The Mobilisation of the Ulster Volunteer Force
Report from The Belfast Evening Telegraph, April 25th, 1914
WITH NORTH BELFAST.
NIGHT IN RAILWAY STATION.
BIVOUACKING ON THE PLATFORM.
The response of the North Belfast Regiments to the mobilisation order was exceedingly good, and although the men were on duty from 9 p.m. until 4-30 a.m. to-day, there was not the slightest grumble. They were totally unaware of what was in the wind, the secret of Larne having been well kept, but in view of what happened there the object is now clear. It was known, of course, that the Volunteers were to be mobilised, and between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. there was great activity in the streets companies and men marching to their headquarters. A couple of battalions mustered at the usual rendezvous at Fortwilliam Park, while the other four battalions comprising the regiment assembled at various points In accordance with instructions, each man had his overcoat, as they were told they might be required all night.
There was nothing very unusual in the streets after the muster, the men being kept indoors, but at eleven o’clock the few people in York Street were astounded to see a strong battalion march out of Donegall Street at a quick pace. There were over 1,000 men, and as company after company swung past, the men whistling gaily, there was much speculation as to where they were bound for. The night police stared at them, but truth to tell the Volunteers were in the dark as to their destination except the commanding officer.
On reaching the Midland Railway terminus the men marched boldly in by the side enrance to No. 1 main line departure platform, where everything was in readiness for them. It had been arranged that 600 men would remain in the station during the night, and when this number had taken up positions on the platform the remainder of the force outside was sent on to other places in case their services would be required.
“Where are we going?” was the question of the moment, but it was soon whispered abroad that there was no railway journey in front of them.
After the departure of the last ordinary train the gates were closed on the ordinary course of traffic, and pickets were posted. Outside the main entrance a few policemen peered in, but there was nothing to be seen. At the far end of the platform tea was being prepared, and was served out to each man. The men made themselves comfortable, and remained in the station until about 4 a.m. when they were dismissed. There was no attempt to move police or troops to Larne during the night.
The men in Fortwilliam Park were provided with refreshments during the night, and at 4-30 a.m. were allowed home, the commanding officer informing them that the scheme had been completely carried out. He thanked them for their splendid turnout.
The men were very keen, and were prepared for twenty-four hours’ duty, many of them having brought rations.
SOUTH AND WEST REGIMENTS.
The South Belfast Regiment, comprising six battalions, and the West Regiment, of four battalions, were on duty until 4.30 this morning, when on receipt of orders they were dismissed, the operations at Larne, Bangor, and Donaghadee having been entirely successful. Most of the men remained in the drill halls, but others were on duty in the streets in small batches. Ample catering arrangements had been made in the halls, and the time of waiting did not seem long. The men were in splendid form, very keen to know what was on, and delighted to learn before dismissal that everything had gone off well.
GOOD WORK BY SIGNALLING CORPS.
Splendid service was rendered during the operations by the Ulster Despatch Riders and Signalling Corps, the entire of which was mobilised, except the Cavan and Fermanagh sections. They were charged with the duty of establishing communication throughout the province, and especially between Larne and Belfast. The signalling between these points was carried out via Whitehead and Orlock, and was so expeditiously performed that messages were sent through by flash lamp in ten minutes.
Headquarters at Belfast were kept fully informed, and when the work was completed intimation was sent on, and the Volunteers all over the city were dismissed at 4-30 a.m. The despatch riders were in the saddle all night, and covered a vast amount of ground, while the artificers corps did very useful work in another direction.