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Chapter 11 – The Part-Time Platoons

 

Both the Permanent Cadre and the Part-Time platoons were sub-divided into three sections of at least eight men each. For patrol operations the sections were split into two teams (‘Bricks’) of four. An officer supported by a SNCO, the Platoon Sergeant, commanded Part-Time platoons. Either an officer or an experienced SNCO would command a Permanent Cadre platoon with the support of a SNCO. Corporals led the sections with the support of Lance Corporals who were placed in charge of each brick.

Women soldiers were first recruited into the UDR in 1973 and individual women soldiers were attached to platoons for specific duties.

 

The Part-Time Platoon Commander’s Story by H Jamieson

I joined the UDR in 1976 because I believed it was my patriotic duty to protect both my hometown and Northern Ireland. I wanted to remain British and I thought I had plenty to offer the UDR. 

I joined as a private soldier and completed my basic training under the tutelage of the E Company PSIs.  

   On completion of my basic training I was assigned to 21 Platoon. I served in that platoon until I reached the rank of Corporal. At that stage I was formally asked if I would like to apply for a commission. I said I would. Then I had to take part in a series of selection interviews and tests before attending the Commissioning Course at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

 

The Selection Interview

Two of the interviews were conducted at HQNI Lisburn. At one of the interviews a Brigadier was chairing the board of four officers. Shortly before the board was convened this Brigadier had been gazumped while trying to buy a house in the Belfast area, a very common practice at that time. He had read my application form and noted that I was a builder by trade and was engaged in building houses for immediate sale. He asked me for some advice. In my reply I explained that if I had built a house and received offers on it, I would always sell to the highest bidder. He laughed at my reply. Later on the CO informed me how that conversation formed part of the Brigadier’s after dinner speeches.

 

Sandhurst Training

My response to the Brigadier’s gazumping problem did not appear to have spoiled my chances of a commission. I was thirty-nine years old when I went to Sandhurst. By no means was I the youngest person on the course. The course consisted of two full weeks intensive training. There were lectures and exercises with more lectures and exercises to follow. On average we had to change our uniforms six times a day, depending on our lesson.

   One particular day was spent listening to military music from a well turned-out military band. Carrying out drill whilst accompanied by military music followed this. That was probably the most enjoyable period of our training.

   We had a Colour Sergeant Instructor with the sobriquet ‘Double-Double’. It did not matter what you were doing, as soon as you saw him you knew you would be ‘doubling’ from A to B. One day a four-ton lorry came to our accommodation to take us to the range. ‘Double-Double’ also arrived and we all ‘doubled’ to the range with the lorry following us. Despite that I had a good afternoon on the range. I was experienced at handling the SLR whereas many of the TA potential officers were inexperienced. I excelled myself and impressed the training staff. They of course concentrated their efforts on the other course members.

   Because of my age the physical demands of the course were a constant strain. Most of those on the course were in their twenties, almost half my age, so I was always ‘bringing up the rear’ in any running exercise. Despite this age handicap, a number of young men were sent home after the first week because they were unable to meet the stringent physical demands of the course.

 

Warminster Platoon Commanders’ Course

After completing my commissioning course at Sandhurst, I was posted to D Company in Ballykelly for one year. While I was there I was expected to attend many other courses that would mould me into a good platoon commander.

   The next course I had to successfully complete was a platoon commander’s course at Warminster. Although the course was based on conventional warfare against the Soviet threat, I did quite well. In fact when I returned to Northern Ireland and paraded in front of the Brigadier for my course report, he went out of his way to congratulate me on the results I had obtained.

 

Search Advisers Course

The next course I attended was a one-week Search Advisers course at Chatten Dean in south England. This course would qualify me to train search teams within the company and also conduct search operations back in Northern Ireland. The course was well attended by both police inspectors and other army unit officers. The PSI at E Company had prepared me well for this course. In fact the lecture I had to give at the end of the course was the same one the PSI had presented when he had done the same course the previous year. After I had given my presentation to the other students the instructor congratulated me and said it was a brilliant lecture where I had covered subjects not included on the course.

 

Other Courses

 After successfully completing the Search Advisers’ course, I went to Beaconsfield, England for the Road Safety Officers’ Course. Other local courses followed to give me a thorough grounding in all the skills required of a platoon commander. Although I was a part-time officer with a civilian job, I was expected to attend and pass all the courses the full-time officers were expected to complete.

 

Platoon Commander Duties

Initially I did not find my role as platoon commander too taxing. My civilian job as a supervisor and trainer of young tradesmen prepared me for the role of platoon commander. I enjoyed the responsibility as well as the craic of commanding a platoon. It was an honour to have people who trusted you to look after them and for you to make the right decision in difficult circumstances.

   My next posting was down to Magherafelt for a short period and then back to E Company in Coleraine.

I was posted as platoon commander of 22 Platoon until I left the UDR.

    

The Recruit

The platoon was going well, with good, steady men, good JNCOs and an excellent Platoon Sergeant. Just before Annual camp a new recruit joined us. He turned out to be a Catholic. As the platoon consisted of 100 per cent Protestants I was concerned about how the situation would work out. I need not have worried. The men were happy to see a Roman Catholic joining their ranks. They made the recruit very welcome – in fact, being a young man, the platoon seemed to take him under their joint wings and looked after him like a younger brother.

   The annual camp was scheduled for the end of April and the battalion moved to the Lydd and Hythe ranges in the South of England. The annual camp was a great opportunity for the battalion to use the English and Scottish ranges, training equipment and facilities in a reasonably relaxed atmosphere.

   One of the facilities at Lydd and Hythe was a purpose built village. On this facility the training staff could present us with the type of terrorist incidents we had to deal with in NorthernIreland. The whole area was fitted with moving targets, simulated firing points and CCTV cameras that watched our every move. After conducting a patrol through the village, the soldiers would then be debriefed on their reaction to all the incidents thrown at them.

   On one occasion the platoon was tasked to carry out foot patrols in the training village. I briefed the platoon on their task and gave strict instructions that no doors were to be kicked in or forced open. There was always the likelihood that some doors could be booby trapped with thunder flashes (a large firework that exploded loudly with dense smoke). The platoon set off into the village and was engaged (fired on) by the training staff. The platoon reacted immediately by using their anti-ambush drill for such an incident. During this drill a thunder flash was detonated.

   On completion of the exercise I debriefed the platoon on their performance. The young catholic recruit was sitting with a smoke blackened face and was obviously the victim of the thunder flash. I looked at him and said, “What did I tell you about kicking in doors?” Before he could reply a voice from the platoon piped up with, “Could have been worse sir, it could have been one of us!”

   This was typical of the comradeship, the black humour and good craic that existed in the UDR and particularly so at platoon level. The recruit to my mind was now a fully accepted member of the platoon.

 

Local Help

Coleraine town radiates out from the River Bann. Because it is contained in the Bann valley, the town suffers from periodic flooding. One night I was on duty and the River Bann overflowed. A number of the platoon members lived in the area under threat and I had no hesitation in volunteering the platoon to help the locals. The priority was to sandbag the doors to prevent the floodwaters entering their homes.

   I gave the platoon three tasks. First, they had to fill sandbags. Second, to transport them to the flooded area and third, they had to place the sandbags at the doors of homes and other areas in danger of flooding. The platoon worked with the residents until 3am that morning.

    Thanks to the platoon effort, the flood damage was kept to a minimum. We returned to camp at 3.30am and every member, including the greenfinches, were absolutely soaked to the skin. The local residents expressed their sincere thanks for our hard work. Once again we had carried out another demanding and satisfying task that made other peoples lives more comfortable and secure.

 

The ‘Droppin Well Inn’ Bomb Atrocity

I was a platoon commander and duty officer on the night of the bomb atrocity at the ‘Droppin Well Inn’, Ballykelly. That incident happened on 6 December 1982. At about 11.45pm I was in the Operations Room at Battalion Headquarters in Ballykelly and heard a loud explosion. I tasked my vehicle patrols to the immediate area and then moved from the Battalion Operations room with my team to take command of the incident on the ground.

   On arrival at the ‘Droppin Well Inn’ I discovered a scene of utter devastation, with people pulling at the debris with their bare hands in an effort to rescue the victims. We radioed back to the Operations room and requested all the relevant agencies required to deal with a major bombing atrocity. We then continued to help the wounded and then discovered that there were a number of fatalities.

   My mobile patrols arrived on the scene within a few minutes and I ordered them to control the traffic, seal off the bombsite and ensure that ambulances and other emergency services gained access to the scene. Luckily I knew of the construction of the ‘Droppin Well Inn’ and soon realized that heavy digging equipment would be needed. The bomb had collapsed a supporting pillar and the heavy concrete floor of the supermarket above had collapsed on the crowded dance floor below.

   I called out the Royal Engineer detachment based in Ballykelly. This involved entering their sleeping quarters and wakening the soldiers. We then ordered them to bring all their heavy digging and lifting equipment to the bomb scene as soon as possible.

   My team returned to the bomb scene and I found our patrols working extremely well, doing their best in dreadful circumstances. They were in full control and ensured that only those required to be in the area had access. All the emergency services were now in full operation.

   One of my cordon commanders told me later, “The RSM came up to the cordon and spoke to me as I was in charge of one of the cordon points. He opened one of his ammo pouches and took out a bar of chocolate, broke it in half and told me to eat it. He saw the puzzled look on my face so he went on to tell me how it would boost my blood sugar levels and help me to keep thinking ahead” S20.

   The Commanding Officer arrived at the scene and his first question was “Have you ordered body bags?” to which I replied, “The ambulance service is dealing with the dead and injured.” This callous question will remain with me forever.

“As the body bags were being carried out of the rubble one of the bags had a small puncture hole in it. Rather than a stream of flowing red blood there was a congealed blob of blood with a jelly consistency. That scene stayed with me for months, not the bodies or casualties, just that scene” S20.

 “Many casualties were kept alive because that was the night the regular soldiers had their band practice. It was a tradition for bandsmen to be first aid qualified. The whole band ran up from the camp and went straight in to save lives” S20.

“I can remember an Asian surgeon from Altnagelvin Hospital sitting on a pile of rubble. He had a hospital blanket round his shoulders and was constantly supplied with cups of coffee. He did not drink much coffee; he was using the cup to keep his hands warm. Now and then a medic would come up to him and he would go off to check out another casualty. On a few occasions he had to amputate arms and legs to get the casualty out alive. That’s probably why he had to keep his hands warm” S20.

The Commanding Officers gave the patrols a “Well Done” and my platoon remained at the bomb scene carrying out all the duties required of them until we were relieved at 6:30am. We had reported for duty at 7:30pm the previous evening. So it had been a long and tiring eleven hours.

   Later that morning when driving to my civilian employment after no sleep, I passed the spot where the ‘Droppin Well Inn’ had been. Members of the UDR were still there controlling the traffic and a number of people were standing around with a look of disbelief on their faces. I just thought to myself how proud I was of my platoon and how they had shown true professionalism during a very long, busy and tiring night.

   I later heard that the final death toll for that particular Republican bombing was seventeen. The majority of these were off-duty soldiers as well as civilians.

 

Job Changes and Personal Security

When Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain one of the first things she did was to destroy the building trade by raising VAT to 17.5 per cent.  In the end it was not worth building a house for selling on. So I took a job in the civil service where my construction industry qualifications had some value. I became a training instructor.

   Although I was still in the UDR at this time, I was posted to an area where the Protestant workers were in the minority (25 per cent). Because of my UDR duties I had a certain dispensation from my new bosses. Any night I was out on patrol I did not have to start work until 10:30am. This allowed me to catch up on my sleep before coming in for work. For many N. Ireland employers who understood and supported the commitment of their workers to UDR membership this was standard practice.

   The problem was, Republican sympathisers were always looking for behaviour patterns like this in order to target part-time UDR members for murder. Despite all the years that I worked in this area I never was targeted or warned by the police that I was a target. I was lucky to be surrounded by decent law abiding people.

 

More Civilian Job Changes

Eventually in my civilian job I was transferred to an office over forty miles away from home. The distance and travel time made it impractical for me to attend all the platoon duties and training nights. But I did manage to parade for the weekend duties including range work, training and operations. I was constantly reminded of my failure to parade through the week. It was even suggested that I report to other UDR bases closer to my workplace in order to carry out operational patrols during the week. This was an ill thought out alternative. It would involve me having to carry a full uniform and military documents in the boot of my car at all times in order to get from work to the nearest UDR base. I would have to sleep at the base and then go back to my civilian job.

 

My Final Annual Camp

It was during this period of constant harassment by my senior officers that I attended what was to be my final annual camp. One day when I was taking part in an anti-ambush drill from a vehicle-mounted patrol I had the unfortunate experience of falling from the back of a vehicle and injuring my arm. The Medical Officer was unavailable to treat me at that time. After two agonizing days I could no longer endure the pain so I left the camp for Heathrow airport. I caught a flight back to Belfast airport and reported to Coleraine Hospital. An x-ray was taken and it was found that I had a double break in my elbow.

   I was off work for ten weeks until my elbow healed as my doctors forbade me to do any more duties with the Regiment. This period of recuperation gave me the opportunity to relax properly for the first time in eight years.

 

My Resignation

One evening I was invited up to Battalion Headquarters to meet the new Commanding Officer of the Battalion. The Commanding Officer immediately berated me for my poor attendance over the previous six months. I explained to him all my circumstances and how, on my doctors orders, Regimental duties were out of the question for the present.

   Eventually I returned to my civilian job but my travel problems remained to interfere with my UDR duties. Although I loved the UDR and had devoted over ten years to serving my country and the Regiment I tendered my resignation which was accepted and I left the UDR.

 

Closing Note

The UDR did a splendid job and all the members I came into contact with were highly motivated individuals. In the last few years I have joined the Coleraine branch of the UDR Association. Through the Association I have managed to renew old friendships with my former comrades. I am active in all the Association activities and I enjoy the craic (H Jamieson, 2007).

 

The Corporal’s Story

 

I was born in 1944, a Protestant, and had a very strict upbringing in a so-called Christian home. I am not trying to take away from my mother’s faith in her God and I do respect her efforts to bring up her family in the best possible way but I can’t even now believe that my father’s brand of religion was even loosely connected with Christ and his teachings. I was sent to Sunday School and Church twice on Sunday for the good of my soul. Sundays were to be treated as a day of rest and the only entertainment had to be found in the reading of the Bible. I hasten to add that I did sometimes read a little of the “Good Book” and enjoyed parts, especially the Psalms.

 

The Ulster British Ethos

I was always proud of my native Ulster-Scots heritage and my Britishness which to some might seem a contradiction in terms, but as I don’t see myself as Irish I wish to remain in the UK as I have yet to see any benefits in relation to entering into a United Ireland.

   During the early 70s I was very much involved in the Trade Union Movement and worked hard as Branch Secretary and Shop Steward for both Protestant and Roman Catholic alike and feel I had respect from both sides of the house.

   During the early 70s I was what you could call ‘an angry young man’ …my wife would probably agree with that! I had just married in July 1969 at the start of the latest Republican campaign. I remember the previous IRA campaign in the late 50s when the Official IRA waged terror mainly along the border counties. One of my abiding memories of that period was of the ‘brave’ volunteers leaving their comrade to bleed to death in a cowshed near Newry.

 

The UWC Strike

I was part of a group of Protestant people who supported the Ulster Workers Council strike and I took part in roadblocks in my hometown. I do not regret this part of my life even now as I feel it was the only way left open to the community to bring to bear their feelings to British Government who would not listen to the majority view of the Unionist people.

 

Joining the UDR

About this time I was approached and asked to join a Loyalist paramilitary group. After much thought I did not take up the offer. Instead I had a good friend in the UDR who had never been off my back to join the Regiment. This I did after persuading my doctor to deem me medically fit although he said that because of a lung operation I had, I would not be suitable for military service.

   My family and my wife’s family were totally opposed to me joining, as like many others, they did not mind people joining, as long as it wasn’t their son or daughter. I served part-time for five years and had a few scary moments, some that trouble me even now. But I never saw any of the so-called crimes against the Nationalist community that some of the Republican and nationalist politicians complained about. Yes, there were a few within the Regiment that committed terrible crimes but in my opinion 99.9 per cent of its members were law abiding soldiers who behaved well at all times.

 

Verbal and Physical Abuse

At times I had great difficulty in accepting verbal and sometimes physical abuse from a large proportion of the Nationalist community. I can think of one Coleraine councillor who when stopped at any check point immediately went foul mouthed and berserk, accusing us of harassing him although nothing untoward had taken place. I hasten to add that I also received verbal abuse from within the Protestant community especially from people of whom I would have expected more.

 

Promotion

During my service I was promoted to the heady ranks of Lance Corporal.  In that time I was on two emergency Call-Ups and served mostly in Co. Londonderry in Coleraine, Garvagh, Swatragh, Kilrea, Claudy, Maghera, Magherafelt, Londonderry city and border check points also in Castlederg and Strabane, Co Tyrone as well as Portglenone and Toomebridge, Co Antrim.

 

Personal Security

During my service I was warned on two occasions that my name had been found on an IRA death list, the first time along with six or seven others from my platoon. The list had been found on a Provo who had been arrested. The second time the names were along with hundreds of RUC and UDR members who had joined an injury insurance scheme where a Provo had gained access to the records of the company while employed as a manager there.

   Looking back I know that as a UDR soldier you were given a wide berth by a lot of workmates especially when walking home after midnight after the late shift. They did not want to put their life in danger and made sure they did not leave along with you. Also, while I was in the Regiment I received death threats from within the internal phone system and was given verbal abuse by some at work.

   I enjoyed my time in the Regiment and felt part of a ‘family’. The pay was secondary as I felt that it was my duty to defend my country against terrorists and help protect the community. I feel I was helping preserve a stable and prosperous country for my children to grow up in.

 

My Resignation

I resigned from the Regiment with a heavy heart as my dear wife suffered a stroke at the age of 29. The doctors believed that the stress my wife suffered from and the subsequent stroke was attributed to me being in the Regiment. The wives and families were always under stress while their loved ones were on duty. They had no idea when they heard a news flash, which was a regular occurrence in the mid 70s whether their husband, partner, wife, son or daughter was caught in a terrorist attack. Mobile phones were not available in the 70’s.

   At that time I had been asked to join the full-time element of the Regiment with the promise of promotion. Had it not been for my wife’s condition I feel that I would have taken on that commitment.

 

After Service

On leaving the Regiment I could not understand that I needed a personal protection weapon the day before I left but not the day after. Was I no longer under threat? A high percentage of the UDR were murdered whilst off duty or long after they had resigned from the Regiment.

 

Discrimination in the Workplace

I have found down the years that I have been discriminated against on a few occasions because of my association with the UDR. While working for one company I was, along with other ex-service members, removed from my position to make way for a more ‘balanced management structure’. I had been asked on at least three occasions if I believed discrimination had taken place within the company against Roman Catholics. I was also asked if it was true I had been a member of the UDR and was the Regiment not just ‘a paramilitary organization that harassed the Nationalist community’. This deplorable conduct was neither admitted nor denied when I took a claim against the company for wrongful dismissal. They simply agreed to pay compensation with the understanding that I would not at a later date try to make a claim against them.

 

The British Government

Looking back now I feel that members of the Regiment were given a ‘raw deal’ and were simply used by the British Government who had a hidden ‘United Ireland’ agenda all along. This is even more apparent when the RUC and the UDR were amalgamated into new organizations that met the approval of the terrorists now in government. And more so because of the lack of empathy for the victims and their families who lost loved ones or had family members maimed on the orders of the same terrorists.

 

The Regimental Association

The Regimental Association of the UDR is being made to scrape and beg for funding to support the now ageing former members of the Regiment who feel isolated and marginalized by their own community and the British Government. Many now bear the mental scars from their time in service and the subsequent rejection. They do find it difficult to cope with their daily lives.

   This overview does not stack up with the manner in which released Republican and Loyalist terrorists have been well catered for. They are given handouts to set up advice centres, educational courses to help improve their employment prospects and given hero status by their political masters.

 

Would I join the UDR again?

The simple answer is, yes, as I feel it was the right thing to do regardless of how things have panned out. I know in my own mind that I did the right thing for my country, my family and most of all myself. I know I did my bit to try and prevent lawless thugs from becoming rulers of Northern Ireland. If it had not been for the so called powerful men and women in the British government and others within our own political parties with spines of straw, Northern Ireland could have been a better place for all its citizens. It is now a cold place for ex-UDR and ex-RUC men and women and their future looks bleak if they do not band together and fight for the right to be heard.

   I feel most of our fallen comrades would turn in their graves if they knew about the present set up in the Province. However I am a fighter and will do all I can to help the lot of my former comrades and the families of many casualties.

   Perhaps we can bring some bearing on the ‘brave politicians’ we are lumbered with and who all seem to want to forget their mistakes and forget ‘Yesterday’s Men and Women’ who were all too willing to put their life on the line for the good of all. S32

 

The Soldier’s Story

“When I was twenty-two years old I joined the B Specials and served from 1966 until they were disbanded in 1970. While I was in the ‘B’s my tasks were usually foot patrols in towns, VCPs in the country, guarding RUC stations and other vulnerable static installations.

I transferred to the UDR on the first day it was operational, 1 April 1970. My last duty for the UDR took place nearly nineteen years later.

 

Joining the UDR

Before the UDR was formed John Kerr recruited me. I wanted to join and continue to serve my country as I had done for the previous three years in the B Specials. John Kerr told me to report to the Company lines at Macosquin on a Sunday morning. I caught the bus from Portstewart to Coleraine and then walked out to Macosquin with some other recruits.

   We were handed the forms and necessary paperwork to join the UDR. We then had to go up the Garvagh road a bit to meet George Lapsley. He was the headmaster of Culcrow Primary School and also the OC of E Company, 5 UDR. George Lapsley was in his office and swore us into the UDR.

When I first joined there was no change in the attitude of my neighbours that I could detect. I lived in a mixed area of Portstewart.

 

The Corporal Sandy Baxter Incident

The night Corporal Sandy Baxter was shot in the elbow I was the coverman in the rear Landrover. We were coming down the glen into Swatragh village at the bridges. Again the terrorist had let the first Landrover go past with the intention of firing into the back of the rear Landrover. The village lights silhouetted the Landrover and the dark spot between the two rear lights would have served as the usual aiming points.

   As soon as we passed the firing point the terrorist stepped out into the middle of the road and took aim. I cocked my weapon and shouted, “There’s going to be bother!” The terrorist fired four rounds at the rear of the Landrover, one of these hit Corporal Sandy Baxter in the elbow. He was in the front seat as the vehicle commander and was unlucky enough to have the window open with his elbow on the sill.

The driver zigzagged the vehicle down the road to dodge the bullets. I thought this was a bad idea because I was unable to take aim and return fire. I could see the gunman but was unable to shoot back.

   We drove into the middle of the village and administered first aid to Sandy and waited for the ambulance. The first priority was to tend to the wounded so there was no follow up on the terrorist.

 

Kilrea RUC Station

The third incident took place in Kilrea RUC station one Saturday night when two of us were tasked to guard it. I patrolled outside the station and about 2:30am I decided to move towards the station when a low velocity single shot hit the wall above my head. I had a rough idea that the shot was fired from the area of the RUC station facing onto the Coleraine Road.

   We called in all the necessary agencies and backup. By the time the agencies came and interviewed me the terrorist was long gone. The search dog was tasked to search the perimeter of the RUC station. It picked up a scent trail that went from the rear of the station, across the fields to the backdoor of a house facing the Coleraine Road.

  The search stopped at that stage because there was a delay in getting permission to search the house. It would probably have been a waste of time because the normal procedure used by the terrorist was to order people to leave all their doors unlocked so that after an incident they could run through any house to a waiting car and complete their escape, hide the weapon and burn all the evidence.

 

The Francis Hughes Capture

I was also out the night Francis Hughes was caught up in a gun battle with the Resident Battalion. The UDR were deployed to secure the perimeter of the gun battle while it was still ongoing.

 

Bellaghy Riot

The scariest incident I was involved in occurred in Bellaghy. We were carrying out VCPs when a crowd came out of a public house and one of them threw a stone at one of our vehicles breaking the Landrover window. Then the patrol commander made a bad decision; he arrested the stone thrower. A crowd of about 150 descended upon us from the bar and attempted to take our rifles. We were in a tight situation, unable to drive away from the problem and only able to use our fists, feet and the butts of our SLRs against the attackers.

   Then a RC priest came on the scene and managed to calm the situation. The priest ‘saved our bacon’ that terrifying night.

 

Security Threat

I experienced one security threat against myself. In the early days we were expected to take our weapons home with us after duty. We were expected to strip down the weapon to its component parts and hide them around the house as a security precaution.

   At that time there were different terrorist groups in the area where I lived. One morning I opened my front door to be confronted with four masked Loyalists coming up the drive towards me. They were all well-known local characters and despite their masks I knew who they were and guessed they were there to collect my personal weapon.  I jumped back into my home and slammed the door on them. I knew an RUC officer in the vicinity and the four local hoods were properly dealt with.

 

The Donegal Gunman

The worst fright I ever had was one day I broke all the personal security rules and took the family on a day trip to Co Donegal.

There is some great scenery on the Donegal coast. That day the family were standing at the sea end of the pier watching a seal frolicking in the harbour waters. I was at the other end of the pier watching them.

   I looked up and I saw a man walking along the pier towards me. To my consternation he was carrying an Armalite rifle and I had nowhere to run. The water was over a hundred feet deep on either side of me and he could pick me off with a full magazine at his leisure.

   I did think the guy was coming for me and a cold sweat broke out on me. I decided to stand my ground and braced myself as he advanced towards me. He was walking straight for me and I thought I had a chance of disarming him if he got close enough.

   When he was three feet from me he veered off to the right and cocked the rifle. He did not turn round but took aim and shot the seal through the head with the first round. I was very pleased to see the seal die. What had happened was a friend of his owned the fishing nets in the area and the seal was playing havoc with his fishing.

 

Job Change

I moved on to a factory job for one year after the transport firm post. After that I joined the UDR full-time. I found the static guard duties very boring so the Guard Commander, Sergeant Gordon Taylor, found me a more interesting job.

    I used to travel around the TAOR in 1977 in a civilian car with a team of RMPs. By day and night they would stop and check vehicles and I would provide them with cover to carry out their task.

My most recent long-term employment has been local in the maintenance sector.

 

Resigning from the UDR

When I resigned from the Regiment the only long-term problem I had on leaving the UDR was my hearing. At the start of the UDR ear defenders were not available for shooting practice on the ranges.

   Personally because the way the ‘B’s and the UDR were treated I feel it was a waste of my time. It was impossible to tell how many terrorist incidents we prevented but we were badly treated by the government in the end”. S11


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