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Chapter 19 Ė Family Support

 

The OCís Perspective

 

ďMy wife and kids would tell you how they hardly ever saw me. They made huge sacrifices too. Iíve had good family support from my wife and children and from my parents. Without that kind of support it would have been impossible to carry on never mind striving to be successful.

    My wife supported me in the days when there was no Battalion Welfare structure or staff on hand and she also visited widows and their families and helped them when there was no practical Regimental help. This was an area, which changed, greatly in later years as the establishment of Regimental Welfare met the welfare needs. My wife was also active through her involvement with the Battalion Wives Club and she supported the Commanding Officerís wives in whatever way she couldĒ (Hamill, 2007). 

 

A Wifeís Perspective

My husband joined the UDR in 1974 and I am very proud of him for that. But as the years went by I always felt so lonely. It wasnít that I didnít have friends, but I always had to be on my guard, always afraid of letting something slip that would put my husbandís life at risk Ėit was a dangerous time.

   I originally came from the country so I did not know many of people in the town. The only people I knew well were my in-laws. Of course my immediate friends and neighbours knew that my husband was part-time in the UDR but even at the school gates I couldnít let anything slip. Because of the personal security risks I didnít join clubs or get involved in school parents activities.

 

Patrol Preparation

When my husband was on dayshift from 8am-4pm I would make his dinner for 4.30pm. After dinner he would have a wash and then sleep for a few hours. I would have his uniform laid out on the bed so that he could get ready for duty at 7pm. That would be the last I saw of my husband until 4am or sometimes 6am the next morning.

 

Daily Routine

I just got on with my daily schedule, I had to keep the house running and look after the children as well. The gardening and the electrical work around the house became my responsibility as well because my husband was away from home so much. He just worked and slept and never attended school interviews or sports days. It was the same for all the other UDR men in the area.

 

Phoning Home

There were no mobile phones in the early days so if my husband was later than usual I just walked the floor hoping that everything was OK. One morning he did not return home until 7.10am. I feared the worst when two of his mates called at the house. But they were only calling to let me know that he had been delayed clearing up a road accident.

   At the height of the terrorist campaign there were many emergency Call-Ups from one up to six weeks in duration. On one occasion I didnít see my husband for three weeks and to make matters worse for the family phoning home was banned for security reasons.

 

Personal Security

The letterbox was sealed up with metal so that nothing obnoxious could be posted into our home. I was always wary of answering the door. That was a chore when you were alone with a couple of curious toddlers following behind. I never answered the door without carrying a security device that would dissuade any potential threat to my family or myself.

   I was an independent countrywoman and I just had to get on with running the family home and constantly checking everything. For example, I could not go out and open the garden shed without first checking for terrorist devices. The stress eventually took its toll and I lost a lot of weight. Then at the age of 28 I took a stroke and ended up in hospital.

 

Health and Welfare

The UDR was a new Regiment and they didnít have a coping mechanism for dealing with families and family problems. I had a friend whose husband was in the fire service and they had counselling from the beginning but the Regiment was primitive in that respect.

   After I suffered from a stroke my husband decided to resign from the UDR, as there was no one to look after the children. The whole situation had an adverse effect on his health. Before he was a highly independent person but now his confidence had gone. He is now suffering from the effects of long-term exposure to stress. He has horrendous flashbacks, night terrors and problems sleeping. Today he just gets up and gets on with it but sometimes the fear and depression gets to him.

 

Personal Feelings

I feel cheated by the British government. I was brought up in the country and my parents were of a mixed marriage. They talked about poverty and explained that all of us, Protestants and Catholics had poverty in common. We were all equal; we had no running water and no electricity and that was only fifty years ago.

   I do realize that I am in a more fortunate position than many other women in Northern Ireland. Many wives suffered the terrible loss of their husbands and children at the hands of the terrorist. I can recall a soldierís widow being given £2000 compensation after her husband was murdered by terrorists. The judge told her she was young enough to go out and get married again!  

   I donít like it when people run the Regiment down without knowing the real facts. I remember saying to one person visiting us, ďWhile you are in my house donít run down the UDRĒ. I am very proud of everyone who served in the UDR. The country was deliberately thrown into turmoil by murdering terrorists and it was people like my husband who stood up for everyone. If it happened again I would make the same commitment.

   There appears to be no real understanding in the wider community of our experiences. Iíve never discussed how I felt like this before. Iím not even sure if people would be interested S33.

 

Previous Chapter 18 - Personal Security                               Next Chapter 20 - Resignations

 

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