THE MOBILISATION OF THE ULSTER VOLUNTEER FORCE
Report from The Belfast Evening Telegraph, April 25th, 1914
AN ALL-ULSTER TEST.
NIGHT SCENES IN BELFAST.
MUSGRAVE CHANNEL LINED.
COLLIER AS “MYSTERY SHIP.”
MEN ON DUTY TILL 4-30 A.M.
Belfast knew no sleep last night—a night which will long rank as memorable in the annals of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The great army which represents the strong right arm of the Northern Province in the present dark era of crisis was subjected to a sudden mobilisation test, and nobly and splendidly did all ranks respond to the call.
In Belfast and throughout every county in the province the Volunteers were on duty from eight o’clock in the evening till five o’clock this morning, and although there was no communication to the rank and file as to the why and wherefore of the long vigil which they were called upon to undertake, there was never the hint of a murmur or grumble.
Inconvenience and fatigue were borne without question. The men only knew that their leaders required them and implicitly they obeyed, being content in the knowledge that each was but performing his duty.
Never had there been a movement of similar magnitude in connection with the organisation. The machinery of the U.V.F. was thus put to a supreme test, and the results on every side were such as to afford the most complete satisfaction.
There was an undercurrent of excitement on all sides throughout the day, and as the evening hours approached the atmosphere seemed to become more heavily charged with it. That something stirring was on foot was evident. After seven o’clock suppressed commotion found some outlet, and activity began to manifest itself. In all parts of the city the U.V.F. men were seen to be converging in small groups and individually upon their respective training halls. Some had received notification at their drill on the previous evening to parade at a given hour, but others had a much shorter summons. But the response in all cases was magnificent, and at every point of rendezvous the muster was splendid. The men had an inkling that “an all night business” was on foot, and were instructed to equip themselves with overcoats and rations. Beyond that it was a case of
as far as the rank and file were concerned. They paraded, numbered, formed fours, and marched off, whither bound they knew not, but with the utmost cheerfulness and willingness, and the spirit of enthusiasm which was apparent at the assembly carried them through the long slow hours of night and morning, and when at length the order for dismiss came at 4.30 or 5 o’clock the final cheers that rent the air betokened that the same uncomplaining ardour had not been supplanted—all this notwithstanding the absence of a single word in explanation of what must have seemed most strange and deeply mysterious.
The special turn-out of the Volunteers created quite a lively time in all parts of the city, and Dame Rumour had the time of her life in supplying reasons for the meaning of it all.
Large crowds flocked to the vicinity of the assembly points and awaited the appearance of the various detachments, whose reception on emerging supplied another striking evidence of the great popularity of the force.
Battalion commanders had their orders as to the points to be taken up, and for on hour the city streets resounded to the tramp of the men. The marching and the counter-marching was altogether mysterious to the large section of the populace, and with the Volunteers remaining on duty at their respective posts, and crowds of curious spectators lingering in their vicinity, it seemed as if nobody in Belfast went to sleep last night at all.
The men stood easy for periods; then there were marching and turning movements within a limited area, while the lively good humour that was prevalent was maintained in the chorusing, and whistling of popular music hall ditties.
“THEIRS NOT TO REASON WHY.”
The import of it all, as stated, was concealed, making the fidelity to duty which characterised every man in every battalion, a fact of the highest and most gratifying significance. It was a trying test, but the ordeal proved the discipline of the force to be up to the most rigid military standard.