THE MOBILISATION OF THE ULSTER VOLUNTEER FORCE
Report from The Belfast Evening Telegraph, April 25th, 1914
On Thursday night at 9-20, the commander of the Garvagh Company of the Ulster Volunteer Force received a mobilisation order from Mr. C. E. Stronge, D.L., commander of the 1st Battalion South Derry regiment. Despatch riders were immediately sent out, and practically the last man of the company stood on Parade at the Clifton Memorial Orange Hall at midnight. These remained on duty through the night. The men were equipped with bandoliers, belts and haversacks, hats, great coats, etc. A further order was received at midday for mobilisation on Friday at 8 p.m., when 100 men answered the roll call, and remained on duty throughout the night. The company was under the command of Mr. Matthew Craig, and the men stood the test of the two nights’ vigil without a murmur.
Our Kilkeel correspondent telegraphs—Whilst the infantry were patrolling the outlying districts machine guns, fully equipped, were in positions allotted to them and in touch all the time with the Signalling Corps. Suffice to say the Mourne Volunteers are fully equipped for any emergency. The different companies of the 2nd Battalion were kept fully informed of every movement by the scouts. The different work allotted to the several men was efficiently and thoroughly carried out, and everything passed off successfully.
The local Volunteers, urban and rural, in conjunction with others over the North, were mobilised on Friday night. During the day the men were warned to meet at their respective drilling centres in the evening, and to bring with them at least twelve hours’ rations and their overcoats. From one o’clock to three over a hundred motor cars arrived at the west end entrance to the town. About half of these passed through the town, and the other half journeyed to their destination via Bellarena. From nine o’clock onward batches of Volunteers left for duty in the rural districts as well as the town. At daybreak the motors began to return, all heavily laden with rifles, the most prominent being a motor lorry with a great consignment both of rifles and ammunition. At one time between four and five o’clock twenty loaded motors made a procession through the town, but indeed they were passing and repassing all night, acknowledging the salute of the men on duty at the various centres. About eight o’clock the last cargo passed, and the companies were then withdrawn from outpost duty.
At seven o’clock last night the most intense excitement prevailed in Lisburn, occasioned by the unusual blowing of the horns of the factories in the town and neighbourhood. The inhabitants turned out en masse. The hurrying towards Wallace Avenue of the members of the Volunteers, fully equipped, with the exception of rifles, served only to intensify the alarm, and various rumours were afloat as to the object of the sudden assembling.
It was difficult to extract any information from the officers, who were either deliberately reticent or were as ignorant of the movement in progress as the members of the rank and file, many of whom, being without water-proofs or overcoats were advised by the officers commanding the various companies to go home and procure these, as it was doubtful if they would be able to return home before at least an advanced hour in the morning. By eight o’clock the entire 3rd Battalion of the South Antrim Regiment had mustered, and were ready to move off to their appointed destination. At 8.30 the battalion was complete in every detail, and accompanied by despatch riders. Mr. A. P. Jenkins, commander, was in charge, and at a signal from him a start was made. Inquiries elicited that the men were to be divided into companies, each of which was detailed to certain positions in the district covered by the 1st Battalion of the South Antrim Regiment. Having arrived there, it was understood that pickets would be detached and sent to outposts, with the idea of making a complete chain linked up with Ulster Volunteers.
That an important move was in contemplation was quite evident, but the nature of it did not transpire. Police who watched the gathering of the Volunteers were kept under special observation, to be continued until the close of the operations. Crowds remained on the streets long after the battalion had left the town, discussing the situation, many expressing the determination to remain up to watch any further developments that might happen.
As showing the close secrecy that was observed, when the mill horns began to sound the fire brigades belonging to the concerns in the town, and also the town fire brigade, turned out in the belief that an outbreak had occurred.
In connection with the mobilisation test, considerable activity and much enthusiasm prevailed amongst the members of the Lurgan Unionist force on Friday night, but the utmost secrecy was preserved concerning their movements, only the officers commanding being in possession of the knowledge of the object in hand. From eleven o’clock onwards over 1,000 men mustered at their several headquarters, and after receiving instructions were distributed all along the road from Dollingtown, on the Belfast side of Lurgan, to Seagoe, close to Portadown, a distance of between five and six miles. The men were apparently acting in a continuous line of communication, and remained at their posts until five o’clock this morning. During the night it was observed that close on ninety motor cars, the drivers of which all wore the U.V.F. badge, passed through the town, proceeding in various directions. Shortly after five o’clock the men were disbanded, and returned to their respective homes, apparently none the worse of their long vigil. The officers who had charge of the arrangements were—Major G. W. Greer, officer commanding; Mr. George Fleming, senior field officer; Mr. W. J. Allen, J.P., junior field officer; and Mr. H. C. Malcolm, adjutant.