The Early Years

 

Formation

Early Days

Changing Times

Final Period

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 andThe UDR on patrol 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.

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