The Knocking Game

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The Knocking Game was a document written by the British Army's Information Policy Unit in April 1972.[1]

In reference to the Bloody Sunday massacre of January that year, the document stated:

“Perhaps the most disgusting aspect of the Londonderry propaganda campaign is the manner in which the ‘Derry Martyrs’ have been deprived of all credit for what were, by any standards, brave and determined attempts by some of them to defend the Bogside against a parachute battalion. It was foolhardy for amateur gunmen to take on some of the best trained regular soldiers in Europe. Nevertheless they seized whatever weapons were to hand and died in the attempt. Only the most corrupt and cynical organisation would deliberately set out to deny them a proper measure of respect for their sacrifice.”[2]

The document was produced in evidence to the Saville Inquiry by Colin Wallace, who said that it was "prepared by Colonel Tugwell and demonstrates the Psy.Ops approach to allegations about the Parachute Regiment."[3]

In his oral testimony to the inquiry, Wallace said the document was one of two instances he was aware of, along with the Clockwork Orange material of 1974, of the army putting out misleading material about Bloody Sunday.[4]

He described the document's purpose as follows:

It was given to journalists, particularly visiting journalists who perhaps had only covered one event, and what Colonel Tugwell I think was trying to demonstrate was that there had been a prolonged campaign against the Parachute Regiment of allegations of misbehaviour over a period of time, and also trying to show that some of the allegations had no foundation or were false.[5]

In his statement to the Saville inquiry, Colonel Tugwell said:

The hand-out called The Knocking Game' was put together by Information Policy at HQNI with input from the press officers of I and 2 PARA. This appears as Document 25 to this statement. My recollection is that it was issued to all units in Northern Ireland and, I imagine, to staff branches there and in MOD. I cannot remember the scale of issue, but the idea was that lots of officers and soldiers serving In Northern Ireland should read it, that the nature of the specific anti-para campaign should be recognised, and that the broader subject of propaganda as a key component in revolutionary warfare might be better understood. As far as I can remember, it was not offered to media people, although it may have been picked up by some Journalists in the course of their usual work. lt describes the anti-para campaign waged at many levels including Messrs Winchester and Hoggart. The campaign lost some of its steam when on 14 January 1972, the Daily Telegraph's defence correspondent, Richard Cox, published the story within a story, that is the efforts to generate anti-para sentiment rather than the propaganda message itself.[6]

An April 1972 cable to Tugwell from Colonel F. M. K. Tuck of MO4, the Ministry of Defence branch responsible for Northern Ireland, would appear to support Wallace's version of the use to which the document was put. The relevant section read:

2. The Knocking Game. We have no objection to circulating this on the lines you suggest and will attach it to our next monthly report. However, it is not what is wanted for public use and we intend offering it to IRD for their advice. We hope they may be able to adapt into suitable form for use in Ireland. We see Uttley made good use of this material.[7]

PowerBase Resources


  1. Psyops and military information activity, Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Volume IX, Chapter 178.
  2. Psyops and military information activity, Report of the The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Volume IX, Chapter 178.
  3. KW2.27 Statement of Colin Wallace, Bloody Sunday Inquiry, 23 December 2000.
  4. Day 236, Bloody Sunday Inquiry, 19 September 2002.
  5. Day 236, Bloody Sunday Inquiry, 19 September 2002.
  6. Statement of Maurice Tugwell, Bloody Sunday Inquiry, 24 October 2000.
  7. Extract from National Archives file CJ4/135, April 1972.