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Chapter 18 - Personal Security

 

In the interests of maintaining the personal security of E Company veterans I have been precluded from discussing many of the incidents that resulted in the capture and imprisonment of many Loyalist and Republican terrorists. It has also been impossible to recount the number of bravery awards and presentations these soldiers received without compromising their personal security.

   UDR personnel were phenomenally brave. Despite the fact they were deliberately targeted by Republican terrorists for murder, this small select band of volunteers enrolled into the Regiment and remained with the Regiment for long periods of loyal service.

  Throughout the 22 years of the UDR’s existence only three percent of those eligible to join ever made the effort. It would be wrong to condemn outright the 97 per cent eligible people for their failure to join the UDR. Because the off-duty soldier relaxing at home was an easy target, most of these murders were carried out in front of their children and partners. In many cases in County Londonderry the murders included the children and partners of the UDR soldiers.

    Despite the constant expectation of being the next to be murdered the part-time soldiers often did an ordinary job through the day and reported in for duty in the evenings and weekends. They were easy prey for the murderers as they went about their daily business. They were easy prey after spending the night protecting the whole community and returning home, alone and unprotected, to be shot in the back.

   The Permanent Cadre soldiers were difficult targets for the terrorist murderer because of their long duties and fragmented family life. But they were vulnerable at certain times.

 

“I can’t say that I noticed any great change in the attitudes of friends and neighbours towards me after I had joined the Regiment. We tried to keep things as low-key as possible but it was hard to hide the fact that you were a part-time soldier, because in those early days you went to and from duties dressed in uniform and it’s not exactly easy to hide a .303 rifle”. S Brownlow

 

“Once on returning to base after a stint on patrols the Platoon Sergeant told me to report to the OC. The OC said to me, ‘I believe you visit Altnagelvin Hospital,’ I told them that I did and that I had an uncle there who was terminally ill.

He said, ‘As from this minute you will not go back into Altnagelvin Hospital. I’m not being a bastard, but it’s for your own good. There are at least three Republican units operating from that area that we know about.’

I obeyed his order. I never saw my uncle again. When he died I didn’t even get to his funeral as I was away doing border patrols again” S01.

 

“The off duty threat of an under vehicle booby trap was something we had to live with. All soldiers took this threat very seriously and our vigilance paid off on a number of occasions.  Very, very rarely did I ever get into my car without at least checking underneath and frequently much more thoroughly. Personal security issues when off duty were paramount for us all. We spent a lot of time training soldiers to be vigilant when off duty” (Hamill, 2007).

 

   Each UDR company base provided bar and entertainment facilities for their off duty soldiers. The drink was cheap and the atmosphere was relaxed in order to encourage the soldiers to socialise in a secure environment.

 

“When I was off duty I would relax by playing football and in later years I started playing golf. I also used the Junior Ranks Club in E Company for a good social drink. The craic was always good particularly so when Tommy Freeman, George Fillis and the inimitable Sandy Baxter were present” S22.

 

A Daughter’s Story

“I was two years old when mum joined the UDR and 22 years old when she left. I was aware from a young age that I was never to reveal my mum’s occupation. I was to say that she was a civil servant or a secretary. I have carried this right through until today.

I remember wondering why mum was always dropping her car keys when she went out to get into the car. She would drop her keys and then pick them up and say, “Silly me!” and then off we would go. Of course I know now that she was checking under the car for bombs. I also remember taking different routes when we went on car journeys and mum explaining it was just another adventure.

   I was told never to answer the door to strangers and I was always aware if there were unfamiliar cars around the area. To this day I still remember number plates.

   I knew that I must never disclose a name on the telephone until I knew the identity of the caller and that is still with me when I respond to a telephone call today. My father was in the police so we had to be security conscious at all times. It’s amazing that I have carried some of these practices through to my adulthood.

   We were brought up not to differentiate between Protestants and Catholics in our home in terms of attitudes or friends. There was no hatred for Catholics in our home – no stereotyping or derogatory comments, and that has shaped my attitudes today, particularly with my Catholic friends.

   I also have positive memories. I remember the great craic at the Christmas parties at the Camp and Santa flying in on a helicopter (although I figured out that it was really the Sergeant Major dressed up!) and we were getting an extra present from this Santa.

   It was like a subculture of people when we were together. Everyone was able to have fun and relax with families and colleagues at those parties in the big hall. It wasn’t like an office party – it was like a family within a bigger family. I remember helping mum to make sandwiches for family days out – we had great outings. I made friends with children of other soldiers.

   Now that I am older I understand the risks and dangers my mum had in her job. Not like my friends’ mums who worked in the dentists or whatever. But it wasn’t just a job. There was a sense of selflessness of doing her duty for the country. When I grew up I realised that she must be thinking, ‘What will happen tonight?’ or ‘Will I be coming home?’ When I think about this I get an overwhelming realization of what she must have faced.

Now I work as a social worker with a voluntary organization. I always wanted to work with people of whatever background and so I qualified as a social worker. I think my mum’s open attitude has maybe influenced me to go into this career.

   I have a great sense of pride in my parents. I don’t think their service got the full recognition it deserved”.

 

Security Warnings

“I was once cautioned that there was a threat against me as I was always going through the Quay in Londonderry to work in the Republic of Ireland. I took all the necessary precautions and continued to work in the area. Four days after the warning an off duty UDR soldier was murdered at Keys’ Mill close to the area I worked in” S24.

“I travelled all round N. Ireland and all sorts of people, including the PIRA, stopped me. When members of the security forces stopped me I was always happy when they did not recognise me and treated me the same as everyone else. The worst thing that can happen to you is for a security force friend to smile and greet you and wave you through. That becomes your death sentence if the wrong people are watching.

   I was once stopped at an RUC checkpoint outside Kilrea. I was told to miss Kilrea out that day. That evening the police visited me to let me know that an ambush had been set up that day to attack a former member of the UDR. The RUC were taking no chances and thought I was the target” S25.

Ted Jamieson (2006) said, “The RUC only warned me once that there was a security threat against me. They told me not to go into a particular area for a few weeks. That was all I was told. The RUC never elaborated or compromised their information. But it was their way of saying that the PIRA had planned to kill me.

   When I was off duty I enjoyed my time with my family. That became precious to me. I enjoyed all the annual camps and spent thirteen weeks away at the one-week camps during my UDR career”.

“Your social life tended to revolve around the unit in which you were serving, as a consequence many soldiers lost contact with their civilian friends. They also found it difficult to reintegrate into civilian life” S10.

“The only time I was placed under stress was when I received a phone call from the Battalion Intelligence Officer. I had to report to Battalion Headquarters in Ballykelly for an Int brief. That was always bad news. I was informed that I was under a very high threat of an Under Vehicle Booby Trap (UVBT). Because I always checked my personal car regularly, the terrorists had planned a close quarters shoot on me. I was immediately issued with body armour and had my personal protection weapon (PPW) changed from the .22 Walther to a .38 revolver. The day following the Int brief security specialists from HQNI Lisburn visited my home and upgraded my surveillance and security equipment” S21.

 

Terrorist Controlled Areas

Many part-time soldiers had full-time employment and very often their work took them into terrorist controlled areas. If they refused to enter these areas it was all too easy for their employers to sack them and bring in new staff. Because of this dilemma, many part-time soldiers found themselves working in areas that were classed as ‘Out of Bounds’ to all service personnel.

“On one occasion we were fixing a roof that had two tricolour flags flying. We completed the job and returned the tricolour flags to their former position. It’s OK sitting in a safe area like Coleraine acting the big tough guy and saying what you would do with the tricolour. But if you have to return to the area the following day your attitude soon changes.

   It was exactly the same when you worked in a Loyalist area. You could not advertise who you were or what you were carrying. I always felt more endangered when I was working in a Loyalist -controlled area than a Republican -controlled area.

   In a Loyalist area two numb nuts would approach you and say, ‘What are you guys doing here?’ or ‘Where are you boys from?’ Your first instinct is to say, ‘Piss off, it’s none of your business’ but you have to ‘bite your tongue’. That never happened in a Republican-controlled area. The IRA had the sense to ask others to watch you for a while, see what you were carrying in the van or simply ask you if there was anything you needed from the shop. Their approach was much more subtle, they knew how to make you drop your guard to catch you out.

   It was great for one of your workmates to have a name like Sean in a Republican-controlled area but not in a Loyalist -controlled area. The fact that you had a Billy and a Sean in the same squad was helpful at times. It all depended on the area you were working in. On one particular hot day the IRA escorted us all off the building site because one of the workers had a King Billy tattoo on his arm” S24.

 

Silent Collections

“One day I was working on a site on the Letterkenny Road in Londonderry. One of the other builders came over to me and whispered, ‘Pull that ladder up and come back here with me’. I did not have a clue as to what was happening but I obeyed. We stayed in the shadows of the upper floor and watched the local IRA hoods going round the building site making a silent collection for their ‘Fighting Fund’.

   All those who did not spot them in time were forced to make a donation. If the ladder had not been lifted up into the building one of the IRA hoods would have climbed up to see who was there. To this day a well-known Coleraine Loyalist hard man still denies that he made a donation. He was caught on the ground when I lifted the ladder into the building.

   As soon as the IRA turned up that day all the site workers with the exception of the unlucky few melted away. That’s what I mean when I say that the terrorists controlled many areas. The residents of Republican and Loyalist-controlled areas were not all card carrying terrorist supporters. That has been my observation for the past thirty years” S24.

 

Ziggy and the IRA

Colin Haslem Kirkpatrick (Ziggy) was called after his grandfather and uncles Johnny and Willie Haslem. They both served in 6 LAA Battery in 1939–1945 and married two Scottish sisters they met on their first posting.

   Ziggy joined the UDR in 1973 when it was based at Macosquin. He was there for six months before joining 3 Para from 1973 to 1980. During those seven years many of his tours of duty were done in N. Ireland. He then rejoined the UDR in 1980 for six years.

   Ziggy had the luck to be one of the few British soldiers to be abducted by the IRA and survive.

He was employed in 3 Para as a Corporal in the Int Section where he proved to be a great asset to his comrades. Many of those in the patrols could not understand the Ulster dialect. When they stopped someone at a checkpoint they thought was suspicious, a code word was passed over the radio. Ziggy would come out and visit the patrol, his job was to listen to the conversation and then advise the Patrol Commander on further action.

   On one tour he was stationed in Armagh. He came home on leave and met up with some old school friends. They decided to go to Ballycastle for a few drinks. When he visited the toilets at around 9pm he was abducted from the bar by armed gunmen.

   Ziggy was taken to the Antrim Glens and interrogated. They started to question him, and accused him of being a soldier. This was all on the strength of Ziggy having short hair and being a stranger in the area. There was also the possibility that his friends had unintentionally compromised him with a careless remark.

   The terrorists asked him questions about his job and where he worked. Ziggy told his interrogators that he carried out assessments for the DHSS. Going on to say that he interviewed people to see if they needed any Social Benefits, furniture, clothing or food. The interrogators went on to ask him what type of forms he used in his job. They even wanted to know the serial numbers and titles of the forms he used.

   Because he had operated in Republican areas he was able to give the names and addresses of people from that area. As soon as he did that, the interrogators went loopy and gave Ziggy a terrible beating. As a consequence of the beating, Ziggy had a series of round bruises in his stomach area where they had jabbed him with the barrel of a revolver. Ziggy was then taken from the area and dumped in a ditch near a Ballymoney housing estate.

   When he failed to return home that night his brother and mother reported him missing to the RUC. Later that night the family received a call from Ballymoney RUC. Ziggy had fortunately been found in the ditch by a local group of people out patrolling their estate.

   What saved Ziggy’s life that night was the fact that he had a good cover story prepared for such an event. He had also taken off his ID tags before leaving home that evening. By lucky coincidence he also had accidentally left his wallet containing his ID card in his friend’s car.

 

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