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Chapter 22 - Civilian Employment



“The part-time UDR duties were from 7:30pm until 4am but on many occasions we were not clear of the armoury and stores until well after 4:30am. This did not leave a lot of time to get home, catch some sleep and report for your civilian job at 7:30am. Because my civilian job took me all over the province I had to be ready for 7:30am daily without any excuses” S24.


“Most of my duties were vehicle and foot patrols of the Kilrea area. I also did guard duties outside Magilligan Prison and Londonderry power station at Coolkeragh. In the 70s Magilligan was more open than it is today. The UDR was posted in a guard hut at the main entrance to the prison. The first shift was the best to get on because you were on standby for the remainder of the night and could relax.

   The only problem with the Magilligan duty was that you handed over to the resident Battalion at 3.30am. On many mornings the handover was so late I only had time to change out of my uniform and go straight to my civilian job” S25.


Keeping Up Appearances

“Because I had to work in Republican and Loyalist -controlled areas I always dressed down and always sported a three-day stubble. This appearance helped to keep me alive; it also drove my Platoon Sergeant mad. The stubble usually disappeared when I applied camouflage cream to go out on patrol. One night I was paraded in front of the OC before I changed into uniform. I said to him, “Now be honest sir, do I look like a UDR man?” To which he replied, “Private, you don’t look like a UDR soldier even when you have the uniform on” S24.


Blending In

“One day I was working in a Republican area. The area was on high ground and we had a grandstand view of a bomb exploding in the centre of the town and all the emergency services springing into action. We must have looked like soldiers in our heavy-duty olive green parkas because the IRA started shooting at us; the bullets were pinging off the side of the building. Even the army took a couple of shots at us.

   Eventually the soldiers arrived on the scene and after confirming that we were genuine workers they decided to help us get out of the firing zone.

When we reached our work vans the residents came out to give the army a hard time. They were shouting obscenities and banging bin lids on the ground.

   The soldiers’ attitude towards us changed as first they told us to face the wall, then they dismantled all our equipment in their search. The patrol commander informed us that he was going to confiscate some of our equipment. At that point the foreman told him he was out of order and we would not be leaving the area without our equipment.   

   Eventually they let us leave the area but another patrol came along and blocked our way out of the estate. They were more aggressive than the previous patrol and slammed us against the wall for another body search. At that point the residents came up the street to our rescue. We got into the works van and started to make our way home. Once we were clear of the area the foreman made us stop the van and he got out of the van to urinate; we all did the same. Before the incidents started there was no need to go to the toilet but the stress of the situation made it urgent.

   The following day our equipment was back in place with nothing missing. Two men approached us that day and informed us that we were OK, they knew who we were and it was safe for us to work in their area.

Because of our ‘Bolshie’ attitude towards the army and their treatment of us, the Republicans accepted us” S24.


Employers Empathy

“When I first joined the UDR, the owner of the business I worked for was also in the Regiment. Because of that there was a good understanding and I was allowed some time off following a night duty.

   I was in other jobs where they accepted that on some mornings I would be in late. On one occasion I worked in a local timber yard where the foreman had also served in the UDR and the RUC. One night I was caught in a contact in the Garvagh area when a top Republican terrorist was caught with a primed bomb. I did not finish the patrol until 8am. I then went home, changed into my work clothes and went into my day job. The foreman asked me why I was late for work. I explained the situation to him and he said, “You’re no good to me, you are sacked”.

   The terrorist was eventually charged and convicted. He escaped from the Maze prison and has not been seen since” S25.


“I was 20 years of age when I first joined the UDR. At the time I was in full employment as a junior manager in a locally based English company and living at home. Our employer was fairly sympathetic to our situation and to what the forces were trying to achieve in N. Ireland. The UDR members of the firm were allowed to start work at 10am rather than 9am. This was ideal after an arduous night on patrol that lasted until 4am” S3.


“I was in full-time employment while I was in the UDR. When the conflict first started, the factory working policy was that special dispensations were given to soldiers who were out on patrol the previous night. The soldiers could have the next day off or else report for work later than the normal starting time. Eventually that dispensation was halted and we had to clock on at 8am after finishing a patrol at 4am. I had no problems attending annual camp, but was not paid for my time off work” S22.


“All the time I was in the B Specials and the UDR I was employed by a local transport firm as a Heavy Goods Vehicle driver. We only worked for a four-hour shift in the Bs, either 8pm to midnight or midnight to 4am. The Bs duties did not interfere with my day job but the UDR duties were different. For my UDR night duties you would parade at 7:30pm and would hand in your weapon at about 4am.

   The transport firm did not allow me time off when I completed a night patrol. In fact they actively discouraged me from carrying out night patrols with the UDR. They would say, “You either do one job or the other full-time. I would prefer you not to do any night patrols with the UDR.”

   Driving a heavy goods vehicle was a very responsible job and you were expected to be fit for work every morning in order to take on a heavy day’s driving. There were some mornings I did not get into bed until after 5am and I was expected to clock in that morning at 6am”S11.


Patrol Fry-Ups

“I worked in my father’s butcher’s shop and at the end of every day we scrubbed out the shop and sprinkled sawdust on the floor. That sawdust led to my downfall.

   When we did foot patrols in Coleraine we usually split into two teams (‘Bricks’) of four and went our separate ways. One night I was on patrol and found I had the keys to the shop in my pocket. Into the shop the brick went and I pulled out the frying pan, cut up some steaks and we had a good feed. Then the patrol would change over and the other brick had the same treat. That was more novel than having to walk back to the company lines for a break.

   Soon everybody in E Company wanted to do foot patrols in Coleraine, occasionally some very senior ranks came out. I remember my father saying one morning, ‘This place is in a mess, did you not clean up yesterday afternoon?’ What eventually caught me out was one morning my father noted that all the tread marks in the sawdust were made by army boots. That ended the fry-ups” S20.


More Tiredness

“One of the hardest things for me was learning how to function without sleep, I was a postman at the time and had to go to work straight after finishing duty at 4.30 am. One of my tasks as a postman was to take the mail to Garvagh and Kilrea first thing in the morning. On one of these trips I felt so tired I stopped along the way and fell asleep in the van. When I didn’t arrive with the mail it was thought that I had been hijacked or kidnapped so the RUC and the UDR were alerted. It all turned out OK and I didn’t lose my job”.

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