintained its position only through a combination of massive US military aid and brutal repression, having already murdered an estimated 66,000 of its citizens, including communists, non-communist dissidents, Buddhist priests, anti-corruption whistleblowers and suspect insurgents during the previous five years.(2)

However, British support went far beyond mere personal flattery.  At least six hundred of Diem’s troops were trained in counter insurgency in Malaysia by the British army during the early and Britain established an advisory mission of counter insurgency experts in Saigon in September 1961, known as BRIAM (the British Advisory Administrative Mission ) which championed the brutal method of building “strategic hamlets.” A policy which necessitated forcing farmers to abandon their homes and live in fortified villages, as well as give up their labour to the construction of a defensive perimeter.(3)

( see also 20 December 1961 – British ambassador defends Diem dictatorship)



7 May 1974 – A Catholic couple, James Desmond Delvin, a bar manager aged fourty five, and his wife Gertrude, a librarian aged fourty four, were driving to their home in Dungannon in County Tyrone, with their seventeen year old daughter Patricia. Suddenly a man in a soldier’s uniform stepped out on to the road and beckoned them to stop, and moments later James and Gertrude were killed in a hail of gunfire which also wounded Patricia in the right thigh and forearm and covered her in blood.

Over a year later, on 19 August 1975, William Thomas Leonard, a 21 year old phone engineer who was also a soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was arrested and two days later he confessed to the murder of the couple and a string of other brutal terror attacks, including bombings which had injured six people and the abduction of two bread deliverymen.  However, at no time in the subsequent court proceedings was his membership of the UDR ever mentioned by the prosecution, nor was it referred to in the file presented to the judge when determining his sentence.

Another suspect named by Leonard, a twenty seven year old farmer and part time soldier in the UDR,  was subsequently arrested but all the papers relating to his arrest and subsequent court appearance subsequently disappeared.  The Historical Enquiries Team, a police unit set up to investigate unsolved murders in Northern Ireland, later noted in 2009 that “the reason for the removal of his conviction and sentencing details cannot be established.”(4)


1. Correspondence quoted in Mark Curtis (2004) “Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses,” Vintage, London p207

2. Statistics quoted in Mark Curtis (2004) p203.

3. Ibid p211-213.

4. Anne Cadwallader (2013), “Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland,” Mercier Press, Cork, p62-66.

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