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21 – Extra Curricular
duties carried out by UDR units were based on the number of
soldiers available within that unit. Extra curricular activities
such as charity work, shooting teams and band parades were done in
the individual soldier’s own time. Operational and training
duties always came first and had to be completed by every
individual. Even so, E Company took part in many events that
promoted the image of the UDR as a professional force.
Regimental Drum Major
1974 HQNI staff applied some forward thinking and decided that the
Regiment would form a Regimental Band of Pipers and Drummers. A
couple of soldiers from my section decided to join the Battalion
Band, which was established in the camp at Maghera RUC Station.
Before I joined the UDR I had been a Drum Major with a
civilian band. I must have impressed the right people because I was
asked to fill the new post of Battalion Drum Major, which in all
innocence I accepted.
This post increased my commitments because at that time the
job of Drum Major was in addition to my duty of running an
operational platoon. The Regimental Band duties were mostly at
weekends. The 5th Battalion Pipes and Drums took part in
weekend competitions organised by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band
Association throughout every summer. Eventually the band became
World Champions and was the only Regimental Pipes and Drums to make
an audio recording during the lifetime of the Regiment.
I viewed the Pipes and Drums as a Public Relations boost for
the Regiment in those early days. While I was still fulfilling my
operational commitments as a part-time Platoon Commander I was
promoted to Regimental Drum Major. The band not only took part in
many prestigious events but also smaller village fetes when the
Battalion attended Annual Camp. The major events included the
Service of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and Beating the
Retreat on Horse Guards Parade in London in front of the Queen
I can look back with fond memories of my time as Drum Major
and I am very proud of all the people who served with me,
particularly the members of the Pipes and Drums” S34.
was a student at college most of the time in the mid 70s so I was
only able to do duties at weekends or during school breaks. I
joined the Battalion Shooting Team and I also started doing all the
Army Personal advancement courses including First Aid, Map Reading
and a Junior NCOs Cadre. I was in charge of the Battalion Shooting
Team, which was really a part-timer’s job. The full-time soldier
was not available for the continuous training that was required to
be a top class competition shot. Along with my civilian job as a
lecturer I was also the Shooting Team leader and fulfilled my
operational duties. If it were not for the part-time soldiers, 5UDR
would not have had a shooting team.
We entered the Bisley Army competition on many occasions.
One year we decided to try for the Sniper Cup. That took a bit of
organising because the UDR were not allocated the sniper rifle. We
won the close range and the long-range sniper competition for three
years in a row” S18.
Nijmegen March 1978
Nijmegen March was established in the year 1909. Originally, its
purpose was to increase the long distance marching and
weight-carrying ability of the Dutch infantry soldiers. With the
passage of time the march has developed into a prestigious
international annual non-competitive event.
is a four-day march where the participants are expected to cover 30
miles each day. The route takes each team of entrants through the
towns and villages surrounding Nijmegen. The event has about 40,000
entrants from all over the world. Before, during and after the
march Nijmegen town always hosts a huge festival.
In the past the event organisers have invited WWII allied
veterans to help celebrate their participation in the liberation of
the Netherlands from German occupation. As part of that liberation
the Coleraine Battery were posted to the defence of the Nijmegen
Bridge in 1944.
Battery Files Nijmegen Bridge
Trussler recalls, “In November 1977 the Company Commander of E
Coy and myself had an interview with the Commanding Officer 5th
Battalion. We wanted to enter a team for the 1978 Nijmegen March.
The Commanding Officer gave his approval with the proviso that
neither the event nor the training would interfere with our
The OC and myself established a team comprising of 10
volunteers from each Part-Time Platoon. Training commenced in
November 1977. The training started with small walks around
Coleraine town on Monday and Thursday nights and at weekends we
walked to Ballywillan and back. As our fitness developed we walked
a route that took us to Garvagh, Portstewart and back to camp.
Later on our route covered Bushmills, Portballantrae, Portrush,
Portstewart and back to camp. We hill walked the Antrim Hills and
the Mourne Mountains. By the end of March 1978 our feet were
hardened and we became leaner and fitter than elite athletes; we
were all fitter than required for the Nijmegen March.
On these training exercises Sergeant Gordon Taylor and his
helper came behind us in a Land Rover as protection, to provide the
tea as necessary and pick up any casualties.
As well as training for the march, the volunteers had their
other operational and training duties to fulfil in their respective
The local business community gave the training team a lot of
support. One shirt factory in the town designed and supplied the
team shirts at no cost. Another business gave the team a donation,
as we had to pay for our travel and food.
The team left N. Ireland in late June for Nijmegen. When we
arrived we were well cared for. The accommodation was a large Marquee in a large
wooded area just outside Nijmegen. One of the officers had been
detailed as the bicycle orderly. It was his job to cycle ahead of
us on the march and ensure that everything was ready for our
arrival. That included our first aid and cups of tea. This was the
same routine for all teams. The bicycle orderly would rotate
through the team. Anyone wanting a rest from walking could cycle
along and the orderly took his place in the teams.
Our main problem was the fact that we did not have a
bicycle. We tried shopping around but the town was sold out. The
team leaders decided to retire to the nearest bar and hold a crisis
meeting on the subject. The landlord listened to our plight and his
wife offered the loan of her bicycle for the four days. After a
celebration meal and a few drinks, we returned to the camp with our
The first day of the march we were up early for breakfast
and then reported for the march. The weather was fine and sunny. On
return to our tent Sergeant Taylor had our warm footbaths ready,
which was welcome. Day two was just as arduous; our back up was a
great support. Sergeant Taylor did an excellent job of looking
after us while we were out on the march. It was also his job to
sort out our beds, and tidy up the camp area after we left.
Day three started off fine but after the first twelve miles
it started to rain quite heavily. We unrolled our Ponchos
(ground-sheets) and carried on marching. This was all to the
amusement of the other teams. They thought we were all mad dogs and
Englishmen out in the midday rain.
On the final day after completing the march, we had to
change into our best marching order for the March Past in Nijmegen
town. Sergeant Taylor was there on hand to make sure this went
smoothly. The OC led us on the March Past. We felt proud of our
achievement. That evening we returned the bicycle to the
Landlord’s wife and presented her with a 5UDR plaque as a
‘Thank You’ gift.
On our return to N. Ireland we were given a great reception.
Not only had we been presented with individual medals, we were
presented with a team medal for completing the march. The
Commanding Officer 5UDR congratulated us for a job well done”.
Man – Coleraine to Nepal
leaving the Operational Platoon in Coleraine I transferred to the
Intelligence Section (Int Sec) at Battalion HQ. That made me very
lazy and within one year I was paraded in front of the Officer
Commanding, Terry Patton, for failing my Basic Fitness Test (BFT).
He left me in no doubt that my army career depended on me passing
the BFT retest within the next month.
started some serious training that day and soon passed my BFT.
Within a couple of months I had trained myself to a higher standard
than the BFT demanded. I eventually went on to become the Combined
Services Champion Marathon Runner.
One year the Battalion sponsored me to enter an
international event, the Nepal Marathon, as the British Army
representative. The sponsorship helped to pay for my food,
accommodation, travel and clothing. All competitors were required
to do acclimatisation training before going to Nepal and I
completed my training in Kenya. That training paid off because I
achieved sixth place in the Nepal marathon.
After that I stopped competition running and became
responsible for training the Battalion Cross Country Team. Our best
result was in 1988 when the Battalion Team was placed third in the
Army half marathon event” (S61).
1979 the UDR had been in existence for nearly 10 years during which
time it had become the largest infantry regiment in the British
Army. With almost a decade of continuous operational duties the
Regiment was building a good reputation and gaining the respect of
other Regiments with whom it served in the Northern Ireland arena.
Company had been selected to represent the 5th (Co.
Londonderry) Battalion in the Cambrian March Competition, which was
held each year in Wales. Having trained hard for three months our
team went to Wales and came away with a great result, which further
enhanced the reputation of the Regiment. It was also a personal
achievement for each of our team members to have competed against
the best of the NATO forces including the Parachute Regiment and to
have finished in fifth place overall.
The Cambrian March is the toughest test of infantry skills
to be found in the NATO calendar. It is marched over 40 Km by
patrol teams carrying full equipment and weapons. In addition to
the march the patrol teams are faced with unexpected tests of
military skills.” Visor Magazine 28 Sept 1979 – Edition 287.
1 started with a night navigation exercise, followed by a
communications test and a patrol ambush. The day ended with a
tactical river crossing and a night shoot.
Day 2 commenced with a 12Km speed march along rough tracks
through the Brecon Beacons and included a first aid test on arrival
at a serious incident with multiple casualties, a race against time
paddling a metal assault boat along the Brecon Canal, and a search
operation. The day concluded with a falling plate shooting
E Company, 5UDR took fifth place of 18 and it was a great
source of pride that the Ulstermen had carried off top marks in the
falling plate shoot and were only beaten into second place on the
Visor magazine went on,
the knowledge they have gained on the 1979 Cambrian March the UDR
will be better prepared to win the competition and Headquarters
Wales have been warned of a UDR take-over within the next few
years. With training and experience the Cambrian March is a
competition ideally suited to the Ulster Defence Regiment.”
My favourite memory of the competition was the way our team
performed in the falling plate shoot, taking first place. On
arrival at the range we were briefed that our patrol would be split
into a rifle group and a gun group. The gun group on the Light
Machine Gun (LMG) were to engage their own targets and the rifle
team could not engage their targets until the gun group had put
down their plates.
On the Range Officer’s command the gun group ran forward
to the 300 metre firing point, got down and after a few bursts of
the gun their plates were all down which was the signal for us to
run to the 200 metre firing point where we engaged our own targets.
had been issued with five rounds each and had two plates each to
knock down. I have never seen plates fall as quickly as they went
down that day – not even in training. But on the day the
adrenalin was pumping and our “eye was in”.
What a performance – we had the fastest time and we handed
back more live ammunition than any other team. First place against
the best in NATO, a result we were very proud of.
Our team was made up of full-time and part-time UDR
soldiers. To this day it is still a source of pride that we had
trained well enough not only to compete with the best but to
achieve the best results” S77.
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