We got off the Aircraft which transported us from Germany to Alder Grove Airport in Belfast Northern Island in mid 1964, It was a pretty dull day, we did not realize that this weather was in fact the Irish Summer! Once we got all of out equipment off loaded we were put on 3 Ton Bedford Trucks with light Macrilon Armor fitted and away we went to the other side of Northern Ireland to Londonderry where all the troubles started in 1690, along time ago!
We arrived at out camp which was a huge military airfield and all of us had the same idea, why were we unloaded in Belfast then trucked the 6 hours here on wooden seats when the plane could have landed here, Who knows, that’s how the Military Does things!
We were given our housing assignments, got settled in and then we discovered that the Cookhouse was 2 miles away near the gates of the camp, there was a truck laid on at the main meal times, if we missed it it was a good run to get fed! This really was of no consequence really as we soon discovered that our working times usually did not fit in with normal meal times! Starting on the first day we were given tasks which usually started about 9 or 10 pm when we got briefed on the task, loaded our gear, ate at the Cookhouse and then went to our work!Most of this was Engineering works if you would call it Engineering, We always had our loaded weapons with us and they really did get in the way! Sometimes we would break into houses used by the bad guys and seal up the windows and doors, sometimes we would deploy speed bumps on roads using Quick Setting Cement which would give the Irish a good surprise as they went zooming down what was a flat road a few hours before! We would Construct Bullet and Blast Proof Buildings Called SANGERS where the troops
on duty would be pretty safe! We must have set out thousands of miles of Barbed Wire all over the area, we were all experts on its uses by the end of the tour of Duty! We demolished lots of walls where Snipers could or had use for cover to attack the Troops! This kind of work went on night after night but we did get breaks where we did other things.
On the Border with the South we had to construct a large Concrete Slab so that Irish Trucks could be unloaded and inspected and reloaded again if all was OK with the load. We also built Concrete Trenches at Border Crossing Points so Irish Vehicles could slowly drive over and a soldier in the trench could inspect the underside of the Vehicle for illegal stuff! The Top Brass did try to mix up our tasks so we did not get too bored! We set out Dragons Teeth to block Border Roads. All the works were interesting but too much of the same made Jack a Dull Boy.
On one occasion, my troop were given a task to repair an unmanned Radio Booster Station on top of a mountain, we were transported by Helicopters, us in one and our gear under-slung under others! We had just 8 hours to complete our tasks before pickup and return to base but unfortunately the weather turned bad and the helicopters could not fly so we were stuck there for a wet and miserable overnight before we were picked up again!
After a few weeks we were given an easy Infantry style post where we had to guard a small village which had been attacked on a festival day and bombs killed about 20 women and children! We stayed at the police post with some really great Police Men or we patrolled the area. Everyone was very friendly and gave us Tea and Snacks and told us if there was anything going to happen. This lasted for only one week before another unit got a rest and we moved off!
We had to go to a Jail up on the Irish Bog, a really bleak place. The Political Prisoners had had a Riot as they did and set fire to a part of their accommodation so we had to go and fix it! We had to have armed Infantry Guard
s here as it seemed that the prisoners did not like us for some reason but we did our job and in a week we were gone!
One job which we did not like was to escort Jimmy Saville, the English Disk Jockey and TV Star and as he turned out, Pedophile on a peace march through one of the most dangerous areas of the City and we were not allowed to be Armed, that was not a good day!
One fun job was when we had to travel over the country side by helicopter, find vehicles on the roads, Swoop Down in the Helicopter, just before it landed we would jump out, stop and inspect the vehicle and if it was clean the driver would go on his on way and we would jump on the helicopter and find another target!
Every Sunday there was a Rugby Match between a team of Engineers and the Infantry. Our team depended on which of us were not working but it was usually a fun day and a good way to unwind but I do not think that we ever won a match!
We actually got a day off and were allowed out of camp in our Civilian clothing and we took a plain Mini Bus up north to a seaside town for the day! There were Girls, Fish and Chips and Beer so what more could one want on a rare day out! That town was bombed some time later and people killed! Parades were quite common there and when they were going on we were all ready in our riot gear to intervene if there were problems!
Now we got moved back near Belfast to a camp in Antrim on a lake side! This was a crazy place as there were Discos in the camp on most nights and local girls had ID Cards allowing them in, several soldiers actually married these girls, good luck to them! We, as usual were night shift so did not get there too often! We had to build SANGERS on the top of multi story buildings and this was scary as we had to use the elevators to transport our stuff to the roof and this really put us in danger of ambush! These jobs we finished in double quick time as every night shots rang out in the area!
We were also the clean up crew after riots where we had to remove burned out vehicles and clear roads but we had
very heavy duty armored plant machines to do this work! We also cleared up after bombs had detonated, I will not try to describe the carnage of such events but to say it was bad would be an understatement!
We were involved in a few Search Operations looking for Explosives and Guns but this was usually a day shift thing so the other units did this! A couple of our lads were quite badly injured when explosives exploded under them but the both survived, one with a couple of bits missing!
Another good job was to repair a Stone Arch Bridge which had collapsed when an armored vehicle went over it. It was in woodland on a nature trail which was very nice. We had an Infantry Patrol covering us and we got to work, nobody really knew how to do the job but with a bit of ingenuity and common sense we managed to fix it!
A short time after this we got our marching orders, packed our gear and were on our way back to Germany where we could Hand In or our Weapons as these had been our sleeping partners 24 / 7 for the whole tour!
In the next article I am posted out of Germany and back to Ripon in England just 30 miles from home. This makes my Mum very Happy but her happiness was short lived!