THE MOBILISATION OF THE ULSTER VOLUNTEER FORCE
Report from The Belfast Evening Telegraph, April 25th, 1914
A very successful mobilisation of a section of the Derry Volunteer Force took place last night in connection with the test operations carried out throughout the province. The men called out were units of the North Ward Command, who, equipped with haversacks, paraded the Quay and marched through certain parts of the city before being dismissed at an early hour of the morning. Sections of the county force in the immediate vicinity of the city also went through various field exercises, including bivouacking. Full details of the movements, however, are not available, the officers in charge maintaining a close secrecy and declining to give any information beyond stating that the operations were carried out with the greatest celerity. Rumours that the movements were intended to cover a gun-running expedition were very prevalent, and there was great police activity during the night.
Dungiven and Feeny Unionist Club mobilised at two drill centres at 8 o’clock, at Knockan, under the command of James Stevenson, J.P., and John Young, solicitor One hundred and ten men turned out, being 96 per cent. of the total on the roll.
Bovevagh Unionist Club, under the command of Rev. Mr. Culbert, and Mr. John E. S. Edwards, also mobilised, to the extent of 94 per cent. of the total strength. The roads were strongly patrolled all night, the men being dismissed about 7-15 a.m.
On Friday evening at eight o’clock the 1st Battalion of the East Down Regiment Ulster Volunteer Force were mobilised under the command of their colonel, Lord Bangor, with Mr. A. J. Ross, J.P., adjutant. The various units, assembled at Downpatrick, Ballygally, Ballybranagh, Crossgar, Inch, Listooder, Derryboye, Oakley, Killinchey and Killyleagh.
There was a splendid response of the officers, men, and despatch riders. The roads in the district were patrolled in all directions, the force remaining on duty throughout the night.
DROMORE, CO. DOWN.
At Dromore, about 150 men turned up on parade at the training quarters, Church Street, Captain Baxter in command, and Lieutenants Joseph Graham, Bruce Hamilton, and Sergeants Jim Graham, Hugh Mullan, and Alex. Gribben also on duty. The men assembled, at very short notice, and each carried blanket, haversack, and a day’s provisions, and arrangements were made for further supplies if required. All marched over Mount Hill and by way of Mossvale to the new Orange Hall, which was utilised as a barracks. The companies there divided into sections, out of which patrols were formed, and these practically took charge of the town during the night.
At Skeogh 80 men, and at Ballygowan 100 men, forming part of the West Down Regiment, also mobilised. Despatch riders on motor and ordinary cycles kept up communication all night with Katesbridge, Banbridge, Gilford, Hillsborough, and other centres, and up till about one a.m., there was a ceaseless run of motor cars through the town. Much of the traffic was challenged by the patrols, but no untoward incident occurred, the persons journeying all evidently being part of the great movement taking place over the province. There was also a system of signalling at work, and ambulance and service corps were in readiness in case of emergency. Lord Clanwilliam, commander of the regiment, visited the barrack about 2 a.m., and conferred with his subordinate officers, and subsequently the patrols were doubled in strength. The magnificent response of the men to the call of duty is highly praised, as the great majority of the Volunteers in the district belong to the working classes and were obliged to go straight from their day’s toil to the parade ground. A check was taken of the men prior to dismissal at 5-30 a.m., and every man was accounted for.
Dungannon battalion, in obedience to orders, took part in a test mobilisation in Ulster. All the five Tyrone battalions were mobilised between eleven and twelve o’clock on Friday night. Only one hour’s notice was given to the section commanders of the Dungannon battalion, and although the figures are not yet available regarding the numbers on parade, it was computed that at least 80 per cent. of the men were on duty. Picket and patrol practices were carried out throughout the area of the battalion, and the men were not dismissed until after daylight. It was most noticeable with what spirit the men carried out their long and arduous duties, and the manner in which the battalions of the counties of Tyrone and Armagh worked together in carrying out combined movements in connection with the mobilisation. All the Tyrone Volunteer Force motors were called out, and successfully completed a long reliability trial, accompanied by members of the despatch-riding corps. So quickly and quietly were the various movements carried out, the majority of the townspeople in Dungannon were totally unaware of anything unusual transpiring.