THE MOBILISATION OF THE ULSTER VOLUNTEER FORCE
Report from The Belfast Evening Telegraph, April 25th, 1914
A GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION.
THE TRANSFER OF THE CARGO.
On Friday afternoon orders were issued to the section officers and squad leaders of the Larne Battalion of the Ulster Volunteer Force calling for a mobilisation in the evening. The officers lost no time in attending to their orders, and the mobilisation, which was on a most extensive scale, was a thorough success. The order was not confined to the Larne Battalion, but embraced the entire East Antrim Regiment, and in no quarter was the response more prompt than in the country districts, where the members of the forces after a heavy day’s toil, turned out almost to a man. The various units assembled at their respective drill-halls and meeting-places, and from thence they marched to the grounds of the Dowager Lady Smiley, Drumalis. The movement, which puzzled the general public and likewise the police, was part of a well-organised scheme for receiving a large cargo of arms and ammunition due to arrive at Larne Harbour. At Drumalis the men were told off into companies, each had their duties allotted to them, and all left Drumalis by different routes, a matter which went a long way towards increasing the embarrassment of the police, who were carefully noting all movements.
An extra strong force was sent to the harbour, and almost simultaneously with their arrival at the quayside, two steamers laden, as they proved to be, with arms and ammunition, glided into the lough, and berthed at the south pier. With lights out, so noiseless was the arrival of the steamers that only the keenest observers were aware of their presence until they were moored.
In a moment a couple of arc lamps threw a bright light over the entire pier, two powerful cranes were soon transferring the cargo from the steamer to motor-cars, and part of the pier which a moment previously had been dark and silent, was now the scene of bustle and excitement. Hundreds of willing workers were soon engaged loading motor-cars, motor-lorries, and even traction engines, to be despatched to all quarters of Ulster.
The steamers, which were piloted into the lough by a third vessel showing all her lights, berthed shortly after nine o’clock, and as it was two o’clock before the last of the motors had been despatched, one would be well within the limit in putting down the number of motors at well over 500. The remainder of the cargo was unshipped and deposited on the quay pending the return of the motor vehicles, and at three o’clock the steamer was cleared and sailed from the harbour amidst the ringing cheers of hundreds of Volunteers for the captain and crew. The second vessel—the cargo of which consisted of ammunition—had left the lough over an hour previously.
The movements of the Volunteers earlier in the evening completely baffled the police, who were without a clue to the meaning of the hurried and strong mobilisation. So well was the scheme organised and carried through that neither the police nor yet the Customs officers could make their way to the harbour. Every means of access thereto was strongly guarded by determined bands of Volunteers, and when the first attempt to break through the line had failed, the police, evidently realising that the odds against them were too great, contented themselves by acting the part of spectators, while cars and lorries laden with “warlike” material darted past at speed.
All roads leading to Larne were lined with Volunteers for many miles, and this would have rendered any attempt on the part of the police to communicate with other centres entirely useless. In addition, telephonic communication was disorganised, and here again it was impossible to communicate with the outside world. Motors having consignments, the destination of which was presumably not very far removed from the town, returned to the harbour again and again, and shortly before four o’clock the last rifle had been removed.