User:The Thunderer/Ulster Defence Regiment

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Ulster Defence Regiment CGC
Regimental Badge
Active 1970-1992
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Militia
Role Internal Security
Size 11 battalions (at peak)
Motto(s) Quis separabit (Latin Who will separate us)
March (Quick) Garryowen & Sprig of Shillelagh. (Slow) Oft In The Stilly Night

The Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was an infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1970 to replace the Ulster Special Constabulary in assisting with security duties within Northern Ireland.[1] It was the largest regiment in the British Army, formed with seven battalions initially and an extra four added within two years.[2] The regiment consisted overwhelmingly of part-time volunteers until 1976 when a full time cadre was added. Recruiting from the local community at a time of intercommunal strife, it was accused of sectarian attitudes and collusion with loyalist paramilitary organisations through most of its term.[3] Even though intended to be non-partisan, and beginning with up to 18% Catholic recruits, as well as IRA attacks on Catholic UDR soldiers.[4] resulted in the Catholic membership declining, with only 3% being Catholic when it amalgamated in 1992 with the Royal Irish Rangers, forming the Royal Irish Regiment. In 2007 the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross was awarded to the regiment for its service during Operation BANNER,[5] and the regiment is now granted the use of the post nominal letters CGC as part of its name (The Ulster Defence Regiment CGC).


The regiment was formed in 1970 after recommendations from the Hunt Report (1969),[6] which suggested replacing the part time "B Special" police force who were regarded by Catholics as the strong arm of the "Protestant ascendancy",[7] with a force that would be "impartial in every sense and remove the responsibility of military style operations from the police force."[6] The first regimental commander was Brigadier Logan Scott-Bowden.[8] According to the Belfast Telegraph the first two soldiers reported as signing up were a 19-year-old Catholic, James McAree and a 47-year-old Protestant, Albert Richmond.[9]

Seven battalions were initially raised, making it the largest infantry regiment in the British Army. Two years later, four more battalions were added, taking the total to eleven. Until 1976 the full-time cadre consisted only of a conrate (so called because they had a "consolidated rate of pay")[10][11] whose duties consisted of guarding UDR bases and carrying out administrative tasks. It was then decided to expand the role of the regiment by raising full-time platoons to perform duties on a twenty-four hour basis. The first of these was raised at 2 UDR under the command of a sergeant. By the end of the 1970s the full-time cadre had been raised to sixteen platoons. As these "Operations Platoons" were expanded to company strength, eventually the conrate role was phased out with full-time UDR soldiers undertaking their own guard duties and administration. The regiment was reduced to nine battalions in 1984, then to seven in 1991, at which point Tom King, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that, as part of the restructuring of the armed forces, the regiment would merge with the Royal Irish Rangers to form the Royal Irish Regiment. On 1 July 1992 the merger was officially complete. On 1 August 2007 the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, the second-highest British military honour, was awarded to the regiment for its service during Operation Banner.[12]

The UDR was presented to the entire community of Northern Ireland as a replacement for the paramilitary police reserve, the Ulster Special Constabulary, known as the B Specials, an almost-exclusively Protestant force, regarded as biased against the local Catholic community.[13][14] With the Catholic population of Northern Ireland standing at just under a third of the total in 1969[15] it was hoped that the recruitment figures for the regiment would reflect those numbers. Unlike the Special Constabulary which came under the control of the Stormont administration in Belfast, the new regiment would be under the direct command of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.[16] Beginning with up to 18% Catholic recruits, the vast majority who were former members of other British Army regiments, this rapidly declined, with only 3% being Catholic when it amalgamated in 1992 with the Royal Irish Rangers.[17] Like its predecessor the B Specials it failed to attract more than a small precentage of Catholics, due to IRA threats. Internment without trial would also alienated the vast majority of Catholics[18] and increased intimidation against them from within their own community.[19][10]

To date it is the only unit in the history of the British Army to have been on operational deployment for its entire history, from the moment it was created until it was amalgamated with the Royal Irish Rangers in 1992.[20]

The regiment was described in 1972 as:

Organised into 11 Battalions and 59 companies: there are two battalions in Belfast and the remainder cover county or sub-county areas. Seven of the eleven Battalions are commanded by Regular Commanding Officers. In addition the Training Majors, Quartermaster, Regimental Sergeant Majors, Chief Clerks, and Signaller NCOs are also Regulars. There are a number of 'Conrate' (full time UDR) posts in each unit, including Adjutants, Permanent Staff Instructors, Security Guards, etc. Many of the officer and senior rank Conrates are ex-Regulars. The remainder are part-timers. Their main tasks are guarding key points, patrolling, and surveillance, and manning Vehicle Check Points. They do not operate in the 'hard' areas of Belfast, and are not permitted to become involved in crowd confrontations anywhere. Men are armed with self-loading rifles or sub-machine guns. The current strength of the Regiment is 7910.[21]

  • The UDR Advisory Council

Throughout the existence of the regiment, policy was decided in conjunction with a six-man committee (three Protestant and three Catholic) chaired by the Colonel Commandant. They were: To advise the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, on general policy for the administration of the Ulster Defence Regiment, in particular on recruitment policy; and on such specific matters as the G.O.C. might refer to the Council.[22]


The Regiment is seen as unique in the modern army because:

  • It was the first to be raised as a paid citizens' army.
  • It was the first British Army unit to incorporate women into its regimental structure.
  • It was the first to serve only its own locality.
  • It was the first British Army regiment to have a dedicated "Aftercare" service.


Original application form to join the UDR.

Applications were available for males aged between 18 and 55. Joining forms were available to the public from 1st January 1970 from police stations, public libraries, post offices and Army Careers Offices. The initial enrolement period was a three year contract. Candidiates would be vetted at Army Headquartes in Lisburn. There was no automatic right of transfer for USC candidates, something stressed by Denis Healey in parliament. [23] There was however intense anger and strong political controversy raged when it was discovered that the USC Commandant, Lt Col Stephen Miskimmon had, in his final letter to each individual member of the force, enclosed an application form to be completed if the individual concerned wished to join the RUC Reserve or Ulster Defence Regiment. The Ministry of Defence issued a statement which said that Miskimmon's forms were to be ignored and only the official forms accepted as applications. They further stated that any future letters of such a nature must be cleared with MOD. [24] This was however the first of a number of errors which diluted Catholic confidence in the integrity of the new force.

By the end of March 1970 the number of accepted reruits was 2,440 including 1,423 ex B Specials and 946 Catholics. Effectively this mean that only 71 Protestants who had not been B Specials had applied for and been accepted. The breakdown for each area was:

Battalion Applications Accepted USC Accepted
Antrim (1 UDR) 575 221 220 93
Armagh (2 UDR) 615 370 402 277
Down (3 UDR) 460 229 195 116
Fermanagh (4 UDR) 471 223 386 193
Londonderry (5 UDR) 671 382 338 219
Tyrone (6 UDR) 1187 637 813 419
Belfast (7 UDR) 797 378 70 36

  • About 57,000 people served in the UDR and Royal Irish Regiment over their combined history 1970 to 2006.[25] This equates to perhaps 30,000 to 35,000 people who enlisted into the UDR over their operational period of 1970 to 1992, although the regimental history gives the number as 40,000. Although these numbers may seem high it was only a small percentage of the male population of Northern Ireland who ever served with the Ulster Defence Regiment. Understandably it was a job with many risks associated with it which were not outweighed by a high wage or good working conditions. In 1972 Brigadier Ormerod complained that only 2.7% of eligible males had joined the regiment.[26] In 1981 Brigadier Ritchie noted that only 6% of eligible Protestant males were serving.

The Role of ex-B-Specials in the UDR and the effect on Catholic recruitment[edit]

The regiment was condemned before its formation in the House of Commons in Westminster by Bernadette Devlin whose comments on the UDR White Paper were:
Do you really expect me or any other member or anybody in Northern Ireland to accept one solitary word of the whitewash and eyewash you have produced? Can you give me one concrete statement that it [the UDR] is not the USC under the guise of the British Army?[27]

The Belfast Telegraph disagreed. In editorials several days apart its pages declared: In no sense can the new Regiment be regarded like the old USC, as a vigilante force and a law unto itself. Inevitably the members of the new force will be provided by present B Specials and just as inevitably it is already being smeared in some quarters as simply the old force in new uniform. Every effort must be made to ensure that this is not so. No-one must be able to put a denominational tag on the UDR and if one of the senior officers in the force happened to be a Roman Catholic, so much the better... The establishment of this new force should be regarded as a turning point in the life of the community.
Several days later:
The civil rights protest was for equal rights for all. With these rights go obligations, and we would appeal to all Catholics who want to demonstrate their full citizenship to respond to Mr Hume's appeal. If they do not they will fall into the trap which will prove to some people that there are responsibilities which Catholics are not prepared to shoulder.[27]

In the event the response from the USC was mixed. Some felt betrayed and resigned immediately, others grasped the new opportunity and made application to join the UDR as soon as forms were available. There was another option open to the men of the USC, to join the newly-formed RUC Reserve and many did so, especially in Belfast where it has been noted that the Specials had received more training as, and were more akin with, policemen, whereas the border districts had operated in a more military fashion. In Belfast, during the first month of recruiting only 36 Specials applied to join the UDR compared to a national average of 29% - 2,424, one thousand of whom were rejected, mainly on the grounds of age and fitness. Around 75% of the men of the Tyrone Specials did apply and as a result the 6th Battalion started life as the only battalion more or less up to strength and remained so during its history. The border counties in general followed this pattern. It also meant that former USC members had domination of these battalions. The story was different for Belfast, Londonderry, Down and Antrim where the figures were markedly more balanced with a high proportion of Catholic recruits. The results at 3 UDR were best in this respect. The battalion commenced duty with 30% of its numbers as Catholic.[28]

By 1st April 1970 only 1,606 of the desired 4,000 men had been enlisted and the regiment began its duties much under strength. Without the former B Specials these figures would have been far worse and it is unlikely that the new force would have ever got off the ground.[29] Unfortunately for the Ulster Defence Regiment what gave it the strength to operate in its infancy would also leave it wide open to criticism for many years.

Subsequent Catholic recruitment[edit]

The British Government, the Ministry of Defence, the UDR Advisory Committee, successive Regimental Commanders (with exceptions) and the battalions themselves failed properly to address the issue of low Catholic recruitment numbers. Despite the general non-sectarian approach of the regiment, unless the numbers of recruits from both communities reflected the demographics of Northern Ireland it would never become the model which Lord Hunt intended it to be. Whilst Catholics continued to join the regiment the numbers were never sufficiently high to bring the percentage up to 30% except in 3(Co Down)UDR. Unionist politicians compounded this error by complaining that Catholics got preferential treatment for promotion in 3 UDR.

The Provisional IRA's policy of singling out UDR soldiers for targets, and Catholics in particular, also served as a deadly deterrent for those who lived in vulnerable areas. The first Catholic soldier to be killed for being in the UDR was 32-year-old part-time Private Sean Russell of 7 UDR who was shot dead in 1970, in front of his wife and children, by a gunman who burst into his home in the predominantly Catholic area of New Barnsley, Belfast.[30] The last was part-time Private William Megrath of 11 UDR who was shot dead in July 1987 as he drove through the Twinbrook area of west Belfast on his return home from his civilian job.[31] The worst period was in the fourteen months following Internment when seven Catholic soldiers were killed by the IRA. In that period they numbered 7% of the regimental strength but in terms of the numbers of UDR soldiers killed by the IRA the percentage was 28%.[32]

As a result of IRA pressure and disillusionment with the government's attitude towards the minority community over internment, 25% of Catholics in the regiment resigned in 1971, 50% of those in the months following Internment. The Belfast Telegraph's comments were:

The Regiment attempted to halt the exodus of Catholics in a number of ways including allowing battalion commanders to appear on television (normally not permitted for the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at that time), appeals to religious and political leaders and the implementation of extra personal security measures. Although the Ministry of Defence never admitted to any intent on the matter it was noted that when Brigadier Scott-Bowden's term as Commander UDR finished in 1972 his successor was Brigadier Denis Ormerod, a Catholic whose mother's family came from the Republic of Ireland. His second-in-command (Deputy Commander UDR) Colonel Kevin Hill was also Catholic, as was his successor Colonel Paddy Ryan whose father lived in Donaghadee, Co Down. Ormerod admitted that his religion and appointment as the senior Catholic army officer in Northern Ireland helped him considerably in his rapport with Catholic religious leaders. Conversely these appointments also created unease with Protestants and the new Commander UDR was visited by a number of concerned politicians including, notably, Ian Paisley.[34]


The primary function of the regiment was to assist the police by guarding key installations and providing patrols and vehicle checkpoints on public roads to hamper the activities of terrorist groups. The regiment was not permitted to engage in "crowd control" situations. Due to the fear of pitting neighbour against neighbour. This became more acute as Catholic numbers dwindled in the regiment as the use of the then predominantly Protestant force against Catholic rioters would have been singularly provocative. Additionally the regiment was forbidden from patrolling "hard-line Catholic" urban areas such as the Bogside in Derry or parts of West Belfast.[35]

As the force was initially predominantly part-time the presence of its members was mostly felt during evenings and weekends. It was expected to answer to general call-out and was indeed mobilised on a permanent basis on several occasions such as Operation Motorman[36] to provide manpower assistance to the police or Army. Or, as in the bombing campaign against Belfast City centre in January 1992, when three battalions were called to full-time active duties.[37] Full-time call outs were restricted, however, because problems arose with part-time soldiers when they were taken from their normal day jobs, as in the Ulster Workers' Council Strike in 1974 when the entire regiment was mobilised full-time for five days. Many employers complained to local and provincial UDR commanders about being deprived of the services of their employees for so long and in some cases refused to pay wages. Despite negotiations with the Northern Ireland Office no compensation package for part-time soldiers was ever agreed and on call-out they were reduced to the pay of a regular Army soldier of equivalent rank.[38]

As the regiment evolved into a predominantly full-time unit it assumed more duties previously assigned to the police or Army in support of Operation Banner. By 1980, the full-time element had become the majority and the regiment's role had expanded to include tactical responsibility for 85% of Northern Ireland supporting the Royal Ulster Constabulary.[36]

Because UDR soldiers lived within their own communities and not in barracks they were able to provide valuable intelligence to the Army, particularly from the part-time soldiers whose day jobs often took them into places which were hostile to police or Army patrols. Unfortunately, this also made many soldiers vulnerable to attack and the figures bear this out: 155 of all UDR personnel murdered by the IRA were killed off duty. A further 47 after leaving the regiment.[39]

At vehicle checkpoints, patrols would use the Vengeful system to check the registration numbers of civilian vehicles and record the movements of these and their occupants.

A major advantage of the large numbers available to the UDR in each battalion area was the ability to seal off entire towns or rural areas through vehicle checkpoints, therefore preventing the movement of weapons and explosives. This led to the discovery of many weapons and (in particular) bombs which had been intended for use in the destruction of property in town centres. In the aftermath of paramilitary actions escape routes could be rapidly cut off by mobile or helicopter patrols.

Operations involving the UDR[edit]

Main article Ulster Defence Regiment Operations


By March 1970, when deputy Minister of Defence Roy Hattersley answered questions in the House of Commons, there had been 4,791 applications to join, of which 946 were from Catholics and 2,424 from current or former members of the B-Specials. 2,440 had been accepted, including 1,423 from current or former B-Specials.[40]

Initially, seven battalions were raised, immediately making it the largest regiment in the British Army. Within two years, a further four battalions were added, taking the total to eleven. To begin with, the regiment consisted entirely of part-time volunteers, before a full time cadre was added in 1976.

The full-time element of the regiment eventually expanded to encompass more than half the total personnel. The UDR was also the first infantry regiment in the British Army to fully integrate women into its structure, when Greenfinches (so-called because of the code-name used to identify them by radio[41] took over clerical and signals duties, which allowed male members of the regiment to return to patrol duties. Greenfinches also accompanied many patrols so that female suspects could be searched.[36][42]

By 1990 the regiment had stabilised its numbers at 3,000 part-time and 3,000 full-time soldiers, with 140 attached regular army personnel in key command and training positions.[43] The standard of training of the permanent cadre soldiers by this time was so high that they were used in much the same way as regular soldiers and it was not uncommon for regular army units to then come under local command and control of a UDR Battalion Headquarters.[37]

Battalions and locations[edit]

There were many UDR bases throughout Northern Ireland. Some were Regimental locations, Battalion locations, Company locations or Platoon locations.

Name Between Bases
Headquarters 1970-1992 Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn
1st (County Antrim) Battalion 1970-1984 Ballymena; Larne
1st/9th (County Antrim) Battalion 1984-1992
2nd (County Armagh) Battalion 1970-1991 Drumadd Barracks, Armagh (replaced Gough Barracks which was taken over by the RUC); Loughall UDR Barracks; Glenane Barracks (destroyed in an IRA attack); Newtownhamilton RUC Station
2nd/11th (Craigavon) Battalion 1991-1992
3rd (County Down) Battalion 1970-1992 Ballykinlar; The Abbey, Kilkeel; Rathfriland UDR Barracks; Newry
4th (County Fermanagh) Battalion 1970-1991 Grosvenor Barracks, Enniskillen; Lisnaskea; Monea; St Angelo; Fintona
4th/6th (County Fermanagh and County Tyrone) Battalion 1991-1992
5th (County Londonderry) Battalion 1970-1992 Ballykelly; Londonderry; Strabane, Magherafelt, Coleraine
6th (County Tyrone) Battalion 1970-1991 St Lucia Barracks, Omagh; The Deanery, Clogher; Pomeroy; Caledon RUC Station; Aughnacloy; Castlederg
7th (City of Belfast) Battalion 1970-1984
7th/10th (City of Belfast) Battalion 1984-1992 Palace Barracks, Holywood; Grand Central Hotel, Royal Avenue, Belfast, Newtownards, Ladas Drive, Belfast
8th (County Tyrone) Battalion 1971-1992 Killymeal House, Dungannon; Cookstown UDR Barracks
9th (Country Antrim) Battalion 1972-1984 Steeple Hill, Antrim; Lisburn; Carrickfergus
10th (City of Belfast) Battalion 1972-1984 Malone Road, Belfast; Carryduff
11th (Craigavon) Battalion 1972-1991 Mahon Barracks, Portadown; Kitchen Hill Barracks, Lurgan; Scarva Road Barracks, Banbridge
The Destroyed Barracks at Glenanne
The joint UDR/RUC base at Fintona after a mortar attack

The normal means of dispersing UDR soldiers into their areas of responsibility was to provide a sub-barracks which would hold an entire company or perhaps just a platoon of men. Battalion Headquarters would be located in a major town (usually the county town but not always as some counties had two Battalions). Guarded by permanent cadre soldiers these barracks would become doubly active after 6 p.m. as part-time soldiers arrived for evening duties. After Ulsterisation began in 1976 many Battalion HQ's eventually had full-sized permanent cadre companies attached and these would maintain a 24 hour presence in the Battalion's area of responsibility on a twenty-four hour basis. In each battalion area, sub headquarter units would maintain direct contact with their own men and Battalion HQ by radio. In many cases the radios were operated by Greenfinches whose husbands were out on patrol. This did lead to some very tense moments when mobile units or foot patrols came under attack and submitted a "contact report" (contact with the enemy) by radio.[38][44]

An example of this structure can be seen in the make-up of 2 UDR based at Drummad Barracks in Armagh:

Company Part/Full-time Base Hours of duty Number on duty
HQ Coy Mixed Armagh, Command, Control & Admin Admin 9-5, Watchkeepers 24 hr 9-5 = 15, 24hr = 5
A Coy Full time Armagh 24 35
B Coy Part time Armagh/Newtownhamilton/Caledon 7pm - 2am 35
C Coy Part time Glenanne 7pm - 2am 35
D Coy Part time Loughgall 7pm - 2am 35

Annual training camps[edit]

Part-time UDR soldiers were required to attend an annual camp for a seven-day period, usually somewhere in the United Kingdom e.g.:

Rates of pay[edit]


Rank Pay
Unmarried Private 1st Class with less than 6 years experience £2. 19 shillings
Corporal £3. 3 shillings
Sergeant £3. 12 shillings
Captain £5. 6 shillings
Major £7. 2 shillings


Uniform, armament & equipment[edit]

No4 Lee Enfield Rifle
An SLR rifle similar to those used by the Ulster Defence Regiment
The Enfield SA80
Lynx helicopter similar to those used by the UDR
Carl Gustav grenade launcher as used by UDR boat sections.
Walther P5
  • Uniform. On operational duty male members of the regiment dressed in a similar fashion to regular army units. Camouflage jackets were worn and headgear was a distinctive green beret with a gold coloured "Maid of Erin" style harp, surmounted by the Royal crown (in later years this was dulled down by blackening). Female "Greenfinch" members wore rifle green skirts and jackets with the UDR beret and cap badge. For ceremonial occasions the men wore the standard British Army No.2 Dress uniform (also called Service Dress). The female "best dress" was exactly the same as their patrol uniform. The beret was retained as headgear. (The badge was a direct copy of the Royal Ulster Rifles cap badge with the motto removed from its base). On the formation of Operations Platoons, narrow coloured slides were adopted and worn on the shoulder straps in battalion colours which indicated these were full time soldiers to the trained eye. These were dispensed with as the Operations Platoons were merged into full time rifle companies. Rank was the same as the conventional ranks for infantry NCO's and officers and the insignia was worn in the same fashion.
  • Armaments. The most familiar weapon associated with the regiment was the standard issue L1A1 Self Loading Rifle, referred to as the "SLR". Other weaponry was available however such as; the 9 mm Browning pistol, the Sterling sub machine gun, the L4A4 Light Machine Gun and the L7A2 General Purpose Machine Gun. Small stocks of Riot Guns were also kept. These were used to fire plastic bullets to knock down doors and other obstacles during search operations. A small number of Carl Gustav 84 mm grenade launchers were also kept but rarely deployed as the weapon was unsuited to most operations. (see Boat Sections below). The regiment later exchanged its SLRs (as did all infantry units in the army) for the SA80. For personal protection off duty most members were issued with a Walther PPK but Major Ken Maginnis acquired permission for UDR soldiers to purchase Browning 9&nnsp;mm pistols at £200 each. These were deemed to be more effective. In the late 1980s the PPK was replaced by the Walther P5 which was considered a more practical weapon because of its size and ballistic capabilities. Where a soldier was considered to be at high risk he would be permitted to hold his rifle at home in addition to his personal protection handgun. This policy was known as "weapons out" and was reduced by 75% when the more modern SLR replaced the No4 Lee Enfield in 1973 due to the high number of rifles stolen at gunpoint by paramilitaries. Most of the stolen weapons were taken by Loyalist gangs but a number of soldiers lost their lives when confronted by IRA terrorists who had entered their homes by force to steal rifles. The "weapons out" policy was eventually discontinued on the introduction of the SA80 rifle in 1986/7.[46]
  • Transport. The standard patrol vehicle was the 3/4 ton Land Rover used extensively throughout the British armed forces. Following withdrawal from police service a number of Shorland armoured cars were allocated to the regiment but these were rarely used after initial service because the turret was designed to hold a General Purpose Machine Gun which was deemed unsuitable for urban use due to its rapid rate of fire and tendency to be inaccurate. The Shorland was not popular with soldiers who used it due to its instability on the road because of the heavy turret although some battalions continued to use them into the 1980s in border areas because of the increased protection the plate armour gave over the Makrolon[47] polycarbonate armour fitted to Land Rovers. Three-ton and four-ton Bedford trucks were used for large troop movements. A range of unmarked civilian cars and vans was also used for staff, administration and covert activities.
  • The Ulster Defence Regiment was also deployed by helicopters supplied by either the Royal Air Force or Army Air Corps for rapid insertion or for duties in border areas where it was unsafe or unwise to use wheeled transport.
  • Equipment
Fast Boats. Several battalions were supplied with rigid Dory craft for patrolling waterways shared with the Republic of Ireland in an attempt to prevent gun running across these narrow channels (such as Carlingford Lough). Assisted by land based radar, these fast boats were armed with General Purpose Machine Guns and carried a Carl Gustav 84mm anti tank weapon in addition to the rifles and sub-machine guns normally carried by soldiers. After a report submitted by 3 UDR in 1972 HQ Northern Ireland requested a navy patrol vessel to be permanently stationed in the centre of Carlingford Lough[48] to assist with suppression of gun-running. This suggestion was adopted and to the end of the security situation a small warship was on station off the coast off the Warrenpoint/Rostrevor shoreline. This intervention was called Operation Grenada.[49] Gun-running across these coastal estuaries ceased as a result.[50][51]
Dogs. Search dogs were originally provided by the regular army but eventually a UDR dog section was formed to provide more immediate assistance in search operations.
Information cards. All members of the British Armed Forces, including the UDR, carried a number of small information cards to assist in the execution of their duties in Northern Ireland. These were generally referred to by their colour.
The Yellow Card was a list of the rules for opening fire.[52][53]
The Blue Card was a detailed explanation of how arrests were to be made.
The White Card was to be given to next of kin or other appropriate person in the event of an arrest of a suspect.
The Green Card carried instructions on how to deal with accidental cross-border incursion into the Irish Republic and subsequent arrest by Irish security forces.
The Red Card contained instructions on how to summon helicopter support and the drills for entering and leaving helicopters.
The Yellow Card was seen as particularly important and all soldiers were taught to be entirely familiar with its content as it contained specific instructions to be followed when opening fire on a suspected enemy. Warnings were to be issued to allow suspects to surrender. Soldiers could only without warning when: if there is no other way to protect themselves or those whom it is their duty to protect from the danger of being killed or seriously injured.[54]

The Greenfinches[edit]

In the early days of the regiment female members of the Royal Military Police accompanied patrols when available to enable female suspects to be searched. There were never enough of these RMP searchers so in 1973 an act was passed in Parliament to recruit women into the regiment for this purpose. On 16th August 1973 a regular army officer from the Women's Royal Army Corps, Major Eileen Tye, took up the post of "Commander Women" at HQUDR. By September 352 had been enrolled and the first enlistments were carried out at 2 UDR's HQ in Armagh on the 16th.

Uniforms were a problem as the only available clothing was mostly ATS surplus from WW2 but this was resolved in time although many women were unhappy with the semi-formal skirts and knee length boots which had to be worn in all weathers. The women soldiers also wore a silk cravat in their battalion colour.

WO2 Brooker from the WRAC was assigned to train the women in a one week course consisting of drill, army organisation, map reading, searching of women and vehicles, radio procedure and basic first aid.

The first recruits were largely from the executive professional classes which was noted to be unusual because it was the males from those social types who were most reluctant to join the UDR. Some were wives of serving UDR soldiers and others were married to soldiers on long-term (accompanied) posting to Northern Ireland.

The country and border battalions welcomed the use of women as they knew they were an essential in the searching of women suspects but the city based battalions were slower to see the advantages and to some extent resented the presence of the women soldiers. In the short-term however all battalions came to appreciate the value of having women with patrols. Through time the role of women was expanded as it was realised that their higher pitched voices were more suited to radio transmission than men. They were tasked to relieve RMP women at the city centre segment gates in Belfast and soon learned how to accept abuse from the public and how to avoid traps which could be set for them when searching other women; i.e. razor blades placed in pockets. It was noted that women had less problems with the male public who seemed more amenable when questioned by women. Some women were trained in the use of "Sea Watch" radar to assist seaborne patrols from those battalions which had fast boats.

Initially a part time female officer was appointed in each battalion to supervise the women soldiers but through time the women came under command of the OC of the company they were assigned to. In later years some women became battalion adjutants and company commanders and some were attached to brigade staffs throughout the Province.

Accomodation for changing and toilet facilities was another problem faced early on and it took several years for the all male environments of UDR bases to adapt their infrastructure to suit female needs.

The recruitment of women soldiers peaked in 1986 with 286 permanent cadre and 530 part timers but the establishment never dropped below 700 from 1978 onwards.

Women were never armed on duty, although some were permitted to be issued (or purchased) personal protection pistols if they were considered to be at high risk. They were however trained in the use of weapons and HQUDR ran a women's .22 shooting competition. Although women in the British Army carry weapons now this change did not happen until after the UDR was merged with the Royal Irish Rangers in 1992.

The same issues which affected other servicewomen also affected UDR Greenfinches. Draconian rules regarding pregnancy, marriage and pay. Early recruits with children had to provide a signed certificate stating that their children were properly supervised whilst they were on duty.

The name Greenfinch applied to the women's UDR comes from the system of radio "appointment titles" used by the army to identify certain people or branches of the service. For example; bomb disposal officers were referred to as "Felix", infantry as "Foxhound". New titles were introduced when the UDR was established and soldiers in the regiment were identified as "Greentop". When women were introduced the appointment title "Greenfinch" was assigned to them and became their working nickname. It is still applied today to women in the Royal Irish Regiment.

The integration of women into the UDR paved the way for the disbandment of the Women's Royal Army Corps and the integration of women into previously male only regiments.

  • Four Greenfinches were killed as a result of their service with the regiment between 1974 and 1992.



Each battalion had a number of pipers and these musicians participated in a centralised pipe band formally called the Pipes & Drums of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Their uniform followed the traditional military dress for Irish pipers, consisting of a saffron kilt, bottle green "Prince Charlie" jacket, bottle green cape and bottle green caubeen adorned with a double size cap badge. Unlike other Irish regiments in the British Army UDR pipers did not wear a hackle and the lining colour of the cloaks was unique to the regiment.

In June 1986 the Regiment held its only tattoo for two days in good weather at Ravenhill rugby grounds. Some of the attractions for the 12,000 people who attended were:

  • The Red Devils parachute team
  • Greenfinches abseiling from the top of one of the grandstands
  • UDR Dogs
  • A mock terrorist ambush
  • Beating Retreat with the Pipes & Drums of the UDR plus the bands of the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment and the RUC.

The crowd are reported to have created a "deeply moving" moment by humming the evening hymn "The Day Thou Givest".[56]

Some recordings of UDR Pipes & Drums were released, such as the 5 UDR P&D "Irish & Scottish Pipe Music" which includes recordings of the regimental and battalions marches as well as other popular tunes.

Attitudes, image and politics[edit]

Due to equipment and uniform shortages the early image of the regiment was very much of a rag-tag bunch using World War II weaponry, old army uniforms and carrying pockets full of loose change in order to make reports from public telephone boxes. Many of the soldiers were veterans of earlier campaigns with the British Army or had been in the Special Constabulary and were middle-aged, this earned them the public nickname of "Dad's Army" after the sobriquet given to the Home Guard during World War II. Separate reports from the army's "Soldier Magazine" from 1970 and 1977 illustrate the differences in age and weaponry.

  • After initial support from the Catholic minority the popular Catholic perception of the UDR changed and was viewed as a reincarnation of the B-Specials. This, plus IRA intimidation and intimidation from Loyalists within the regiment prevented them from joining.[57][58] The SDLP in particular carried out a campaign for the disbandment of the UDR from as early as 1974 using "propaganda" through the media and by applying pressure through the Irish government. Ironically when John Hume addressed his party conference in 1988 he pointed out that the IRA had killed "250 times as many [people] as the UDR. Other SDLP delegates were less kind, one described the UDR as "an armed wing of the British establishment designed to enable the unionist population to dominate the nationalists". Allegations such as this were addressed by Brigadier Roger Preston in an interview with RTE in February 1985 when he pointed out that, to that point; some 32,000 people had served with the UDR, nine had been convicted of murder, six for manslaughter. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement the Irish government came to understand the security situation better and made several recomendations to improve the regiment's image with Nationalists, they included:
  • An RUC officer to accompany each patrol.
  • The part time element to be discontinued.
  • The removal of powers of arrest.
  • Restriction to operations carried out in support of the RUC.
  • A more professional officer corps and better numbers of experienced NCO's.

As a result of these recommendations the post of Deputy Commander UDR was restored, ten additional senior NCO's were posted in from the regular army, officer training was increased to six months at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, efforts were made to increase the number of RUC officers on patrol with the UDR and the initial training for part-time soldiers was increased from eight to fourteen days. In his memoirs the former Irish Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald noted that by 1986 there had been "a notable reduction in complaints of harassment of the Nationalist community by the security forces".[59]

The use of the regiment as a "political football" was not confined to Nationalist political parties. In the wake of the Hillsborough Agreement the DUP opened a campaign of disinformation with the apparent motive of reducing morale in the regiment (and the RUC) and causing mass resignations by "undermining the confidence of soldiers in their officers". There was some speculation that this was a step in forming the "Third Force" under the name of Ulster Resistance which the DUP had been advocating for some time. The malicious rumours contained:

  • Ian Paisley announcing to the press that soldiers in Ballymena had been requested to report to barracks to be disarmed prior to the part-time cadre being disbanded.
  • The DUP press office claim that the use of English officers and senior NCO's was "London and Dublin insisting the UDR could not be trusted".
  • A DUP councillor claimed there would be "mass resignations" because soldiers would be forced to resign if they belonged to the "Loyal Orders" (The Orange Lodge & Black Preceptory).
  • Peter Robinson, the deputy DUP Leader advised soldiers not to co-operate with policemen who were attached to their patrols as they were there on the "directions of the Anglo-Irish Council".
  • The Belfast Newsletter reported the "UDR About to Fold Up".
  • A journalist from Paisley's constituency asked if it were true that soldiers were being asked to reaffirm their oath of allegiance.
Original Anti-UDR poster

It has been speculated that this political manoeuvring wasn't for the "good of the UDR" but an attempt to make the DUP the "main voice of the Protestant people". To counter this, the UDR Advisory council decided to hold briefings for the four main political parties at HQUDR. Invitiations were issued to the Official Unionist party, the Alliance Party, the DUP and the SDLP. The DUP never turned up for a briefing at any point but the other three parties attended.[60]

  • In a 1970 poll 60% of Catholics were in favour of the UDR whereas in a 1980s poll 89% were opposed to any extension of the regiment's role.[61]
  • In the mid-1980s the SDLP's Canavan Report said the UDR "has by far the worst record for serious sectarian crimes of any Regiment presently in service with the British Armed Forces in Northern Ireland". The SDLP remained opposed to the regiment and continually called for its disbandment due to the failure of the GOC to address the issue of Catholic recruiting and the regimental image.
  • Between 1970 and 1990 seventeen UDR members were convicted of murder or manslaughter, 99 of assault, and "others" (no exact figure) were convicted of charged or convicted of armed robbery, weapons offences, bombing, intimidation and attacks on Catholics, kidnapping, and membership in the UVF.
  • Only a small fraction were involved in such crime, but the proportion was higher than for the regular British Army or RUC.[62] Although no other infantry unit in the British Armed Forces was on constant duty in the Province between 1970 and 1992.


Unlike soldiers from the regular Army, the UDR did not live in barracks. As a citizens' army they returned to their own homes at the end of a duty. In the increasingly-polarised world of intercommunal strife in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, many found themselves living in Protestant or Catholic enclaves. This put them within easy reach of those who found UDR membership an obstacle to political agendas. The first people to dispense intimidation were a number of former members of the B Specials who felt aggrieved at the loss of their force and were not prepared to join the UDR. The targets for their intimidation were the members of their own (Protestant) community, and in particular other former B Men, who had joined up. In contrast to what transpired in later years, however, boos and jeers handed out to UDR patrols by former B Specials were mild. Remarkably, where there was most resistance by the USC in the Belfast and Down areas is from where the higher percentages of Roman Catholic recruits came. The 3rd (Co. Down) Battalion was, and remained, the unit with the highest percentage of Catholic members (beginning at 30%) throughout the Troubles, with entire sections being made up of Catholics. This led to protests from the USC Association that in 3 UDR “preference for promotion and allocation of appointments was being given to Catholics”[63] To join such a force was intimidating in itself, especially when many Catholic recruits found themselves reporting for duty in B Specials accommodation units.[64] In some cases, the new Catholic recruits were cold-shouldered or ignored and generally made to feel unwelcome to the point where they resigned. Despite this, many Catholics stayed in the regiment. Following Operation Demetrius there was a general outcry by Nationalist politicians because no Protestant paramilitaries were interned: only suspected members of the IRA. The general feeling was made clear by Austin Currie MP (whose own brother was a member of the regiment) on 18 August, 1971 when he publicly withdrew his support for the regiment. For some time the IRA had been discouraging Catholics from joining but after these events more serious intimidation began to emerge,[64] such as:

  • homes daubed with painted slogans;
  • shotguns fired outside homes;
  • being handed bullets or having them delivered through the post;
  • threatening letters;
  • threatening phone calls;
  • arson attacks;
  • children of members bullied at school;
  • beatings and assault;
  • refusal to give service in shops;
  • being sent to Coventry in the local community.[65]

The ultimate intimidation was death and in the 14 months following internment, although Catholic members of the UDR only totalled 7% of regimental strength, they accounted for 28% of those killed by the IRA. Of the remaining Catholic members, 25% resigned.[66]

In a reversal of roles, the years 1972-73 saw the emergence of paramilitary threats from loyalists. Of 288 incidents of intimidation reported, all but twelve of those were from Protestants who had been threatened from within their own community. Sometimes this was to gain information, or to persuade members of the regiment to join (or remain within) Protestant organisations.[67] In many ways the intimidation was similar with incidents being reported along the lines of:

  • threatening letters;
  • threatening phone calls;
  • shots fired from passing cars;
  • abduction;
  • intimidation of children;
  • off-duty soldiers being beaten up.

In one incident a UDR soldier opened fire on loyalists who were attempting to hijack his car, killing one of them outright. Ten days later a pipe-bomb was thrown into his home, damaging it so badly that he and his family had to be relocated.[68] In loyalist-dominated areas it was not uncommon to find an attitude amongst paramilitaries that the UDR would be sympathetic towards them. Accordingly, when a patrol of the Lisburn Company of 9 UDR arrested some UDA members found in possession of a hand grenade, the loyalists felt that the patrol should have released them as they were "on the same side". After the ringleader was sentenced to two years in prison the patrol commander was accosted in a local pub and had to fire shots from his pistol to save himself from a beating. Further reports from 1973 show a number of incidents of confrontation with loyalist paramilitaries from 1 UDR, 3 UDR, 7 UDR, 9 UDR and 11 UDR.[69]

Propaganda against the Regiment[edit]

Propaganda from Republicans began before the Regiment was formed. Bernadette Devlin was the first to draw parallels with the B Specials when she said in the House of Commons that it was the USC under the guise of the British Army? This cry was repeated from then on until this present day and is one of the most familiar propaganda methods of discrediting the Regiment's role in the Troubles.

Another much quoted assertion is the the amount of criminal convictions sustained by UDR members. Republican sources have consistently quoted these as much higher than they are without taking into account the size of the regiment or the fact that it was under the constant pressure of duty from 1970-1992. One such comparison used would be the fact that the Regiment had a higher number of criminal convictions than any other British Regiment without noting the fact that most British infantry regiments contained between 750-1500 men whereas the UDR's average strength was 7,500, as big as two regular army infantry brigades. In a study carried out by the Irish Information Partnership in 1985 it was discovered that the percentages for terrorist related offences for the age group 18-35 (the average age for UDR members) that the civilian population's comparative offence ratio was two and a half times greater than that of the UDR.[70]

Blood Money poster

Much of the propaganda against the Regiment is through the media and in particular through the various Republican newspapers such as An Phoblacht which makes reference to "collusion with loyalist murder gangs" and "biased sentencing" from the courts in favour of UDR members. Other articles in this official Sinn Fein publication condemn the awarding of a Wilkinson Sword of Peace to a former UDR battalion [71][72] and detail attempts by Sinn Fein to prevent the erection of a memorial to the UDR in Lisburn.[73] The aim of this disinformation campaign can be clearly seen in the article which deals with the redundancy payments to the Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) (former UDR) battalions in which they are referred to as a "sectarian militia" and calls their redundancy "blood money". This led to a Republican poster campaign against the payments.[74]

Much has been made of a report believed to have been comissioned by British Intelligence in 1972 and published in 1973 which details concerns about the UDR at that time. This "Subversion in the UDR" document has continually been used as a means to discredit the Regiment throughout its entire history although Republican sources do not mention the efforts made by the British Ministry of Defence or UDR Command to address the issues within it post 1972. In the section Infiltration by paramilitaries below, some detail of the report is examined and also the methods used by MOD and HQUDR to combat paramilitary infiltration.

Of the 40,000 who are recorded as having served in the UDR from 1970-1992, 18 were convicted of murder, 11 for manslaughter (two as a result of the careless handling of weapons). The regiment was responsible for the shooting dead of 9 people - 3 members of the IRA, one Loyalist hijacker, two joyriders, an alleged thief, a deaf youth who could not hear the warnings shouted at him and a man shot accidently in a confrontation with a patrol. .[75]

The military campaign[edit]

Targeting by the IRA[edit]

Deaths in the Troubles by area.

As the IRA campaign continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the organisation increasingly targeted RUC officers and Ulster Defence Regiment servicemen, including when they were off duty. Because these men were largely Protestant, these killings were also perceived as a campaign of sectarian assassination.[76][77] Vincent McKenna, has claimed that Jim Lynagh's military tactics of creating "sanitised zones"—expelling members of the UDR from their farms to gain territory "a field at a time"—was "sectarian".[78] the IRA have denied he was ever a member.[79] Former Unionist MP and a major in the UDR, Ken Maginnis, compiled a record of IRA attacks on the UDR and claimed from this that the IRA's campaign was sectarian and genocidal in that the eldest sons and breadwinners were especially targeted in order to ethnically-cleanse Protestants from their farms and jobs west of the River Bann.[80]

The killing of UDR soldiers in Fermanagh has been described by Professor Henry Patterson (Professor of Irish Politics) as ethnic cleansing. In his address to the Sixth International Conference of The Spanish Association for Irish Studies at the University of Valladolid in Spain, entitled "War of National Liberation or Ethnic Cleansing: IRA violence in Fermanagh during the Troubles" – Professor Patterson examined in detail the IRA campaign in that county, but also acknowledged that “There remains a major research agenda for contemporary historians to try and provide a factual and more objective truth without which this dreadful period will largely remain the province of ethnic entrepreneurs ransacking it for their conflicting political projects”. In 1980, Unionists described the IRA killings in Fermanagh as “genocide against the Protestant people”.[81] A view shared by at least one author.[82][83]

This claim of ethnic cleansing is given some further credence by the observations of 4 UDR HQ in Enniskillen, who were tasked with the ongoing security of their members in the border area. Each soldier along the border had a coloured map pin representing his home on the Operations Room map. Over the years the operations staff noted that the the line of pins moved back further from the border by twelve miles as the campaign against UDR members continued.[84]

Despite the fact that most of the IRA's security force victims by the late 1980s were locally recruited RUC or UDR personnel, the Provisional leadership maintained that the regular Army was its preferred target. Gerry Adams, in an interview given in 1988, said it was, "vastly preferable" to target the regular Army as it "removes the worst of the agony from Ireland" and "diffuses the sectarian aspects of the conflict because loyalists do not see it as an attack on their community".[85]

The regiment was created shortly after the formation of the Provisional IRA. The campaign pursued by the "Provos" became and remained the major target for anti-terrorist action by the UDR. Although most UDR casualties were ambushed off-duty there were open actions between the regiment and the Provisionals which varied in style and tactics between the urban setting of Belfast and the rural conditions of what has been referred to as the "Border War".

Belfast and other urban settings[edit]

Sniper action by the Provisionals resulted in casualties. These were hard to defeat as, when shots were fired, patrols would immediately take cover, report to battalion headquarters and wait for backup before engaging in search operations. In the short length of time this took the sniper team would quickly make their escape.

Rural ambushes and attacks[edit]

There were few military style frontal attacks on UDR establishments but some did occur. Most notably that of 2nd May 1974 when up to forty IRA men attacked the isolated Deanery at Clogher which was being used as a base by a company from 8 UDR. A sustained attack lasted for approximately twenty minutes during which the base was hit by rockets, mortars and small-arms fire. The engagement was broken off after intervention by Ferret armoured cars of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment who used their Browning.30 calibre heavy machine guns to suppress the attackers.

The most common method of attack was an ambush on rural roads. Commencing with the detonation of an IED which, if successful would knock out one of the two vehicles normally in a patrol (usually the Shorland armoured car because it housed the rapid firing General Purpose Machine Gun), the bomb would be followed up by small arms fire. In some cases the nearest available cover (such as hedgerows) would contain another IED which would be detonated if any soldiers were foolish enough to shelter there. During these actions it was not uncommon to have both side exchanging a high volume of small arms fire. UDR patrols reported expending up to several hundred rounds of ammunition from their rifles and machine guns.

Mortar attacks[edit]

The Provisional IRA developed a number of home-made mortars between 1972 and 2000. Referred to colloquially as Barrack busters. These were normally deployed by fixing them to the back of a commercial vehicle such as a builder's lorry. The vehicle would be parked in a position near a barracks and the devices fired by timing device or remote controlled detonator sending large missiles made from gas cylinders into the barracks compound. The largest of these devices used was twelve tubes fired at once at 3 UDR's Kilkeel base "The Abbey" in 1992.[86]

Members killed[edit]

Between 1 April 1970 and 30 June 1992, a total of 197 soldiers were killed as active servicemen. Another 61 members were killed after they had left the UDR.[87] Many UDR soldiers were killed in the line of duty, or because of their association with the regiment.[88]

Two UDR soldiers were killed by the regular army, three by loyalist paramilitaries, and the remaining 192 by republican paramilitaries (mainly the IRA). Hugh Gallagher, a Catholic part-time UDR soldier and uncle of Omagh bomb victim Aidan Gallagher was shot dead by the IRA in 1984 in Omagh.[89] Four Greenfinches were killed during the Troubles, Private Eva Martin, L/Cpl Jean Leggett, Cpl Heather Kerrigan and Pte Margaret A. Hearst. Three members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) killed during the conflict were also soldiers of the regiment.[90]

During this time members of the UDR were responsible for the killing of six civilians and two members of the IRA.[91]

Infiltration by paramilitaries[edit]

The UDR had a problem throughout its history with infiltration of its structures by paramilitaries. These were mostly but not only loyalists. During The Troubles nationalists and human rights groups alleged that the UDR colluded - ie co-operated - with loyalists in an institutionalised manner, providing them with weapons and intelligence to target republican suspects. Regimental sources argue that, while the Regiment had a problem with some low ranking members aiding paramilitaries, the institution as a whole was dedicated to upholding the rule of law and worked to rid itself of paramilitaries within its ranks.

In the early years of the regiment's history, Loyalist paramilitaries raided (or were given access to) several UDR barracks and were able to steal substantial quantities of modern weaponry. Many of these weapons were subsequently recovered by rapid follow up operations by the UDR[92] but some were proven to have been used by Loyalist organisations to carry out murders.[93] A number of UDR soldiers were convicted of assisting paramilitaries by providing information to enable these raids to take place.

UFF Paramilitary mural

Loyalist raids (successful and unsuccessful) were mounted against; 2 UDR, 3 UDR, 5 UDR, 7 UDR, 10 UDR, and 11 UDR battallions. In a raid against 2 UDR's Lurgan company (which later became C Coy, 11 UDR), the guard commander (a decorated war hero) was later charged and convicted of supplying information to loyalists. He was killed in 1975 during an internal Ulster Volunteer Force feud.[94]

In 2004 the British Government released a previously classified 1973 report titled "Subversion in the UDR" on 1 January 2004 which highlighted the problem of alleged overlapping membership between the UDR and loyalist organisations.[3]

The 1973 report stated:

  • an estimated 5-15% of UDR soldiers were directly linked to loyalist paramilitary groups,
  • it was believed that the "best single source of weapons, and the only significant source of modern weapons, for Protestant extremist groups was the UDR",
  • the British Government knew that UDR weapons were being used by loyalist paramilitaries, including the killing of a Roman Catholic civilian and other attacks.[3][95]
  • it was feared UDR troops were loyal to "Ulster" alone rather than to "Her Majesty's Government". (Doubts about the UDR's loyalty to the British government were assuaged somewhat during the loyalist Ulster Workers Council Strike in 1974 when all but a minority of soldiers in the regiment continued to turn out for duties, including strike-breaking operations. Several paramilitary attempts to subvert the force during this period failed as did appeals by Protestant politicians for them not to turn up for duty.[96])
  • It was estimated that over 200 UDR weapons passed to loyalist paramilitaries by 1973,[95]

Two soldiers from the 11th Battalion's C Company in Lurgan, who were also members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, were convicted of the 1975 killing of three members of the pop group the Miami Showband in a UVF attack. In the same attack two members of the Portadown company who were also UVF men died in the premature explosion of their bomb; Harris Boyle (22) Protestant and Wesley Somerville (34) Protestant.[97]

On 27 July 1975 William Hanna (46) Protestant, another soldier from the Lurgan company was murdered by the UVF as a result of an internal feud.

In 1999 David Jordan, a former UDR soldier, allegedly broke down in a bar and admitted to being part of a patrol that killed nationalist councillor Patsy Kelly in 1974. Jordan also implicated former Democratic Unionist Party Northern Ireland Assembly member Oliver Gibson in the murder.[98]

Nationalists insisted that the UDR as a body was aiding the loyalists, however there were also some cases of republican paramilitaries infiltrating the regiment.

IRA Poster from the 1980's

One example involved William Bogle of 6 UDR who was ambushed and killed on 5th December 1972 at Killeter near the Tyrone/Donegal border. At least one book includes the allegation that he was killed by a former member of his own company possessed of strong Republican views. After the shooting the suspect moved across the border and is not known to have returned to Northern Ireland.[99] One member of 3 UDR is known to have been a member of the Irish Freedom Fighters and another was suspected of dual membership with the same organisation. An SLR was reported "stolen" from the home of the latter.[100]

In June 1987 the Belfast Newsletter reported that 7/10 UDR had been infiltrated by the IRA. Private Joe Tracey had been shot dead as he started a new job on some flats off the Lisburn Road, Belfast. The UDR accepted that someone must have informed on him but emphatically denied that the IRA had been able to penetrate the battalion calling the allegation a "wild rumour".[101]

In 1989, twenty-eight UDR soldiers from the same platoon in 7/10 UDR were arrested by the Royal Ulster Constabulary as part of the Stevens Inquiry into security force collusion with paramilitaries.[102] Six of those arrested were later awarded damages over their arrests.[103] Of the twenty-eight arrested, only one was charged with activities linked to paramilitaries. This aspect of the Stevens Inquiry caused "intense anger" in the regiment as three hundred police had been used to surround the homes of the suspects in a dawn swoop. In doing so, Stevens had identified the soldiers as members of the UDR to their neighbours, putting their lives at risk. Eleven soldiers were forced to move house as a result and the homes of eighteen other had to be provided with "additonal security measures" at a cost of £25,000.[104]

Attempts to prevent paramilitary infiltration[edit]

The official regimental history of the Ulster Defence Regiment records several attempts to remove anyone with paramilitary connections from the regiment. In the early 1970s this was made difficult by the fact that vetting was done by the regular army who had little or no knowledge of Northern Ireland paramilitary groupings. More emphasis was therefore placed on getting as many recruits as possible into the under-strength force. The appearance of the UDA in particular heralded the start of infiltration into the regiment and there is no doubt historically that many UDA members joined the UDR in order to acquire military training and intelligence. On 29th November 1972 the GOCNI on instructions from Westminster,[105] announced that dual membership would not be tolerated and began a purge which saw a thousand members forced to resign from the UDR as a result of their connections with Protestant paramilitary organisations. The SDLP pushed for this purge to be extended to members of the Orange Order but no action was ever taken in this direction. Lt Col Dion Beard (1RTR) commander of 3 UDR issued a battalion order: "I will not tolerate any active participation by members of this battalion in any organisation which encourages cannot play in both teams. Either you believe in law and order applied equally to all men, or you believe in violence as a means of achieving political ends. In this respect the UDA is no better than IRA. Not only should you take no part in UDA activities but you should discourage your fellow citizens [from doing so]."[106]

  • The Bray reforms

Brigadier Michael Bray adopted a no-tolerance policy from the beginning of his tenure as Commander UDR. He instituted a number of safeguards including monitoring of entire battalions and six month security reviews of all UDR personnel. Anyone found with even the most tenuous links to Protestant organisations was dismissed from the regiment.[107] An "Out-of-bounds" list was produced which included pubs and clubs known to be frequented by Protestant paramilitaries. Members of the regiment were cautioned as to whom they should socialise with. All of this was a concerted effort to remove anyone with dual membership from the regiment and to prevent peer pressure being applied.

  • The Stevens Enquiry

Working under almost total isolation and secrecy from the police and other security forces in Northern Ireland, John Stevens produced what would be the most stinging criticisms of the security forces in Northern Ireland. The Stevens Report resulted in an extreme tightening of control on even the most low-rated intelligence documents and heightened accountability. For the first time the RUC were given access to UDR vetting procedures and many members of the regiment found themselves under police observation for extended periods of time, in some cases resulting in the expulsion of soldiers. Stevens agreed that there had been collusion between a small number of UDR soldiers who had "gravely abused their positions of trust" but that the issue was not "widespread or institutionalised".[41]

  • The Bennett Report

As working conditions and wages improved in the regiment many young people saw it as an alternative to unemployment rather than just a means of expressing their wish to defend Northern Ireland.[108] Professionalism expanded and there was less tolerance of members with dual membership. With the almost total absence of Catholics in the regiment however, and considering the damage which had already been done by collusion, the UDR was unlikely to ever be free of infiltration by Protestant Paramilitaries and to be unable to regain the confidence of the minority community. The Bennett Committee report of 1989 stressed this acutely and recommended that the regiment be disbanded. A view echoed by Lord Hunt who had made the original recommendation for the formation of the force. In Hunt's view the times had changed, the regiment's role was no longer required, and it was a time to return the duties of the UDR to the police.[109]

Ulsterisation and "The Way Ahead"[edit]

Ulsterisation is the term now applied to the policy by the British government to reduce regular Army troop numbers in Northern Ireland and bring local forces into the front line as a result of international opinion about British soldiers beinmg used in what could viewed as a "colonial occupation". Also known as "Criminalisation", "Normalisation" or "Police Primacy". [110] One of the major changes in policy was to return control of internal security matters to the Royal Ulster Constabulary which had effectively been under the command of the Army since the Scarman and Hunt reports which called for the restructuring of the severely-undermanned force of 1969. In a report commissioned in 1976, recommendations were made which included:

  • An increase in the establishment of the RUC and RUC Reserve.
  • The creation of RUC "mobile support units".
  • An increase in the conrate establishment of the UDR to enable it to take over tasks from the regular Army.
  • The UDR to provide a 24-hour military presence.

Despite the rapid induction of 300 extra recruits to the UDR and the raising of operations platoons, the scheme was hampered by the shortfall of conrate officers in the UDR who could take on the role of operations officers. It also placed a heavier demand upon senior NCOs trained as watchkeepers in the operations rooms, or "comcens" (an abbreviation for communications centres) at UDR bases.

The term "Ulsterisation" was coined by the media. The then Assistant Chief Constable of the RUC, Jack Hermon, summed it up when he said, "Ulstermen need to learn to live together and be policed by Ulstermen. If they have to kill, let them kill each other, not English soldiers."[111]

Options for change and amalgamation[edit]

After the fall of the Berlin Wall the United Kingdom began to reduce the size of its armed forced under the working title of "Options for Change". The strength of the army was to be reduced from 160,000 to 110,000. In particular the General Service Corps was to see the reduction of the infantry from 55 battalions to 38. The GOC saw this as a perfect opportunity to streamline the UDR and and also remove some of the more "intractable problems" with regards to image and career prospects. In a revolutionary plan he decided to merge the UDR with the Royal Irish Rangers, for the first time in history incorporating part-time soldiers into the regular army. "Project Infancy" would also ensure that the Rangers did not lose their training facilities and presence in Northern Ireland as the last Irish infantry battalion of the line. The UDR, which was not regular "line" infantry was, in the words of one commander, "like a fish without feathers". Incorporation as infantry of the line would provide UDR officers with career prospects which mirrored those of the regular army and hopefully resolve the problem of recruiting junior officers long-term. From a politcal perspective; the Rangers recruited from all over Ireland and had a higher preponderance of serving Catholics, some from the Republic of Ireland. To the GOC the prospect of having a larger number of Catholic subalterns and nco's in the UDR would resolve much of the political furore surrounding the regiment.

The plan was approved by early summer 1991 and proposed:

  • The 2nd Battlion of the Rangers would amalgamate with the 1st Battallion to create a single "General Service" battalion.
  • The existing nine UDR battalions would be reduced to seven and designated "Home Service".
  • The part-time element would remain but the new structure provided for general reduction when the time was right.
  • The new regiment would be called the Royal Irish Regiment, ressurecting an historic name which had been lost as part of the disbandment of many famous Irish infantry regiments on partition in 1922.

The "carrots" for the UDR would be:

The proposals were generally welcomed at command and control level but there was predictable worry amongst the ranks that this was a precursor to disbandment. A fear exacerbated by the Unionist political parties, particularly the DUP who immediately ressurected their 1989 "Hands Off the UDR" campaign.

Awards, honours and decorations[edit]

The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross
The Queen's Gallantry Medal (reverse)

The most notable award to the Ulster Defence Regiment was the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross made by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second in 2007. This unit citation confers the right of the regiment to be known as The Ulster Defence Regiment CGC.[112] During the award ceremony in Belfast the Queen paid tribute to the regiment by saying "Your contribution to peace and stability in Northern Ireland is unique." "Serving and living within the community had required "uncommon courage and conviction". "The regiment had never flinched despite suffering extreme personal intimidation. Their successes had "come at a terrible price, many gave their lives. Today you have cause to reflect on the fine achievements, while remembering the suffering". "The Home Service Battalions of the RIR and the UDR which had preceded them won the deepest respect throughout the land." So that their actions would always be remembered, the CGC was awarded to the RIR/UDR "as a mark of the nation's esteem" with the citation, "This award is in recognition of the continuous operational service and sacrifice of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Regiment in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner."

In total 953 individuals received awards through the British honours system including: 12 Queen's Gallantry Medals; 2 Military Medals; 88 BEM's; 108 OBE's and 276 Mentioned in Dispatches, [113] however for most UDR soldiers the presentation of decorations assumed the form of "service" or campaign" medals including:

  • The General Service Medal with "Northern Ireland" bar. (Awarded after 28 days service in the campaign)
  • The Ulster Defence Medal[114]
  • Northern Ireland Home Service Medal[115]
  • The Accumulated Campaign Service Medal[116] (Awarded after 1000 days service in the campaign)
  • The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal[117]

Officers who are awarded the Ulster Defence medal (UD) may use the post-nominal letters UD.[112]

The man credited by the Regimental History as "the most decorated UDR soldier" is Corporal Eric Glass of the 4th (Co Fermanagh) Battalion who received both the Queen's Gallantry Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery.[118]

A number of individual town councils in Northern Ireland honoured the regiment with "Freedom of the Borough" awards, most notably that given to the 7/10th (City of Belfast) Battalion where in addition to the Freedom of the City" the Wilkinson Sword of Peace[119] was awarded for "community relations work".[120] This prestigious award was also later given to the 8th (County Tyrone) Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, successor to the 6th and 8th (Co Tyrone) Battalions of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Presentation of colours[edit]

In 1987 the Regiment submitted a requst for the issuing of colours to the Queen which was given consent. Unusually the Queen decided to present the colours herself, an honour which is normally reserved only for those regiments where she is Colonel in chief. On the 29th of June 1991 at Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn the first colours were presented to five battalions. The last colours were presented by Prince Andrew in a ceremony near Edinburgh on April 1992 although 6 UDR's were presented in November 1991 at St Lucia Barracks, Omagh by the Duke of Abercorn.

Notable members[edit]

Professional soldiers (order by appointment)[edit]

Politicians (order by rank, where known)[edit]

Others (order by rank, where known)[edit]


The Ulster Defence Regiment is the only regiment in the British Army to have its own "Aftercare" service. Like other British Army units the regimental association has a benevolent fund (known as the UDR Benevolent Fund) which exists to provide assistance to those who require it as a consequence of illness or hardship[124] but thus far is the only regiment to have a dedicated website to guide its dependents. This is being seen as the model for other army units to adopt as the number of dependents rises as a result of actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.[125] The UDR soldiers who were injured during their service or suffer from service-related disabilities.[126][127][128] are cared for through the British National Health Service. Additional resources are offered by a number of civilian and forces charities such as Combat Stress The Aftercare site gives advice and offers assistance to soldiers and their families who have been affected by the death, physical or mental illness or who are in need of welfare or vocational assistance. Former members of the regiment are also entitled to seek assistance from the (British) Service Personnel and Veteran's Agency (SV&PA)[129] who may provide pensions and other assistance to those who qualify.



  1. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY". Retrieved 2008-04-14.  Text " 10 " ignored (help); Text " 1969: Ulster's B Specials to be disbanded " ignored (help)
  2. ^ "BBC NEWS". Retrieved 2008-04-14.  Text " Northern Ireland " ignored (help); Text " Chequered history of Irish regiment " ignored (help)
  3. ^ a b c CAIN Archive:Public Records: Subversion in the UDR Although initially written in 1973, the report was only declassified in 2004. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "caindoc" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, W. J. McCormack, Blackwell Publishing 1999, pp578
  5. ^ "The Regimental Association of The Ulster Defence Regiment". Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  6. ^ a b "CAIN: HMSO: Hunt Report, 1969". Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b British Army Officers 1939-1945 - S
  9. ^ AThe Ulster Defence Regiment: An Instrument of Peace, Chris Ryder 1991 ISBN-10: 0413648001 p35
  10. ^ a b A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194
  11. ^ ULSTER DEFENCE REGIMENT (Hansard, 3 February 1972)
  12. ^ Queen awards RIR gallantry cross, BBC, 6 October 2006
  13. ^ Northern Ireland: A comparative analysis, Frank Wright p154
  14. ^ Devolution in Britain today, Colin Pilkington, p86
  15. ^ Census figures by religion
  16. ^ The Ulster Defence Regiment: An Instrument of Peace ISBN-10: 0413648001
  17. ^ Newshound: Daily Northern Ireland news catalog – Irish News article
  18. ^ David McKittrick & David McVea, Making Sense of the Troubles,Penguin Books 2001, ISBN 0 14 100305 7, pg.72
  19. ^ The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, W. J. McCormack, Blackwell Publishing 1999, p 578.
  20. ^ Royal Irish Regiment CGC Regimental Association website
  21. ^ CAIN: Public Records: Subversion in the UDR
  22. ^ Ulster Defence Regiment (Hansard, 21 January 1970)
  23. ^ The Ulster Defence Regiment: An Instrument of Peace ISBN-10: 0413648001
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  29. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 31
  30. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 60
  31. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 303
  32. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 60
  33. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 61
  34. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 63
  35. ^ Chris Ryder, The UDR - An Instrument of Peace? ISBN-10: 0413648001
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  39. ^ Security Forces in Northern Ireland 1969-92 By Tim Ripley, Mike Chappell - ISBN10:1855322781 - page 48
  40. ^ Hansard, 23 March 1970, reproduced in
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  42. ^ The Story of the Greenfinches
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  44. ^ Chris Ryder, The UDR -An Instrument of Peace? ISBN-10: 0413648001
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  47. ^
  48. ^ Northern Ireland News - Royal Navy weigh anchor in Carlingford Lough
  49. ^ - page 6-1
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  51. ^ UDR Fast Boats
  52. ^ CAIN: Glossary of Terms on Northern Ireland Conflict
  53. ^ British Army 'yellow card' not enforceable:
  54. ^ British Irish Rights Watch
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  60. ^ A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 p290-291
  61. ^ A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194
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  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
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  76. ^ Liam Clarke, IRA accused of 'ethnic cleansing', The Sunday Times, 29 March 1998
  77. ^ White, Robert W 'The Irish republican army: An assessment of sectarianism' in Terrorism and Political Violence, Volume 9, Issue 1 Spring 1997 , pages 20 - 55, pg 45. However white notes of the RUC:"The fact that the IRA killed Catholic members of the force at a slightly higher rate than their proportion of membership suggests that the IRA does not target Protestant members of the force."
  78. ^ Liam Clarke, IRA accused of 'ethnic cleansing', The Sunday Times, 29 March 1998.
  79. ^ APRN
  80. ^ Bardon, Jonathan (2001). A History of Ulster. Blackstaff Press. pp. p. 807. ISBN 0856407038. 
  81. ^ University Of Ulster News Release - Border Killings – Liberation Struggle or Ethnic Cleansing?
  82. ^ Ethics in International Affairs By Andrew Valls ISBN 084769156X, 9780847691562 p90
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  86. ^ Davies, Roger (2001), "Improvised mortar systems: an evolving political weapon", Jane's Intelligence Review (May 2001), 12-15.
  87. ^ Five more were killed after amalgamation with the Royal Irish Rangers: UDR Association website; CAIN: Sutton index of deathsBBC
  88. ^ See Royal Irish Regiment webpage
  89. ^ Cain: Sutton Index of Deaths Related to the Conflict
  90. ^ See the following quotes of 1975's chapter of Sutton chronology: Sutton Chronology, CAIN website
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  95. ^ a b May 2, 2006 edition of the Irish News available here.
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  97. ^ 1976: UDR men jailed for Showband killings]
  98. ^ See reference here
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  105. ^
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  107. ^ Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 376
  108. ^ A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 p221
  109. ^ A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194
  110. ^ The Crowned Harp By Graham Ellison, Jim Smyth. Pluto Press (June 1, 2000)ISBN-10: 0745313930 p82
  111. ^ A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 p 167
  112. ^ a b Order of Wear
  113. ^ Security Forces in Northern Ireland 1969-92 By Tim Ripley, Mike Chappell - ISBN10:1855322781 - page 49
  114. ^ "UDR Association". Retrieved 25 April 2008. 
  115. ^ The Northern Ireland Home Service Medal
  116. ^ The Accumulated Campaign Service Medal
  117. ^ British Light Infantry Regiments
  118. ^ A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194 - page 90
  119. ^ House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 17 Jan 2000 (pt 10)
  120. ^ Welcome to the new British Army Website - British Army Website
  121. ^ Ulster Defence Regiment (Hansard, 29 April 1971)
  122. ^ Brigadier Harry Baxter | Times Online Obituary
  123. ^ Sinn Féin: UDR Commander's appointment to PSNI sends out entirely the wrong signal
  124. ^ The ULSTER DEFENCE REGIMENT Benevolent Fund
  125. ^ My Lords, it is daunting enough to...: 7 Nov 2007: House of Lords debates (
  126. ^
  127. ^ Medical Services
  128. ^ Welfare Services
  129. ^


  • A Testimony to Courage - the Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969 - 1992, Major John Furniss Potter, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2001, ISBN 0850528194
  • The Ulster Defence Regiment - An Instrument of Peace? ISBN-10: 0413648001

External links[edit]