Castlederg Young Loyalists

FLUTE BAND

  ULSTER DEFENCE REGIMENT 1970~1992 

 

FORMATION

The first application forms to join The Ulster Defence Regiment were available in police stations and army careers offices from 1st January 1970, shortly afterwards they could be obtained from public libraries and post offices through out Northern Ireland. All men between the age of 18 & 55 of good character normally living in Northern Ireland. The army were interested in recruiting men from both religions. Each person would be strictly vetted at army headquarters before being consisted for a 3 year contract in The UDR.

The first two recruits were sworn in on the 18th February 1970. James Mc Aree was a 19 year old Catholic Bookmakers clerk, with Albert Richmond who was a 47 year old Protestant.

The first UDR Commanding Officer was 49 year old Brigadier Logan Scott- Bowden. Scott- Bowden came from Moresby, Cumberland who was educated at Malvern College and Royal Military College, Woolwich before being commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1939.

The UDR was formed into 7 battalions; one for each county and one for the City of Belfast. They were numbered as follows:

Antrim

1

Armagh

2

Down

3

Fermanagh

4

Londonderry

5

Tyrone

6

City of Belfast

7

 

 

 

 

 

The regiment was to be manned by 6000 men with the assistance of up to 200 regular army personnel, making The UDR the largest regiment in the British Army. While the members were on duty they were bound by military law, although they were only on a part-time contract.

The aim of The UDR was to protect Northern Ireland from terrorist attack by the way of guarding key installations and patrolling the country carrying out check points and road blocks as and when required, The UDR was not to take any part in public orders duties or serve outside the Province.

By the time The UDR went operational on the 1st April 1970 it had a strength of 2440; of which 946 were Catholics. On the 30th April 1970 the 400 members of the regiment carried out it's first operation called Operation Mulberry, aiding 1600 regular troops to carry out an all night search for terrorist arms by setting up check points on the border roads throughout Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

THE EARLY YEARS 

In the early part of 1971 up to the end of July the security forces came under attack on a frequent basis and 187 expolsions also went off. As a result the new British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, authorised Brian Faulkner's Northern Ireland administration to introduce internment without trial. It was on the 9th of August 1971 that Operation Demetruis, as a result about 400 suspect terrorists were detained in early morning swoops.

Internment caused a major upsurge in violence; the opposite to the plan, with rioting and gun battles inceasing all over the Province. As a result of the internment swoops The UDR received their first complete full- time call out which lasted for almost two weeks, over the first 72 hours of the violence 22 people lost their lives including the first UDR soldier, Private Winston Donnell was a 22 year old member of 6 UDR doing a vehicle check point near the Tyrone/ Donegal border when two shots were fired at the patrol, ten minutes later gunmen opened fire from a car with a burst of 30- 40 rounds of automatic gun fire with the result of Pte. Donnell being shot dead. He was one of four brothers who served in 6 UDR.

Soon after internment started Catholic soldiers also started to be intimidated out of The UDR, although some left because they became disillusioned with the regiment, most were forced to leave because of the IRA. Scores of serving UDR Catholics were visited at their homes or day time work places and told to leave. The threats came in many forms, serving members may have been handed bullets and informed that the next time they would be fired from guns, others had letters, bullets or excrement put through their letterbox or intimidated by telephone. But the worst was when they or family were refused service in shops or their children insulted and bullied at school.

At the end of September 1971, Major-General Robert Ford, the Commander of Land Forces (CLF) in Northern Ireland announced that The UDR manning levels would rise from 6000 to 8000 and as a result three more battalions of UDR were formed. 8 UDR was formed by dividing 6 UDR and became operational in December 1971. January 1972 saw the further two battalions 9 and 10 UDR become operational drawing their men from the 1st and 7th battalion. In September 1972 with the ongoing threat The UDR manning level was raised again to an optimum 10000 with an extra battalion being formed, 11 UDR, which encompassed parts of the areas patrolled by both 2 and 3 UDR.

Also as part of the increased terrorist threat in the same period The UDR were supplied with Self Loading Rifles (SLR) which replaced the World War II Lee Enfield .303 which The UDR had originally started with. The UDR were also supplied with Shorland Armoured Patrol Vehicles equipped with mounted machine gun. Members of the Regiment also assisted in waterborne patrols of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and Lough Neagh and on occasions with Ulster coastline patrols checking on vessels and their crews. Helicopters also aided the soldiers to be transported at speed to both remote areas and key installations for the purposes of guarding and patrolling. Members of The UDR also had the privilege of taking their Army issued rifles home with them when off duty. This decision aided the Army in two ways - firstly it gave soldiers living in isolated areas the confidence of self protection and secondly in the case of an incident soldiers could travel directly to that point. As time went on and as members were required to leave their rifles in secure Army armouries some members deemed as under high threat were also issued with handguns for their own protection while off duty.

January 1972 saw the Parachute Regiment open fire on a Civil Rights March in Londonderry resulting in 13 deaths. This became known as 'Bloody Sunday'. At this time the IRA were not innocent in their endeavours of trying to force a United Ireland with an ever increasing bombing campaign within the Province and murders of the Security Forces increasing both on duty and off. The IRA on July 21st 1972 without warning broke their ceasefire by exploding 22 bombs over a 45 minute period in Belfast with the result being 9 deaths and 130 people injured. This day is now commonly known as 'Bloody Friday'. A week later the Army implemented 'Operation Motorman' using almost 22000 soldiers, 27 infantry and two armoured battalions aided by 5300 UDR men. As a result of this operation the tide appeared to turn on the IRA and in turn Protestant militancy also subsided due to the increased patrolling by all branches of the Northern Ireland Security Forces.

The risks of being a UDR soldier increased with the murder of members both on duty and off becoming more frequent. The terrorists targetting methods became more direct - in this example a terrorist came to the door of Sergeant Maynard Crawford's home and on knocking was answered by his 9 year old son. At this time the terrorist asked 'Is your Daddy a policeman?'. The boy without realising the consequences replied 'No, he's in the UDR'. The family at this time didn't realise that in a few short months they were to be left without a father / husband.

CHANGING TIMES

Before women could be recruited into The Ulster Defence Regiment there had to be a change to the 1969 UDR Act. The first women entered operational service the Regiment in August 1973 and were to be known as Greenfinches, this name was to stick with them until the merger in 1992. Greenfinches were employed as telephone & radio operators and clerical duties to allow men soldiers to return to patrolling duties. As the terrorist started to enlist more females into their ranks the duties of the Greenfinch within the army also increased with them starting to go out on patrol with their male counterparts, although unarmed the Greenfinch would always be protected by a male soldier. Their new role consisted of them searching female suspects at check points, radio operators as well performing first aid to any injured person at the scene of violence.

1976 was to see the regiment increase in number and start a permanent cadre (full-time) wing. They were to be better trained than their part time counterparts and this would be their full time employment, allowing the army to use use as regular troops who went home into the community after their duty had ended. This also help with intelligence collection as these soldiers would be encouraged to remember things they thought of as out of place; strange cars travelling past their homes, loose talk in local pubs, that they could then pass on to intelligence officers set up within the battalion.

At this time The UDR were sent to Warcop Training Camp in Cumbria for extra training and while there search teams were formed and trained how to effectively find weapons and explosives.

After the murder of 10 mill workers by the IRA in Kingsmill near Newry 3UDR were mobilised to help reassure the local population. The Brigade Commander shortly after the Kingmills murders called out all UDR soldiers for full time patrols which carried on for 4 days, reports say that 9 out of 10 soldiers reported for duty and that must carried out 5 long patrols in any 24 hour period.

During the 1977 Silver Jubilee the Queen visited Northern Ireland with The UDR doing the guard of honour at Hillsborough Castle consisting of 3 officers and 98 men from each of the battalions formed the guard and were joined by 24 pipers & drummers.

As The Ulster Defence Regiment grew older and obtained the newer equipment of the regular army it also took on an ever increasing role within Northern Ireland, resulting in the regiment coming more on to the front line in respect of patrolling and assisting the police, at one time The UDR assisted the regular army or were used as guards by 1980 The UDR found that they were doing the majority of patrols and the there was a role reversal with regular army units be required to assist the regiment conduct operations. The UDR patrolled about 85% of Northern Ireland.

By 1980 the strength of the regiment would be about 7000 soldiers and comprised of 3 types of soldier. The part-time soldier who would be out on patrol after doing a normal civilian job and could be called out to do full-time duties if there were upsurges in violence, they formed the largest number of within the regiment. Full-time soldiers were making a career of being a soldier and carried out all the same types of patrolling that other regular units did with the exception of crowd control as their contract laid down only training being done outside the Province and finally members of the regular who were attached to The UDR in posts like UDR Commander who was a Brigadier and normally the Commanding Officers of battalions were also regular soldiers, certain key security vetting and intelligence jobs were carried out by these soldiers as well.

In the early 1980's The UDR started to suffer from a recruiting problem which appeared to be due to a number of factors including the number of regiment members being injured or murdered by terrorists and also the fact that members of the RUC could earn up to twice the wage of a soldier. Due to the fact that a RUC officer could by working overtime could obtain 3 times their basic wage and in turn allowed them to buy larger houses, new models of cars as well as taking their families on good holidays each year. A UDR soldier on the other hand was paid at the same rate as a regular soldier which meant he wasn't paid overtime no matter how many hours they worked extra.

In 1983 the RUC reorganized their working boundaries within Northern Ireland to adapt to the shifting crime patterns and with the aim to make the RUC more localised, 16 divisions became 12 and the army changed their working TAOR's to match the RUC. This would result in the first amalgamations of UDR battalions in it's history, in June 1984 1/9 UDR was formed giving the battalion some 700 square miles of area to patrol in Mid and South Antrim. In October of 1984 7/10 UDR was born, making it the largest battalion in the British army, this new battalion would the city of Belfast as well as Greater Belfast area.

During the 1980's the number of Catholics in the regiment continued to drop and at one point there was only 160 left in the whole regiment, very few were still living in solely Catholic areas due to the IRA carrying out attacks on them, also Catholic politicians were claiming The UDR were Loyalist paramilitaries in legal uniform. Yet when Loyalist paramilitaries tried to murder Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Belfast city centre it was an off duty UDR man who using his personal protection weapon arrested the gunmen holding them at gun point until uniformed soldiers arrived.

THE FINAL YEARS

The SDLP throughout the history of The UDR had been keen to have the regiment disbanded, their campaign was stepped up despite the fact that The Ulster Defence Regiment had as part of it's normal patrolling duties around Markethill had protected the home of Seamus Mallon (SDLP's deputy leader). With the signing of the Anglo- Irish agreement in 1985 the Eire government in conjunction with the SDLP & Sinn Fein tried harder to complete their aim to have the regiment disbanded, taking every opportunity to complain about any action or wrong doing by member's of The UDR. This had a 2 fold effect on the regiment, firstly recruitment slowed and secondly morale within the existing members fell.

March 1986 saw Armagh man Adrain Carroll murdered in the city, a total of 15 UDR were arrested in connection with the murder but only 6 men were ever brought to trial. 4 of them received life sentences for the murder and they became known as The UDR 4.

Manning again became a problem for the regiment, this time it was getting enough officers, by 1987 there was only about 20 full time officers under the age of 45 years old in The UDR out of a total of 94 and a major recruiting campaign was launched. By 1988 the Commander of The UDR, Brig. Michael Bray, realised that no matter what attempts he made to get the SDLP to support The Ulster Defence Regiment it wasn't going to work, so he employed a new tactic. Brigadier Bray encouraged UDR battalions to have Open days or nights, in which members of the public were invited into the camps the see how the regiment was run, with the aim of getting people, especially Catholics interested and in turn he hoped that new recruits could be obtained.

Charity was also another thing The UDR could use to highlight community awareness and despite operational commitments this is exactly what happened, in 1988 7/10 UDR raised £15,000 alone for charity and in 1989 a total of £56,700 was raised for various charities by The UDR, with the money going to projects on both sides of the religious divide.

1991 was a bad year for 2 UDR, it's HQ was based in Armagh with a number of other camps around the county, in March a mobile patrol was attacked on the Killylea Road with 2 members of the patrol being murdered and a number of other injured. In May of the same year The UDR base in Glenanne, County Armagh was destroyed by the largest vehicle device recorded at that time resulting in 3 members of the company losing their lives and others also being injured, the device had been driven from South Armagh in a lorry before the IRA men dismounted from the vehicle allowing it to roll down the hill into the perimeter fence of the base. By the end of the year 2 UDR & 11 UDR had amalgamated as had 4 & 6 UDR.

The Ulster Defence Regiment was presented with it's Colours by Her Majesty the Queen in 1991 andon July 23, 1991 Tom King announced to the Commons that as part of the restructuring of the armed forces that plans had been agreed to merge The UDR with the Royal Irish Rangers. On the 1 July, 1992 the merger of the regiments was official complete and the new regiment was to become as the Royal Irish Regiment.