THE MOBILISATION OF THE ULSTER VOLUNTEER FORCE
Report from The Belfast Evening Telegraph, April 25th, 1914
A mobilisation of the 1st Battalion South Down Regiment, U.V.F., of which Dr. Magill, jun., is commander, took place on Friday night. The battalion consists of eight companies—Annalong, Annsborough, Ballymartin, Briansport and Maghera, Dundrum, Newcastle, Clough and Seaford, and Tyrella, representing upwards of 1,000 men.
The mobilisation was for the purpose of testing the efficiency of the battalion. The order for mobilisation was given in the afternoon, and shortly before eight o’clock every member of the different units had assembled at the respective halls. The different companies were in communication with each other during the night by means of signals, and had concentration been necessary, this could have been effected within a very short space of time. The battalion is thoroughly well equipped, and ready for all emergencies.
A, B, C, and D companies of the 2nd Battalion North Down Regiment, forming the Newtownards contingent, were mobilised last night. Secret orders arrived about six o’clock for the Volunteers to be in readiness for duty. A splendid response was made to the unexpected call, and at 9-30 over 400 men had responded. At ten o’clock, under Company Commanders M. H. Walker, James Blow, W. H. Wright, and W. H. Webb, the men left Castle Gardens and marched by a devious route to Donaghadee, where they arrived before midnight. Here they took up duty with the other companies in securing the approaches to the harbour, and remained on duty until the arms and ammunition were discharged and loaded on the motor cars, lorries, and farm carts. The vessel conveying the stores did not arrive until 6 o’clock, but the men did not complain of their long vigil. After the arms had been landed and sent on to the various destinations the majority of the men returned home, the remainder marching as escorts to the carts conveying the rifles, &c, to Newtownards. The gun-running was most successfully accomplished. The owners of motor cars in Newtownards lent their vehicles for the purpose of quickly transferring the rifles and ammunition to their intended destinations.
The mobilisation of the Tyrone Regiment took place on Friday night, when almost every available man turned out. The second battalion fell in at nine o’clock, bringing with them provisions to last twenty-four hours, and all companies throughout the county were kept in constant touch with each other by means of visits from pickets. The organisation was so complete that every company was able to send messages, either verbally or written, in whatever direction required, by means of cyclist scouts. The Volunteers remained on duty till the morning had well advanced. During the night hundreds of heavy motors passed through the county, and all the leading roads were traversed by despatch-riders on motor bicycles. The utmost excitement prevailed towards morning, but the utmost secrecy was observed as to the object of the all-night mobilisation. So far as can be ascertained, the police authorities remained in the barracks, and beyond the usual early evening patrols none were met with during the night.
There was a partial mobilisation of the Portadown Volunteer Force on Friday night, the movements of the members, which took place at an advanced hour, being carried out with great secrecy. When the men had assembled strong pickets were told off for duty at certain points.
Shortly after four o’clock this morning, between one and two hundred motor cars passed through the town. They came from the direction of Belfast, and were heavily ladened with rifles. With the object of not alarming the residents the cars drove through the town at a very slow pace, but notwithstanding this precaution many of the residents in the Edenderry district were annoyed by the noise, and saw the unusual sight through their bedroom windows. A section of despatch riders accompanied the cars. It is computed that over 10,000 rifles were deposited in various centres in the district.