Force Research Unit

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The Force Research Unit was a top secret unit of the British Army which was engaged in running informers and has been alleged to be involved in a number of assassinations and murders in Ireland.[1] It has reportedly now been renamed the Joint Support Group.[2] It appears to be associated with the Special Reconnaissance Regiment created in 2005.[3]


According to journalist Peter Taylor, the FRU was established in 1979.[4] However, according to the Pat Finucane Review by Sir Desmond de Silva, the unit was formed in 1982, and responsibility for army agent-running in Northern Ireland had previously rested with Brigade Research Units.[5]

According to the De Silva Review: "In a 1988 Directive titled 'Perestroika', the FRU'S CO directed a reorganisation of the Unit in order to make it an "independent unit" within the Army intelligence structures.[5] The Directive outlined the systems for the reporting of intelligence within the FRU; job descriptions for different roles; and a series of moves necessary to establish the independence of the FRU. The changes included agent case files being moved from the offices of the Security Service's Assistant Secretary Political (ASP) to the FRU HQ."[5]

Structure and Personnel

According to the De Silva Review: "The FRU's structure consisted of an HQ and four regional units: North Detachment, West Detachment, East Detachment and South Detachment. Brian Nelson was run from the East Detachment FRU, which covered the Greater Belfast area. Each Detachment employed agent-handlers and an Officer Commanding (OC), who normally held the rank of Captain. The OC of each Detachment reported to the FRU's Commanding Officer (CO). An Operations Officer deputised for the CO and had specific responsibilities for certain areas of operations.[5]


According to the De Silva Review, The CO of the FRU "in turn reported to the Commander Land Forces (CLF) and the GOC. The Chief of the G2 Intelligence Section was responsible for the Field Intelligence Fund which financed FRU operations."[5]

Commanders (CO FRU)

Operations Officers

East Detachment

West Detachment


According to "Martin Ingram", FRU agents were each given a number of which the first two digits signified their location, with the second two providing a unique identifier. The prefix '30' signified the FRU's western detachment (West Det.), while Brian Nelson prefix '61' signified East Det.[12]

See Also

Further reading


  1. Chris Thornton, D-DAY FORCOLLUSION; Prosecutors close to decision on key cases, Belfast Telegraph, 24 February 2007.
  2. Michael Evans, Top secret intelligence unit will quit Belfast for new role in Iraq, The Times, 18 April 2005.
  3. James Kirkup, [VAGUENESS OF ARMY ROLES GIVES RISE TO SUSPICIONS, The Scotsman, 19 August 2005.
  4. Peter Taylor, Brits: The War Against the IRA, Bloomsbury, 2002, p.287.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 3: Intelligence structures, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 6: The recruitment of Brian Nelson, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Sir Desmond de Silva, Volume 1 - Chapter 7: The activities of Brian Nelson 1987- 89, Pat Finucane Review, 12 December 2012.
  8. David Lister and Ian Cobain, Stakeknife is 'under guard at old Home Counties airbase', The Times, 13 May 2003.
  9. Liam Clarke, Soldier 'gagged' over RUC tribunal testimony, Sunday Times, 7 October 2007.
  10. Alan Murray, Caught on the web ...; Pic of Stakeknife WITH his agent handler could go online, Sunday Life, 23 November 2003.
  12. Martin Ingram, Greg Harkin, Stakeknife: Britain's Secret Agents in Ireland, O'Brien Press, 2004, p.55.
  13. Rosie Cowan, He did the IRA's dirty work for 25 years - and was paid £80,000 a year by the government, The Guardian, 12 May 2003.
  14. Martin Ingram, Greg Harkin, Stakeknife: Britain's Secret Agents in Ireland, O'Brien Press, 2004, p.55.
  15. David Sharrock, Army concealing information, says former agent,, 20 June 2001.
  16. Henry McDonald, Revealed: five British spies inside IRA, The Observer, 18 May 2003.
  17. Henry McDonald, Army spy faces jail after appeal to Queen over 'murders', Observer, 7 December 2003.
  18. Martin Ingram, Greg Harkin, Stakeknife: Britain's Secret Agents in Ireland, O'Brien Press, 2004, p.55.
  19. Nelson's shadowy past, BBC, 13 April 2003.
  20. Henry McDonald, The double agent who helped run terror cell, 20 April 2003.