|Ulster Defence Regiment CGC|
|Size||11 battalions (at peak)|
|March||(Quick) Garryowen & Sprig of Shillelagh.
(Slow) Oft In The Stilly Night
The Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was an infantry regiment of the British Army which became operational in 1970, formed on similar lines to other British reserve forces but with the operational role of defence of life or property in Northern Ireland against armed attack or sabotage. The UDR, a military force, replaced the Ulster Special Constabulary ("B-Specials") along with a separate police reserve, to assist the regular Armed Forces. It was the largest infantry regiment in the British Army, formed with seven battalions and an extra four added within two years.
The regiment consisted overwhelmingly of part-time volunteers until 1976 when a full time cadre was added. Recruiting from the local community at a time of intercommunal strife, it was accused of sectarian attitudes and collusion with loyalist paramilitary organisations through most of its term. The regiment was intended to be nonpartisan, and it began with Catholic recruits accounting for 18% of membership. However, in time suspicion and disenchantment among the Catholic community grew, and Catholic membership settled at around 3%.
According to Joseph Ruane and Jennifer Todd, the ethos of the Northern state was "unashamedly and unambiguously sectarian," although Senia Paseta argues that discrimination was never as calculated as nationalists maintained nor as fictional as unionists claimed. The Northern Ireland civil rights campaign which began in the mid-1960s attempted to achieve reform by publicising, documenting, and lobbying for an end to abuses in areas such as housing, unfair electoral procedures, discrimination in employment and the Special Powers Act.[7 ] Their main demands had been for measures to bring an end to the religious discrimination, their catch-cry being ‘one-man, one-vote.'  The summer of 1968 then saw the first of a series of civil rights marches while in Britain, concern was raised at these reports of gerrymandering, job discrimination and triumphalist use of British national symbols. The security forces were and remained disproportionately Protestant and frequently sectarian.[7 ]
Internationally, there was concern with civil and minority rights with Northern Ireland part of this international trend. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association therefore secured much wider international and internal support than traditional nationalist protest.[9 ] According to the authors of Northern Ireland: 1921/2001 Political Forces and Social Classes, the one area which exemplified the formation of the northern state was the constitution of the security forces. They say that the strategy pursued by the Unionist middle class along with the British governments diplomatic strategies were responsible for the establishment of a sectarian-populist flavour in the Northern Ireland. With the formation of the Northern state, the establishment of an independent paramilitary force had been anticipated. This populist Protestant self-assertiveness and official endorsement would shape the Catholic attitudes to both the security forces and the state.
Disbanding of the Ulster Special Constabulary or "B Specials" was therefore one of the demands of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The security forces membership heavily overlapped with the Orange Order, likewise the ruling Ulster Unionist Party, and were therefore according to Constantine Fitzgibbon, the armed branch of the Order, which he says controlled the new mini-state. Together, the B Specials and the RUC were viewed by many nationalists as the “Protestant armed wing of the Protestant political establishment.”  Unionists, however, generally supported the USC as contributing to the defense of Northern Ireland from subversion and outside aggression. Many in the RUC, and virtually all the B Specials, were according to Ruane and Todd, defenders of the Protestant community first, defenders of the protestant state second, and normal policemen third. The clashes between marchers and loyalists they say, forced them to take sides, undermining any claims they had to be normal policemen.[9 ] As the civil rights campaign began it was attack by loyalist mobs, the RUC and B Specials looked on or actively took part in the attacks.
Following the 1969 Northern Ireland Riots policing in Northern Ireland was reviewed by the Hunt Report.
The Ulster Defence Regiment was created in 1970 by Act of Parliament following recommendations from the Hunt Report. The report was commissioned by the Government of Northern Ireland to: "examine the recruitment, organisation, structure and composition of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Ulster Special Constabulary and their respective functions and to recommend as necessary what changes are required to provide for the efficient enforcement of law and order in Northern Ireland."
The report, presented in October 1969, recommended that the "R.U.C. should be relieved of all duties of a military nature as soon as possible". Further a "locally recruited part-time force, under the control of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, should be raised"... and that the "force, together with the police volunteer reserve, should replace the Ulster Special Constabulary." The report recommended that it be replaced with a force that would be "impartial in every sense" and remove the responsibility of military style operations from the police force." ,
Bernadette Devlin would not support the new regiment and from the outset condemned it as a "reincarnation of the B Specials," In a debate at Westminster Jeremy Thorpe MP pointed to the fact that a "substantial majority" was to be recruited from former B Specials and questioned if this was "likely to increase the chances of general acceptance in Ulster?" In a direct reply Roy Hattersley pointed out that this was due to "necessity" and that the vast majority of the Specials were "men who have given good and honourable service to Northern Ireland." When asked in Parliament if there was an automatic right of transfer for B Specials, Denis Healey replied that there wasn't but that applications would be treated on the grounds of suitability.
In a debate in the lower house at Stormont, John Hume objected to the fact that Lt-Col Stephen Miskimmon, the commandant of the B Specials had, in his final letter to each individual member of the force, enclosed a form to be completed if the individual concerned wished to join the RUC Reserve] or Ulster Defence Regiment. Sir Robert Porter replied that these forms were not application forms and had been to ascertain if members of the B Specials had any previous military experience and wished to join the new force. He also said that Hunt had expressed the hope the members of the B Specials would join "one of the two new forces". The Ministry of Defence issued a statement which said that Miskimmon's forms were to be ignored and only the official forms accepted as applications. It further stated that any future letters of such a nature must be cleared with the MoD. This was, however, only one of a number of errors which diluted Catholic confidence in the integrity of the new force.
In a debate in the House of Commons at Westminster on 12 November 1969, the possible role which the B Specials would play in the development of the [then] proposed Ulster Defence Regiment was debated. The then Minister of State for Defence Roy Hattersley stated to the house:
Of necessity, the new force will draw substantially on the Ulster Special Constabulary [B Specials] for its initial recruitment, but there will be a campaign to enrol recruits from all sections of the Northern Ireland community. Apart from the formal qualifications of age, residence and nationality the sole criterion for acceptance will be suitability for service in a military force. There will be a strict security vetting.
Bernadette Devlin, MP, later in the debate asked:
Does my hon. Friend really expect me, or any other hon. Member, or anyone in Northern Ireland to accept one solitary word of the whitewash and eyewash he has produced for the people of Northern Ireland? [Hon. Members: "Oh.") I am asking a question and I am asking it importantly and in all sincerity. Am I, as a Member of Parliament, expected to go back to my constituents and to tell them that this is what has been offered? If we are to have a new force with a ceiling of 6,000 men and if in the beginning we are to rely on the Ulster Special Constabulary [B Specials], there are only 8,000 of those men and we shall have the whole Ulster Special Constabulary in the new force by April.
The Belfast Telegraph disagreed. In editorials several days apart its pages declared: "In no sense can the new Regiment be regarded like the old USC, as a vigilante force and a law unto itself. Inevitably the members of the new force will be provided by present B Specials and just as inevitably it is already being smeared in some quarters as simply the old force in new uniform. Every effort must be made to ensure that this is not so. No-one must be able to put a denominational tag on the UDR and if one of the senior officers in the force happened to be a Roman Catholic, so much the better.... The establishment of this new force should be regarded as a turning point in the life of the community."
Some politicians called for a full implementation of the Hunt Report which recommended a more neutral name, a reduction in the proposed size of the force and a ban on the recruitment of B Specials' county commanders as UDR battalion commanders.
Writers such as Constantine Fitzgibbon, recorded the extreme levels of violence employed against Catholics by the B Specials in particular, comparing them to Adolf Hitler's SA. The B-Specials he says, became, for the Catholic minority in the North of Ireland and for Irish nationalists in all Ireland, “the most hateful symbol of Orange oppression in the Province.” 
The Ulster Defence Regiment Act 1969 received the Royal Assent on 18 December 1969, and was brought into force on 1 January 1970 by Statutory Instrument, 1969 No. 1860 (C. 58), The Ulster Defence Regiment Act 1969 (Commencement) Order 1969, providing the legal framework for the regiment to be raised.
General Sir John Anderson GCB, KCB DSO (5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards) was appointed as the first Colonel Commandant and the first regimental commander was Brigadier Logan Scott-Bowden CBE DSO OBE MC & Bar (A veteran of the Normandy Landings at Omaha Beach).[32 ]
The response from the B Specials was mixed. Some felt betrayed and resigned immediately, while others grasped the new opportunity and made application to join the UDR as soon as forms were available. The B-Specials had another option open to them after disbandment: to join the newly-formed RUC Reserve. According to John Potter many did so, especially in Belfast, where he noted that the B Specials had received more training as, and were more akin with, policemen, in contrast to the border districts where the B Specials had operated in a more military fashion. In Belfast he says, during the first month of recruiting, only 36 Specials applied to join the UDR compared to a national average of 29% - 2,424, one thousand of whom were rejected, mainly on the grounds of age and fitness. Around 75% of the men of the Tyrone B Specials applied and, as a result, the 6th Battalion started life as the only battalion more or less up to strength and remained so during its history. The border counties in general followed this pattern. It also meant that former B Specials dominated these battalions. The story was different for Belfast, Londonderry, Down and Antrim, he said, where the figures were markedly more balanced with a high proportion of Catholic recruits. The results at 3 UDR were best in this respect. The battalion commenced duty with 30% of its numbers as Catholic.
By the end of March 1970, the number of accepted recruits was 2,440 including 1,423 ex B Specials and 946 Catholics. The breakdown for each area was:
The table above shows the number of B Specials who joined the regiment before it began duties. By 1 April 1970, only 1,606 of the desired 4,000 men had been enlisted, and the regiment began its duties much under strength.
According to Potter, a number of former members of the B Specials felt aggrieved at the loss of their force and were not prepared to join the UDR. In some cases he says, they even booed and jeered passing UDR patrols and that most resistance was by the B Specials in County Down where the District adjutant of the Specials actively campaigned in an effort to persuade B Specials not to apply for the new force.
Potter wrote that unless the numbers of recruits from both communities reflected the demographics of Northern Ireland, it would never become the model which Lord Hunt intended it to be. Whilst Catholics continued to join the regiment he says, the numbers were never sufficiently high enough, except in 3 UDR. The 3rd (Co. Down) Battalion was, and remained according to Potter, the unit with the highest percentage of Catholic members throughout the troubles, beginning with 30%. In 3 UDR some sections he suggests, were staffed entirely by Catholics and this led to protests from the B Specials Association that in 3 UDR "preference for promotion and allocation of appointments was being given to Catholics". This he suggests can be explained by the fact that the local Territorial Army company of Royal Irish Fusiliers had been disbanded in 1968 and the vast majority of its members had joined up en-masse.
The new company commander of C Company was the former company commander of the TA unit and according to Potter, was amazed to see that virtually all of his TA soldiers were on parade, in the TA Centre, in the exact same drill hall as they had previously used, for the first night of the new regiment. He noted according to Potter, that there were some former B Specials in the room and made the observation that they did not initially associate with the others - not on the grounds of religion but because the former TA soldiers all knew each other socially and sat together on canteen breaks whereas the B Men kept to their group of comrades but within a week both groups had melded together.
Many Catholic recruits found themselves reporting for duty in B Specials drill halls according to Chris Ryder and in some cases the new Catholic recruits were cold-shouldered or ignored and generally made to feel unwelcome to the point where they resigned. Despite this he says, many Catholics stayed in the regiment but following Operation Demetrius there was a general outcry by nationalist politicians because no Protestant paramilitaries were interned: only Catholics suspected as members of the IRA. Austin Currie, the prominent SDLP MP (whose own brother was a member of the regiment), on 18 August 1971 publicly withdrew his support for the regiment, and noted that for some time the IRA had been discouraging Catholics from joining but following Operation Demetrius more serious intimidation began to emerge.
The first serving Catholic to be killed was 32-year-old part-time Private Sean Russell of 7 UDR, who was shot in 1970, in front of his wife and children, by members of the Irish Republican Army who burst into his home in the predominantly Catholic area of New Barnsley, Belfast. The last was part-time Private William Megrath of 11 UDR who was shot dead in July 1987 as he drove through the Twinbrook area of west Belfast on his way home from his civilian job. The worst period he notes was in the fourteen months following internment when seven Catholic soldiers were killed by the IRA. In that period, they numbered 7% of the regimental strength he says but in terms of the numbers of UDR soldiers killed by the IRA the percentage was 28%.
The Belfast Telegraph reported that, as a result of IRA pressure and disillusionment with the government's attitude towards the minority community over internment, 25% of Catholics in the regiment resigned in 1971, 50% of those in the months following internment.
The threat of intimidation against members of the UDR is a serious matter. The UDR is more than an army regiment. It is an experiment in co-operation between Protestants and Catholics. If the Catholics leave, the UDR will become a purely Protestant force by default.
The regiment attempted to halt the exodus of Catholics in a number of ways Potter notes, including allowing battalion commanders to appear on television (normally not permitted for the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at that time), with appeals to religious and political leaders and the implementation of extra personal-security measures. Although the Ministry of Defence never admitted to any intent on the matter, he comments that when Brigadier Scott-Bowden's term as Commander UDR finished in 1972, his successor was Brigadier Denis Ormerod, a Catholic whose mother's family came from the Republic of Ireland. His second-in-command (Deputy Commander UDR), Colonel Kevin Hill, was also Catholic, as was his successor Colonel Paddy Ryan, whose father lived in Donaghadee, Co Down. Ormerod admitted in his memoirs that his religion and appointment as the senior Catholic Army officer in Northern Ireland helped him considerably in his rapport with Catholic religious leaders but that, conversely, these appointments also created unease with Protestants and he was visited by a number of concerned politicians including, notably, Ian Paisley.
The primary function of the regiment was to assist the Royal Ulster Constabulary by "guarding key points and installations, to carry out patrols and to establish check points and road blocks" against "armed guerrilla-type attacks". Patrols and vehicle checkpoints on public roads were designed to hinder the activities of paramilitary groups.
As the force was initially predominantly part-time the presence of its members was mostly felt during evenings and weekends. It was expected to answer to general call-outs, and was mobilised on a permanent basis on several occasions such as Operation Motorman to provide manpower assistance to the police and Army.
As the regiment evolved into a predominantly full-time unit it assumed more duties previously assigned to the police or Army in support of Operation Banner. By 1980, the full-time element had become the majority and the regiment's role had expanded to include tactical responsibility for 85% of Northern Ireland supporting the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Ulsterisation is the term now applied to the policy by the British Government to reduce regular Army troop numbers in Northern Ireland and bring local forces into the front line as a result of international opinion about British soldiers being used in what could viewed as a "colonial occupation". Also known as "Criminalisation", "Normalisation" or "Police Primacy". One of the major changes in policy was to return control of internal security matters to the Royal Ulster Constabulary which had effectively been under the command of the Army since the Scarman and Hunt reports which called for the restructuring of the severely-undermanned force of 1969. In a report commissioned in 1976, recommendations were made which included:
Despite the rapid induction of 300 extra recruits to the UDR and the raising of operations platoons, the scheme was hampered by the shortfall of conrate officers in the UDR who could take on the role of operations officers. It also placed a heavier demand upon senior NCOs trained as watchkeepers in the operations rooms, or "comcens" (an abbreviation for communications centres) at UDR bases.
The term "Ulsterisation" was coined by the media. The then Assistant Chief Constable of the RUC, Jack Hermon, summed it up when he said, "Ulstermen need to learn to live together and be policed by Ulstermen. If they have to kill, let them kill each other, not English soldiers."
Unlike the B Specials, who were controlled by the Stormont administration in Belfast, the new regiment would be under the direct command of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Northern Ireland, the commander of the British Army in the province. Throughout the existence of the regiment, policy was decided in conjunction with a six-man committee (three Protestant and three Catholic) chaired by the Colonel Commandant. Its brief was "to advise the G.O.C. General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, on general policy for the administration of the Ulster Defence Regiment, in particular on recruitment policy; and on such specific matters as the G.O.C. might refer to the Council."
A working committee was then set up at Army Headquarters, Northern Ireland (HQNI) under the chairmanship of Major General A. J. Dyball. The team also included a staff officer from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in London, a member of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Stormont) and Lieutenant Colonel S Miskimmon, the USC staff officer to the RUC. As a result of their discussions they advocated a strength of 6,000 men (2,000 more than the Hunt recommendations), combat dress for duties, a dark green parade uniform, county shoulder titles and a "red hand of Ulster" cap badge. The rank of "volunteer" was suggested for private soldiers. They also recommended that each battalion should have a mobile force of two platoons equipped with Land Rovers fitted for radio and that they would also carry "manpack" radio sets.
After presentation to the Ministry of Defence, a Government White Paper was produced which confirmed the agreed aspects of the new force and its task as:
to support the regular forces in Northern Ireland in protecting the border and the state against armed attack and sabotage. It will fulfill this task by undertaking guard duties at key points and installations, by carrying out patrols and by establishing check points and road blocks when required to do so. In practice such tasks are most likely to prove necessary in rural areas. It is not the intention to employ the new forces on crowd control or riot duties in cities.
The force would be commanded by a regular army brigadier. Battalions were to be commanded by "local members of the force".
During its early life these appointments may be filled by present county commandants of the USC [B Specials], almost all of whom are ex-officers of the regular forces who have had much experience in dealing with the tasks for which the new force is designed.
Seven battalions were initially raised, making it the largest infantry regiment in the British Army. Two years later, four more battalions were added, taking the total to eleven. Until 1976 the full-time cadre consisted only of a "conrate" (so called because they had a "consolidated rate of pay") whose duties consisted of guarding UDR bases and carrying out administrative tasks. It was then decided to expand the role of the regiment by raising full-time platoons to perform duties on a twenty-four hour basis. The first of these was raised at 2 UDR under the command of a sergeant. By the end of the 1970s the full-time cadre had been raised to sixteen platoons. As these "Operations Platoons" were expanded to company strength, eventually the conrate role was phased out with full-time UDR soldiers undertaking their own guard duties and administration.
The regiment was described in 1972 as:
Initially, seven battalions were raised, immediately making it the largest infantry regiment in the British Army. Within two years, a further four battalions were added, taking the total to eleven. To begin with, the regiment's operational capability consisted entirely of part-time volunteers, before a full time cadre was added in 1976.
The full-time element of the regiment eventually expanded to encompass more than half the total personnel. The UDR was the first infantry regiment in the British Army to fully integrate women into its structure, when Greenfinches (so-called because of the code-name used to identify them by radio  took over clerical and signals duties, which allowed male members of the regiment to return to patrol duties. Greenfinches accompanied many patrols so that female suspects could be searched.
By 1990, the regiment had stabilised its numbers at 3,000 part-time and 3,000 full-time soldiers, with 140 attached regular army personnel in key command and training positions. The standard of training of the permanent cadre soldiers by this time was so high that they were used in much the same way as regular soldiers and it was not uncommon for regular army units to then come under local command and control of a UDR Battalion Headquarters.
On operational duty male members of the regiment dressed in a similar fashion to regular army units. Camouflage jackets were worn and headgear was a distinctive green beret with a gold coloured "Maid of Erin" style harp, surmounted by the Royal crown (in later years this was dulled down by blackening). Female "Greenfinch" members wore rifle green skirts and combat jackets with the UDR beret and cap badge. For ceremonial occasions the men wore the standard British Army No.2 Dress uniform (also called Service Dress). The female "best dress" was a rifle green jacket and skirt. The beret was retained as headgear. (The badge was a direct copy of the Royal Ulster Rifles cap badge with the motto removed from its base). On the formation of Operations Platoons, narrow coloured slides were adopted and worn on the shoulder straps in battalion colours which indicated these were full time soldiers to the trained eye. These were dispensed with as the Operations Platoons were merged into full time rifle companies. Rank was the same as the conventional ranks for infantry NCO's and officers and the insignia was worn in the same fashion.
The most familiar weapon associated with the regiment was the standard issue L1A1 Self Loading Rifle, referred to as the "SLR". Other weaponry was available however such as; the 9 mm Browning pistol, the Sterling sub machine gun, the L4A4 Light Machine Gun and the L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun. Small stocks of Federal Riot Guns were also kept. These were used to fire plastic bullets to knock down doors and other obstacles during search operations. A small number of Carl Gustav 84 mm grenade launchers were also kept but rarely deployed as the weapon was unsuited to most operations. (see Boat Sections below). SLRs were replaced in 1987 by the SA80.
The standard patrol vehicle was the 3/4 ton Land Rover used extensively throughout the British armed forces. Following withdrawal from police service a number of Shorland armoured cars were allocated to the regiment but these were rarely used after initial service because the turret was designed to hold a General Purpose Machine Gun which was deemed unsuitable for urban use due to its rapid rate of fire and tendency to be inaccurate. The Shorland was not popular with soldiers who used it due to its instability on the road because of the heavy turret although some battalions continued to use them into the 1980s in border areas because of the increased protection the plate armour gave over the Makrolon polycarbonate armour fitted to Land Rovers. Three-ton and four-ton Bedford trucks were used for large troop movements. A range of unmarked civilian cars and vans was also used for staff, administration and covert activities.
At first there were not enough radios to issue to each patrol and those which were available were of the PYE "Bantam" type used by the police, which did not have a great enough effective range. As a result UDR patrols were issued with pockets of small change to use in telephone boxes in order to effectively report back to base. When radios were issued they were of the type used by the regular army such as Larkspur A41 manpacks, B47 and C42 vehicle mounted sets. Over time these were replaced with "Stornophones" as vehicle sets which had preselected frequencies operating on the NINET rebroadcast system which worked through masts strategically placed on various highpoints throughout Northern Ireland such as Slieve Croob. Pyephones continued to be used for foot patrols but the range of these sets gradually improved. Each battalion was able to communicate with other battalions using C42's and B47's installed in the battalion or company Operations Room or Communications Centre (Comcen) as well as the BID system of cryptic coding and "scrambled telephone system."
Several battalions were supplied with rigid Dory craft for patrolling waterways shared with the Republic of Ireland in an attempt to prevent gun running across these narrow channels (such as Carlingford Lough). Assisted by land based radar, these fast boats were armed with General Purpose Machine Guns and carried a Carl Gustav 84mm anti tank weapon in addition to the rifles and sub-machine guns normally carried by soldiers. After a report submitted by 3 UDR in 1972 HQ Northern Ireland requested a navy patrol vessel to be permanently stationed in the centre of Carlingford Lough to assist with suppression of gun-running. This suggestion was adopted and to the end of the security situation a small warship was on station off the coast off the Warrenpoint/Rostrevor shoreline. This intervention was called Operation Grenada. Gun-running across these coastal estuaries ceased as a result.
Search dogs were originally provided by the regular army but eventually a UDR dog section was formed to provide more immediate assistance in search operations.
All members of the British Armed Forces, including the UDR, carried a number of small information cards to assist in the execution of their duties in Northern Ireland. These were generally referred to by their colour.
The men who joined the UDR came from various backgrounds. One of the first to join was George Lapsley, a World War Two veteran who had been a Troop Commander in the Coleraine Battery of the Territorial Army. His occupation was as the headmaster of a local primary school. With his previous military experience he was deemed fit to command and was appointed as Company Commander, E Coy, 5 UDR in Coleraine.
In the early days of the regiment female members of the Royal Military Police accompanied patrols when available to enable female suspects to be searched. There were never enough of these RMP searchers so in 1973 an act was passed in Parliament to recruit women into the regiment for this purpose. On 16 August 1973 a regular army officer from the Women's Royal Army Corps, Major Eileen Tye, took up the post of "Commander Women" at HQUDR. By September 352 had been enrolled and the first enlistments were carried out at 2 UDR's HQ in Armagh on the 16th.
Uniforms were a problem as the only available clothing was mostly ATS surplus from WWII but this was resolved in time although many women were unhappy with the semi-formal skirts and knee length boots which had to be worn in all weathers. The women soldiers also wore a silk cravat in their battalion colour.
WO2 Brooker from the WRAC was assigned to train the women in a one week course consisting of drill, army organisation, map reading, searching of women and vehicles, radio procedure and basic first aid.
The first recruits were largely from the executive professional classes which was unusual because it was the males from those social types who were most reluctant to join the UDR. Some were wives of serving UDR soldiers and others were married to soldiers on long-term (accompanied) posting to Northern Ireland.
The country and border battalions welcomed the use of women as they knew they were an essential in the searching of women suspects but the city based battalions were slower to see the advantages and to some extent resented the presence of the women soldiers. In the short-term however all battalions came to appreciate the value of having women with patrols. Through time the role of women was expanded as it was realised that their higher pitched voices were more suited to radio transmission than men. They were tasked to relieve RMP women at the city centre segment gates in Belfast and soon learned how to accept abuse from the public and how to avoid traps which could be set for them when searching other women; i.e. razor blades placed in pockets. Women had fewer problems with the male public who seemed more amenable when questioned by a female. Some women were trained in the use of "Sea Watch" radar to assist seaborne patrols from those battalions which had fast boats.
Initially a part time female officer was appointed in each battalion to supervise the women soldiers but through time the women came under command of the OC of the company they were assigned to. In later years some women became battalion adjutants and company commanders and some were attached to brigade staffs throughout the Province.
Accommodation for changing and toilet facilities was another problem faced early on and it took several years for the all male environments of UDR bases to adapt their infrastructure to suit female needs.
The recruitment of women soldiers peaked in 1986 with 286 permanent cadre and 530 part timers but the establishment never dropped below 700 from 1978 onwards.
Women were never armed on duty, although some were permitted to be issued (or purchased) personal protection pistols if they were considered to be at high risk. They were however trained in the use of weapons and HQUDR ran a women's .22 shooting competition. Although women in the British Army carry weapons now this change did not happen until after the UDR was merged with the Royal Irish Rangers in 1992.
The same issues which affected other servicewomen also affected UDR Greenfinches. Rules regarding pregnancy, marriage and pay. Early recruits with children had to provide a signed certificate stating that their children were properly supervised whilst they were on duty.
The name Greenfinch applied to the women's UDR comes from the system of radio "appointment titles" used by the army to identify certain people or branches of the service. For example; bomb disposal officers were referred to as "Felix", infantry as "Foxhound". New titles were introduced when the UDR was established and soldiers in the regiment were identified as "Greentop". When women were introduced the appointment title "Greenfinch" was assigned to them and became their working nickname. It is still applied today to women in the Royal Irish Regiment.
The integration of women into the UDR paved the way for the disbandment of the Women's Royal Army Corps and the integration of women into previously male only regiments.
Four Greenfinches were killed as a result of their service with the regiment between 1974 and 1992. 
According to John Potter, 25% of the new recruits in 1970 had no previous military or Special Constabulary experience. Training was done by a training team of regular soldiers attached to each unit headed up by a Training Major, assisted by former instructors from the armed forces who were recruits themselves.
The annual training commitment for each soldier was twelve days and twelve, two hour training periods. Part of the twelve days included attendance at annual training camp. As an incentive to achieve this, any soldier who fulfilled his training was given an annual bounty of £25. Training days also attracted a pay but this was on a lesser scale than that given for an operational duty.
As with all military recruits, training started with an introduction to basic battle skills and the book of the same name which, where possible, was issued to each individual soldier. Instruction was also given on army pamphlet Shoot to Kill.
Part-time UDR soldiers were required to attend an annual camp for a seven-day period.
|Unmarried Private 1st Class with less than 6 years experience||£2. 19 shillings (£2 19/-)|
|Corporal||£3. 3 shillings (£3 3/-)|
|Sergeant||£3. 12 shillings (£3 12/-)|
|Captain||£5. 6 shillings (£5 6/-)|
|Major||£7. 2 shillings (£7 2/-)|
Prior to the formation of the regiment one of the major issues facing Whitehall was finding officers of enough seniority to appoint as battalion commanders. The result was that for the first year each battalion was commanded by the former County Commandant of the Ulster Special Constabulary. This was only ever intended to be a temporary measure as one of the issues of command and control was to have an officer of field rank from the regular army in charge of each battalion. The normal rank for this position being Lieutenant Colonel. Using B Special officers was neither politically expedient or practical because, although some of these men had previous military experience, some didn't and the criteria for joining was expressly stated as "suitability for military service". To have B Specials battalion commanders hearkened back to the B Specials itself and the absolute danger was that their appointment would act as a deterrent to Catholics who might otherwise have joined the regiment but would be put off by the presence of B Specials.
As the ranks moved down the command structure the problem became more acute. For each battalion there was a minimum requirement of:
Finding senior officers and NCO's with enough experience to do the job was difficult and had the same result as with commanding officers. These posts were generally filled by older men who had previous military experience or by former B Specials officers.
On allocating rank to Corporals and Lance Corporals there was little structure. In some cases the men elected their own NCO's because of a particular standing in the community, in others they fell by default to ex-servicemen or to former B Specials officers with the experience to carry out the tasks of the rank.
The dependency on former B Specials was unsettling for Catholic recruits, offset in some circumstances by the fact that Catholic ex-Servicemen were given positions of rank because they had the experience. This led to unusual situations such as patrols of former B Specials men being led by a Catholic sergeant or as in the case of 3 UDR, patrols which were 100% Catholic being led by a former B Special as their sergeant.
Ever since its formation, in 1970, the Regiment has been criticized for bias during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The regiment was infiltrated by, and colluded with, paramilitary groups. Weapons assigned to the regiment reported as stolen did reappear during sectarian violence. At various times during its history, official action has been taken to try to address the criticisms.
Unlike soldiers from the regular Army, the UDR did not live in barracks. Many lived in Protestant or Catholic enclaves which he notes, put them within easy reach of paramilitary or community groups within those areas. The years 1972-73 saw the emergence of paramilitary threats from loyalists and of the 288 incidents of intimidation reported, Potter records, all but twelve were from Protestants who had been threatened from within their own community. Sometimes this was to gain information, he suggests, or to persuade members of the regiment to join (or remain within) Protestant organisations. The intimidation he says, included incidents of threatening letters and phone calls, abduction, shots fired from passing cars and off-duty soldiers being assaulted.
The Social Democratic and Labour Party called for the disbandment of the Regiment from as early as 1974 through the media and by applying pressure through the Irish government and was Potter suggests, to become the major conduit for complaints against the regiment from Catholics. The SDLP remained opposed he says to the regiment and continually called for its disbandment due to the failure of the GOC to address the issue of Catholic recruiting and the regimental image. Although no official support was evident he says from the party leaderships various party members,Seamus Mallon did condemn the killing of UDR soldiers and attended their funerals, such as in the case of Jim Cochrane, a Catholic soldier from 3 UDR in Downpatrick who was killed in a culvert bomb attack on 6 January 1980.
In the wake of the Hillsborough Agreement the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) began a campaign with the apparent motive Potter says, of reducing morale in the regiment and causing mass resignations by "undermining the confidence of soldiers in their officers". During this period Potter notes, Ian Paisley announced to the press that soldiers in Ballymena had been requested to report to barracks to be disarmed prior to the part-time cadre being disbanded. The DUP press office he says, claimed that the use of English officers and senior NCOs was "London and Dublin insisting the UDR could not be trusted". and Peter Robinson, the deputy DUP Leader, advised soldiers not to co-operate with policemen who were attached to their patrols as they were there on the "directions of the Anglo-Irish Council".
Potter believes that this political manoeuvring wasn't for the "good of the UDR" but an attempt to make the DUP the "main voice of the Protestant people" and in an effort to address criticisms, the UDR Advisory council decided to hold briefings for the four main political parties at HQUDR. Invitations were issued to the Official Unionist party, the Alliance Party, the DUP and the SDLP he noted but the DUP didn't attend any briefings however the other three parties did.
At the funeral of a member of 2 UDR in Caledon the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Robin Eames made an oration to the congregation which included the words:
....It [the regiment] has received criticism, often from those far removed from the dangers it faces, which has been far from fair or objective. In its increasingly professional approach to its work its members must never forget their duty to all members of the community, irrespective of political or religious outlooks. But the community must never forget what the UDR is doing day and night for it.
The UDR had a problem throughout its history with infiltration of its structures by loyalist paramilitaries. Initially, dual membership of the UDR and Ulster Defence Association (UDA) was acceptable to the military authorities as the UDA was not seen as a threat to the state. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) an illegal organisation also exploited membership of the UDR and its potential for widely circulating intelligence files on the nationalist community throughout its ranks. In the early years of the regiment's history Loyalist paramilitaries raided (or were given access to) several UDR barracks and were able to steal substantial quantities of modern weaponry. Most of these weapons were subsequently recovered in follow up operations by the UDR but some were proven to have been used by Loyalist organisations to carry out murders. A number of UDR soldiers were convicted of assisting paramilitaries by providing information to enable these raids to take place.
Loyalist raids were mounted against 2 UDR, 3 UDR, 5 UDR, 7 UDR, 10 UDR, and 11 UDR battalions. In a raid against 2 UDR's Lurgan company (which later became C Coy, 11 UDR), the guard commander was later charged and convicted of supplying information to loyalists. He was later killed in 1975 during an internal Ulster Volunteer Force feud.
Two soldiers from the 11th Battalion's C Company in Lurgan, who were also members of the UVF, were convicted of the 1975 killing of three members of the pop group the Miami Showband in a UVF attack. In the same attack two members of the UDR Portadown company who were also UVF men died in the premature explosion of their bomb. In 1999 David Jordan, a former UDR soldier, allegedly broke down in a bar and admitted to being part of a patrol that killed nationalist councillor Patsy Kelly in 1974. Jordan also implicated former DUP Northern Ireland Assembly member Oliver Gibson in the killing.
In 1989, twenty-eight UDR soldiers from the same platoon 7/10 UDR were arrested by the Royal Ulster Constabulary as part of the Stevens Inquiry. Six of those arrested were later awarded damages over their arrests however only one was charged with activities linked to paramilitaries. This caused "intense anger" in the regiment according to Potter as three hundred police had been used to surround the homes. In doing so Stevens had identified the soldiers as members of the UDR to their neighbours, putting their lives at risk. Eleven soldiers moved house as a result and the homes of eighteen others were provided with "additional security measures" at a cost of £25,000.
In June 1987 the Belfast Newsletter reported, that 7/10 UDR had been infiltrated by the IRA. Private Joe Tracey had been shot dead as he started a new job on some flats off the Lisburn Road, Belfast. The UDR according to Potter, accepted that someone must have informed on him but denied that the IRA had been able to penetrate the battalion calling the allegation a "wild rumour".
Another incident cited by Potter involved William Bogle of 6 UDR who was ambushed and killed on 5 December 1972 at Killeter near the Tyrone/Donegal border. Potter says that he was killed by a former member of his own company "possessed of strong Republican views" and that after the shooting the suspect moved across the border and is not known to have returned to Northern Ireland.
In another example, he cites a member of 3 UDR is known to have been a member of the Irish Freedom Fighters and another was suspected of dual membership of the same faction. An SLR was reported "stolen" from the home of the latter.
On 29 November 1972 the GOCNI on instructions from Westminster, announced that dual membership of UDR and paramilitary organisations would not be tolerated and began a purge which saw a thousand members forced to resign from the UDR. Lt Col Dion Beard (1RTR) commander of 3 UDR issued a battalion order: "I will not tolerate any active participation by members of this battalion in any organisation which encourages violence... you cannot play in both teams. Either you believe in law and order applied equally to all men, or you believe in violence as a means of achieving political ends. In this respect the UDA is no better than IRA. Not only should you take no part in UDA activities but you should discourage your fellow citizens [from doing so]."
Brigadier Michael Bray adopted a zero-tolerance policy from the beginning of his tenure as Commander UDR. He instituted a number of safeguards including monitoring of entire battalions and six month security reviews of all UDR personnel. Anyone found with even the most tenuous links to Protestant organisations was dismissed from the regiment. An "Out-of-bounds" list was produced which included pubs and clubs known to be frequented by Protestant paramilitaries. Members of the regiment were cautioned as to whom they should socialise with. All of this was a concerted effort to remove anyone with dual membership from the regiment and to prevent peer pressure being applied.
The Stevens Report resulted in a tightening of control on even the most low-rated intelligence documents and heightened accountability. For the first time the RUC were given access to UDR vetting procedures and many members of the regiment found themselves under police observation for extended periods of time, in some cases resulting in the expulsion of soldiers. Stevens agreed that there had been collusion between a small number of UDR soldiers who had "gravely abused their positions of trust" but that the issue was not "widespread or institutionalised".
As working conditions and wages improved in the regiment many young people Potter suggests, saw it as an alternative to unemployment rather than just a means of expressing their wish to defend Northern Ireland. Professionalism expanded and there was less tolerance of members with dual membership. With the almost total absence of Catholics in the regiment however, and considering the damage which had already been done, the UDR was unlikely to ever be free of infiltration by Protestant Paramilitaries and to be unable to regain the confidence of the minority community. The Bennett Committee report of 1989 stressed this acutely and recommended that the regiment be disbanded. A view echoed by Lord Hunt who had made the original recommendation for the formation of the force. In Hunt's view the times had changed, the regiment's role was no longer required, and it was a time to return the duties of the UDR to the police.
Some suggestions were made as a result of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement:
As a result of these recommendations the post of Deputy Commander UDR was restored, ten additional senior NCO's were posted in from the regular army, officer training was increased to six months at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. According to Potter, efforts were made to increase the number of RUC officers on patrol with the UDR and the initial training for part-time soldiers was increased from eight to fourteen days. In his memoirs the former Irish Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald noted that by 1986 there had been "a notable reduction in complaints of harassment of the Nationalist community by the security forces".
On January 1 every year the The National Archives (TNA)—formerly this was done by the Public Record Office (PRO)—in Kew releases government documents under the thirty year rule. A draft document, entitled Subversion in the UDR, was amongst documents catalogued as DEFE 24/835, released in 2005 and was uncovered in the PRO by researchers working for the Pat Finucane Centre and the group, Justice for the Forgotten. Contents from the document first came to public attention when they appeared as a series of articles in The Irish News on 2 and 3 May 2006. The document is believed to have been prepared by British military intelligence in August 1973, and explores the issue of overlapping membership between the UDR and loyalist organisations in the early years of the Regiment's history.
For the purpose of the paper subversion was considered to include a "strong support for, or membership of, organisations whose aims are incompatible with those of the UDR" and "attempts by UDR members to use their UDR knowledge, skills, or equipment to further the aims of such organisations." The 1973 report stated that an estimated 5-15% of UDR soldiers were directly linked to loyalist paramilitary groups. That the "best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR" and that the British Government knew that UDR weapons were being used by loyalist paramilitaries, including the killing of a Roman Catholic civilian and other attacks.
It estimated that over 200 UDR weapons passed to loyalist paramilitaries by 1973. The authors of the report expressed concern that UDR troops may be loyal to "Ulster" alone, rather than to "Her Majesty's Government". One case cited as "indicative, but not typical," was that of a member of 1 UDR, described as "a good citizen (the Deputy Chairman of a District Council)." The report explained how he lived a "double life" as the OC of Ballymena UDA, had obtained ammunition for the UDA and was suspected of illegal arms dealings. He was however, described by his Commanding Officer as "a model soldier".The report accepted that very little was known, from an "intelligence point of view," but that subversion had certainly resulted in arms losses to Protestant groups on a "significant scale," though the rate of loss had decreased in 1973 (when the report was written).
The report found less evidence of subversion from Republican paramilitaries. It describes "isolated incidents where Catholic UDR soldiers have 'lost' weapons in suspicious circumstances," but explained that "neither the number of weapons nor the threat is thought to be great." The report concludes that the danger of subversion in the UDR was "enormously heightened" by comparison with other British Army regiments. It considered a number of reasons for this, including the circumstances in which it was set up, the communities from which it recruits, the task it is expected to fulfil and the political circumstances that have prevailed in the first two years of its existence. However, it suggested that any effort to remove members who in the "foreseeable political circumstances" could possibly operate subversively would have resulted in a regiment that was "very small."
Of the 40,000 who are recorded as having served in the UDR from 1970-1992, 18 were convicted of murder, 11 for manslaughter. The regiment was responsible for the shooting dead of 9 people: 3 members of the IRA, one Loyalist hijacker, two joyriders, an alleged thief, a deaf youth who could not hear the warnings shouted at him and a man shot accidentally in a confrontation with a patrol. Between 1970 and 1990, 99 were convicted of assault, and others (no exact figure) were convicted of armed robbery, weapons offences, bombing, intimidation and attacks on Catholics, kidnapping, and membership in the UVF. Only a small fraction of the regiment were involved in such crime, but the proportion was higher than for the regular British Army or RUC.
As the IRA campaign continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the organisation increasingly targeted RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment servicemen, including when they were off duty.
The regiment was created shortly after the formation of the Provisional IRA. The campaign pursued by the IRA became and remained the major target for anti-terrorist action by the UDR. Although most UDR casualties were ambushed off-duty there were open actions between the regiment and the IRA which varied in style and tactics between the urban setting of Belfast and the rural conditions of what has been referred to as the "Border War".
Sniper action by the IRA resulted in casualties. These were hard to defeat as, when shots were fired, patrols would immediately take cover, report to battalion headquarters and wait for backup before engaging in search operations as the shots were often a prelude to another attack, such as a bomb. This was known as a "come-on" attack. In the short length of time this took the sniper team would quickly make their escape. Other applications of sudden attack of this nature were referred to as "shoot & scoot" where a gunman would appear behind the patrol and aim shots between the tail lights of the rear Land Rover in the hope of hitting those sat in the back of the vehicle. One such incident is recorded by Ronnie Gamble in his book "Echo Company" where he recounts a "shoot and scoot" against a 5 UDR patrol in October 1982. In this incident the vehicle commander, Corporal Sandy Baxter, was shot in the elbow.
There were few military style frontal attacks on UDR establishments but some did occur. Most notably that of 2 May 1974 when up to forty IRA men attacked the isolated Deanery at Clogher which was being used as a base by a company from 8 UDR. A sustained attack lasted for approximately twenty minutes during which the base was hit by rockets, mortars and small-arms fire.
Another method of attack was an ambush on rural roads. Commencing with the detonation of an IED which, if successful would knock out one of the two vehicles normally in a patrol (usually the Shorland armoured car because it housed the rapid firing General Purpose Machine Gun), the bomb would be followed up by small arms fire. In some cases the nearest available cover (such as hedgerows) would contain another IED which would be detonated if any soldiers sheltered there. During these actions it was not uncommon to have both side exchanging a high volume of small arms fire.
The IRA developed a number of home-made mortars. Referred to colloquially as barrack-busters. These were normally deployed by fixing them to the back of a commercial vehicle such as a builder's lorry. The vehicle would be parked in a position near a barracks and the devices fired by timing device or remote controlled detonator sending large missiles made from gas cylinders into the barracks compound. The largest of these devices used was twelve tubes fired at once at 3 UDR's Kilkeel base "The Abbey" in 1992.
Because the UDR did not live in barracks like the soldiers of conventional regiments but instead lived at home, in many cases with families, they were more vulnerable to off-duty attacks. A number of UDR personnel applied for and were issued with personal weapons. Some of these were stolen without resistance from members homes. The part time cadre tended to be most at risk as they had day jobs which often took them to unsafe areas. Most of the UDR personnel killed in the Troubles were killed off duty.
Between 1 April 1970 and 30 June 1992, a total of 197 soldiers were killed as active servicemen. Another 61 members were killed after they had left the UDR.[114 ] Three members of the UVF and one of the UDA killed during the conflict were also soldiers of the regiment at the time of their deaths.
Two UDR soldiers were killed by the regular army, three by loyalist paramilitaries, and the remaining 192 by republican paramilitaries (mainly the Provisional IRA). Four Greenfinches were killed during the Troubles, Private Eva Martin, L/Cpl Jean Leggett, Cpl Heather Kerrigan and Pte Margaret A. Hearst.
During this time members of the UDR were responsible for the killing of six civilians and two members of the IRA.
Each battalion had a number of pipers and these musicians participated in a centralised pipe band formally called the Pipes & Drums of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Its uniform followed the traditional military dress for Irish pipers, consisting of a saffron kilt, bottle-green "Prince Charlie" jacket, bottle-green cape and bottle-green caubeen adorned with a double-size cap badge. Unlike other Irish regiments in the British Army, UDR pipers did not wear a hackle and the lining colour of the cloaks was unique to the regiment.
In June 1986, the regiment held its only tattoo for two days in good weather at Ravenhill rugby ground, Belfast. Some of the attractions for the 12,000 people who attended were:
The crowd is reported to have created a "deeply moving" moment by humming the evening hymn "The Day Thou Givest".
Only one UDR Pipes & Drums recording was publicly released: the 5 UDR Pipes & Drums "Irish & Scottish Pipe Music", which includes recordings of the regimental and battalions marches as well as other popular tunes.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall the United Kingdom began to reduce the size of its armed forced under the working title of Options for Change. The strength of the army was to be reduced from 160,000 to 110,000; the infantry to reduce from 55 battalions to 38. The GOC saw this as a perfect opportunity to streamline the UDR and also remove some of the more "intractable problems" with regards to image and career prospects. In a revolutionary plan he decided to merge the UDR with the Royal Irish Rangers; in the opinion of one author for the first time in history incorporating part-time soldiers into the regular army. The hope among the top brass in British Army was that the process of amalgamation with the Rangers, coupled with the change of name, would be a fresh start for what he says was a discredited UDR. The Rangers had recruited people from the South of Ireland, many of whom were Catholic and this would aid the process.
"Project Infancy" would also ensure that the Royal Irish Rangers did not lose their training facilities and presence in Northern Ireland as the last Irish infantry battalion of the line. The UDR, which was not regular "line" infantry was, in the words of one commander, "like a fish without feathers". Incorporation as infantry of the line might provide UDR officers with career prospects which mirrored those of the regular army and hopefully resolve the problem of recruiting junior officers. From a political perspective, the Royal Irish Rangers recruited from all over Ireland and had a much higher proportion of serving Catholics, many from the Republic of Ireland. To the GOC the prospect of having a larger number of Catholic officers and NCO's in the UDR would dampen much of the political furore surrounding the regiment.
The plan was approved by early summer 1991 and proposed:
In return the UDR would receive:
The proposals were generally welcomed at senior level but there was predictable worry amongst the ranks that this was a precursor to disbandment. A fear exacerbated by the Unionist political parties, particularly the DUP who immediately relaunched their 1989 "Hands Off the UDR" campaign.
The most notable award to the Ulster Defence Regiment was the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross made by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second in 2007. This unit citation confers the right of the regiment to be known as The Ulster Defence Regiment CGC. During the award ceremony in Belfast the Queen paid tribute to the regiment by saying "Your contribution to peace and stability in Northern Ireland is unique." "Serving and living within the community had required "uncommon courage and conviction". "The regiment had never flinched despite suffering extreme personal intimidation. Their successes had "come at a terrible price, many gave their lives. Today you have cause to reflect on the fine achievements, while remembering the suffering". "The Home Service Battalions of the RIR and the UDR which had preceded them won the deepest respect throughout the land." So that their actions would always be remembered, the CGC was awarded to the RIR/UDR "as a mark of the nation's esteem" with the citation, "This award is in recognition of the continuous operational service and sacrifice of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Regiment in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner."
In total 953 individuals received awards through the British honours system including: 12 Queen's Gallantry Medals; 2 Military Medals; 88 BEM's; 108 OBE's and 276 Mentions in Despatches, however for most UDR soldiers the presentation of decorations assumed the form of "service" or campaign" medals including:
The award of "UDR specific" long service medals had complex rules which meant that not very many were ever issued. The UDR medal was only issued to 1,254 members of the 40,000 who served. Only 1,416 Accumulated Campaign Service medals were issued.
Officers who are awarded the Ulster Defence medal (UD) may use the post-nominal letters UD.
According to Potter "the most decorated UDR soldier" was Corporal Eric Glass of the 4th (Co Fermanagh) Battalion who received both the Queen's Gallantry Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery. Despite being gravely injured in an IRA ambush Glass managed to survive, killing one of his attackers in the process.
The regiment was unusual in many ways. It is the only unit in the history of the British Army to have been on operational deployment for its entire history. It was the first to be raised as a paid citizens' army, the first to incorporate women into its regimental structure, the first to serve its own locality and the first to have a dedicated "aftercare" service. When it merged, the UDR had been on active service longer than any regiment since the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1987, the regiment submitted a request for the issuing of colours to the Queen which was given consent. This was granted in 1991, when the Queen decided to present the colours herself: an honour which is normally reserved only for those regiments of which she is Colonel in Chief.
Professional Soldiers (order by rank, where known)
Politicians (order by rank, where known)
Others (order by rank, where known)