London: Britain's first woman prime minister Margaret Thatcher used the Army to wage a "secret war" against civil rights groups and protest organisations in the UK after she came to power in 1979, a declassified memo has revealed.
In fact, a specialist British Army intelligence unit was used to infiltrate groups, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace Pledge Union, and undercover soldiers were ordered by the Ministry of Defence to carry out spying missions, after the Tories won the 1979 election.
Former soldiers of the 20 Security Company (V) now claim they were ordered to undertake the spying missions by a senior officer in Ministry of Defence.
And, details of the orders were revealed in a memo from a general to 20 COY, a Territorial Army body which had seen service in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and the British Army of the Rhine, 'The Independent' reported.
It reads: "The change of government provides an excellent opportunity for the unit to play a more active role and to provide information about groups whose activities and interests are not beneficial and are opposed to the armed forces. The unit is well placed to do this because its members are civilians."
In fact, undercover soldiers were asked to infiltrate organisations which were under surveillance, and one soldier was so successful he was even to be elected as a membership secretary of a group, the newspaper said.
But the secretive mission was not welcomed by a number of soldiers in the company. One former soldier said: "It simply wasn't our business to be spying on fellow citizens simply because the government did not like them."
First Published: Sunday, January 08, 2012, 13:27